Words by Clive Forth
The world of cycling is steeped in myth and legend, with corruption and scandals rife in the world of road racing to me it came as no surprise when the news broke through the winter that a rider had been given a six-month ban having tested positive for a banned substance, banned substances are all around us.
Obviously this news created outrage amongst the saintly clean living mountain biking community, harsh “burn him” type comments on social networking sites ensued and cries for “name and shame him” reminded me that sometimes we are not just quick on two wheels but also too quick to judge.
Perhaps it’s just evidence that we have only just left the dark ages? I wonder if certain members of the mountain bike community would feel justice had been served hot if we clamped the banned rider in stocks and threw broken bike bits at them till they cried for forgiveness from all who are holier than thou.
The inevitable playground finger pointing soon followed and a little Lance Armstrong affair got into full swing on the usual forums and (anti)-social network sites, two names popped up and the torches were lit as the mountain bike village rode out on its high horse in search of justice.
I have to say it’s very easy to sit back and point the finger, I also want to point out that this is not the purpose of this article, the interviews that follow will hopefully shed some light on the situation. I hasten to add that if you read word for word any piece relating to the subject prior to this then you will see there was no proof or evidence of doping (which can take shape in many different forms), the un-named rider was given the ban having tested positive for a “masking agent”.
Let’s look at the UCI’s take on drugs
Something that became clear (and is quite obvious if you have ever read the UCI’s banned list and rules) is that there is a lot of confusion around what an individual can and can’t do, take or not take. Read the UCI’s anti doping documents “Warning” statement below and you get the idea the subject makes as much sense to a laymen as a bum full of Smarties.
From the UCI web site.
- These Anti-Doping Rules shall apply to all License-Holders
Comment: a license is required to participate in the sport of cycling governed by the rules of the UCI and the National Federations (article 1.1.010 of UCI’s Cycling Regulations).
However if a Person participates in the sport of cycling governed by the UCI without being holder of a license as required, he will not escape application of the regulations, including these Anti-Doping Rules. Application of these Anti-Doping Rules to Persons other than License-Holder is dealt with in article 18.
On the UCI web site there is also this statement relating to anti doping:
“The International Cycling Union considers riders’ health and the promotion of sporting ethics as high priorities.”
I have to say the situation is plain crazy, if rules like the anti doping act are to stand up on the proclamation that they have a consideration for “riders’ health” then surely there are other fundamental “basics” that need addressing. If the UCI along with its affiliated governing bodies (and their representatives) are to adhere to the subject “duty of care” to their customers then in my opinion anti doping would be way down the list of priorities, remember folks you’re a paying customer to a service provider, they are not the long arm of the law! I see legal holes all over the place where heads would roll in a worst-case scenario.
The irony in the situation is that enduro, mass start DH, 24 hour, Trans events etc. are not recognized by the UCI or sanctioned, the test was done on the basis of a license being held with the French federation. So could you be smacked up to the eyeballs gorging on the cocaine buffet in the start gate of Mega and, so long as you don’t have a license, get away with it?
Consider this for a moment when entering an event sanctioned by a national governing body who affiliates with the UCI: do you know every single item on the banned list and do you know the chemical contents of everything you eat and drink? I know my London lawyer would advise me never to enter a competition or take a doping test had he read the document this extract below comes from, the wording leaves any individual wide-open.
Anti-doping rule violations
21. The following constitute anti-doping rule violations:
1. The presence of a Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers in a rider’s bodily specimen.
1.1 It is each Rider’s personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters his body. Riders are responsible for any Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers found to be present in their bodily Specimens. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing Use on the Rider’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti doping violation under article 21.1.
1) Riders must refrain from using any substance, foodstuff, food supplement or drink of which they do not know the composition. It must be emphasized that the composition indicated on a product is not always complete. The product may contain Prohibited Substances not listed in the composition.
2) Medical treatment is no excuse for using Prohibited Substances or Prohibited Methods, except where the rules governing Therapeutic Use Exemptions are complied with.
(Please note folks in line 1.1 it does not state “his or her body”, so can a woman’s lawyer interpret this to mean that its ok for a woman to use banned substances? See how messy this gets?)
The working rules on the continent state that if you take just one day off work for illness you need a doctor’s note, this in itself opens up the potential for an individual to violate the rules. “Feel like a pig has shat in your head?” Just crack open the medicine cabinet at home and take something from an old prescription to ease the pain, phone the boss and attempt to go into work tomorrow. Now you have no doctor’s note to cover the medication you just took, the last thing any ill person wants to do is march down to the surgery to get a note to tell them that they’re ill!
Like it or loathe it people will always try to bend the rules and gain advantage over one another in all walks of life, it’s within all of us to a lesser or greater degree, it’s all part of human nature. When it comes to competition and racing the basic principle is to beat the opposition, there is no such thing as cheating yourself, if you have set a standard and marker and are happy to subscribe to them and compete or live by those terms then its an impossibility, you live within your own rules and boundaries.
Just look at the Lance Armstrong case, the guy was so far down the road believing his own hype yet happy to continue in the background doing his thing which so contradicted the statements he made in interviews, he must have known his actions contradicted his words?