Better Living Through Chemistry

For some reason, after a series of revelations from the USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong, the admission of Ryder Hesjedal has had a significant effect on people’s attitudes to ‘reformed dopers’. Michael Rasmussen’s recent excerpts from his book, mention how he ‘taught’ Hesjedal to dope while they were both mountain bikers, this was claimed to be in 2003. The big question we all ask is, why stop there, as Hesjedal claims, why not carry on as the EPO testing was ineffective at the time?

Ill Gotten Gains

Myself, among others, are becoming increasingly annoyed by the so-called clean riders, who are now performing exceptionally well in the ‘new clean cycling’ we see now. But as a BBC article showed last week, the effects of performance enhancing drugs like steroids & testosterone can have an effect for up to ten years. Is it any coincidence that the riders who are performing now, have a rich history of doping, but if caught, they all seem to claim they stopped in 2006 (conveniently just outside the time limit they could be charged with a doping offence on the 7 years statute of limitations rules) or “tried it just the once”. These riders are now making good livings & possibly beating riders through previous chemistry, a fact they may be completely unaware of, better living through chemistry.

It is easy to assume, that the gains accrued due to years of performance enhancing drug use, as proven in research, now allow the former users to have an advantage over riders who have never partaken in illegal methods. It makes the case for lifetime bans being considered under WADA rules for athletes caught using substances that can have a significant effect on performance outside the normal timeframes that are considered.

We can also assume that dubious coaches may take advantage of the new findings. Talented juniors could be identified, taken out of competition for 3 or 4 years, filled with performance enhancing drugs with no control, then launched into the U23 race scene, while riding clean they would be benefitting from the effects that the PED’s gave them over the extended period of doping & training under the guidance of the dubious doctor. We could be moving into a new age of doping, the age of historical doping.

Sanctions

There have been calls for the WADA list of banned substances to be upgraded & split into types. This would make sense for this ‘historical doping’ possibility. Any substance which research has proven to give gains beyond the time the substance is used, should carry a ban which extends to the maximum timeframe over which the effects may act, if it changes muscle structure, that could mean life. Alongside that, the gains from blood vector doping products like EPO should also carry a much longer sentence.

Currently, if you’re a bit daft & take an incorrect cold remedy that contains a banned substance, you get the same ban as you would do had you sourced EPO, then injected it into your arms. This isn’t a fair system.

WADA can’t police everything, athletes are going to dope no matter what, if they think they can get away with it. But the sanctions are currently not enough, having 2 years which is often reduced to one year or less is really not dealing with the issue. The gains for winning big events are so huge, that the risks are often seen as worth taking, with the chances of getting caught being so minimal. The list of banned substances needs to be categorised, with things we know are accidents being given much smaller sentences, while things like EPO being given career ending 4 or 5 year sentences (or anything that involves a needle), while research proven substances like testosterone or steroids, that show a long term benefit of up to 10 years being given that kind of ban.

The Jist Of It

If we don’t do something soon to change the entire strategy on doping in sport,  we’re setting up some of our talented younger generation for long-term manipulation from the dubious doctors we know already operate within our sport. These people will find a way to make money, if their old methods can now be detected, they may now resort to the newly researched ‘historical doping’. Research isn’t just for the catchers, it also helps the evaders, and they are looking for any opportunity to profit from the system.

So far the doctors shown themselves to be several steps ahead. High level dopers seem to be caught by testimony, not testing, the consequences are not high enough, we need to add career ending bans to riders who attempt to dope with career changing drugs.

As a consequence of the new research, I’ll no longer be pleased if proven former dopers like Hesjedal or a great number of his Garmin team-mates win races. Surely, for the good of the sport, these guys should retire & make way for riders who didn’t partake, but then again, how do we know who didn’t get involved, whatever their age?

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