Sunday, June 17, 2007

Amnesty International

The Elephant In the Room: so I've been agonizing for weeks over where I come down on the whole punishment for doping thing, particularly after Shameless St. Millar Defender's thoughtful comments on amnesty, except for my obvious belief that everyone who constantly whores themselves for the cameras post-wah-wah-I'm-busted-Oprah-confessional should fry in the seventh circle of hell and everyone who shuts up and does their job, by contrast, should get off scot-free, and my frankly lowlife belief that everyone I just don't like is fit to hit the flames and everyone I like, shouldn't. But even leaving aside my more barbarian instincts, it seems to me we can't even begin to frame this discussion realistically unless we deal with a fundamental, and highly uncomfortable, truth: if we're really gonna ban everyone who's currently guilty of doping from riding, we're not gonna have a single damn race worth racing for at least 10 years, because the entire current generation of setting, shining, and rising stars is going to have to be flat @#$%^%$ banned from the peloton, and we're all gonna be stuck watching two bonking neo-pros from some half-@#$ed incompetent day-old continental squad desperately sucking the wheels of the team cars in the hope of even making the first 100 meters of the Alpe d'Huez without dropping dead of exhaustion. So the question is, if we're not willing to show the spine and true love for fair sport to do that, exactly how far are we really willing to go?

Thus, a humble proposal, which I'll surely start disagreeing with myself before I'm even halfway done with it:

1. 1990s and before: from catching trains during stages to smoking cigarettes to increase oxygen consumption to the greats' recent revelations of popping amphetamines like Skittles, cheating has a long, storied, if occasionally fatal history in this sport, and everyone's always been looking for an edge, particularly one the medieval testing protocols are far too stupid to catch. Amnesty for everyone, including those insufferable hypocrites Bjarne Riis and Patrick "Dick" Lefevere, from 1999 on back. On a purely selfish note, this also has the convenient side effect of completely exonerating we love Erik Zabel, who proved just today in the Tour de Suisse that it doesn't matter what the hell Daniele Bennati's snarfing on the team bus, experience still counts for something. Can we all let Pantani rest in peace now?

2. 2000-2005: You've got one year, count 'em, one, to come forward and mug for the press corps right now. That includes you Armstrong. Anyone else busted after that--and I don't mean by Jesus Manzano or some broke-ass soigneur with a grudge to get off his chest and a family to support by whining about people who can actually ride--gets a two-year ban. This will ensure that it doesn't matter much to those in the twilight of their careers, the youngsters will still have time for some late-career wins on their return, and those at the peak of their powers will still be able to put in some good results as they move up a generation.

3. 2006-2007: Let's face it, between Quick Step, Op Puerto, and rumors of a sexy new lab in Valencia, everyone remotely worth watching right now (fine, except Millar, Jesus!) is either stoked to the gills, or being led by someone who spent his entire career stoked to the gills and is also a helpless victim of mass amnesia regarding the doping totally coincidentally going on by the riders right in front of them. Therefore, since justice in terms of substantive bans is frankly out of the question at this point, I propose a nice clean penalty that everyone can understand: money:
--Race Organizers: yeah, that's right, you, Grand Tours, and the rest of you disingenuous weasels. Apropos of nothing, anyone else watch the Dauphine this week--7 categorized climbs in one stage, which you apparently expect to be completed at a pace somewhere above a stoned crawl, and you lying sacks of @#$% who organize all these races are still trying to claim you don't want people doping? Please. You get *one* queen stage, and you don't get to try to snake out of it with 3k of flat after a giant number of mountains and call it a "sprint." More'n that, the whining riders association gets to go on strike and fix the stage, and you forfeit 50% of revenue that year.
--Sponsors: forfeit of one year's cycling revenue, and no advertising--banners, flags, giant inflatable arches, names plastered on rider's garish spandex bodies--at any cycling events for two years, so even after everyone's moved on to the next dirty scandal and forgotten you, you've still got a year to feel the hurt.
--Directeur Sportifs and General Managers: any one of your boys turns up positive, you automatically forfeit a year's salary. What's more, you're banned from earning a similar salary at any other management capacity for a year, and any money you try to make pimping your own proteges in a book deal automatically goes to the current ProTour leader's team, second place if it's yours. I'd also, as a perpetual proletarian rabble-rouser, like to see you demoted to being one of the brilliant mechanics or degraded soigneurs you constantly @#$! on, but in the spirit of conciliation, and the knowledge that you're all telling the truth when you've never noticed or encouraged anyone doping anytime anywhere ever, I'll settle for cold hard cash.
--Riders: any of you turns up positive, or is definitively linked to doping despite your suppliers' canny ability to keep you safe, you forfeit a year's salary, all endorsements deals are cancelled, and after you retire or otherwise suddenly suffer an incurable career-ending ailment in humiliation, you can't be a full-fledged DS for a year. Enjoy your 12 months of towel duty, boys--you earned it! Bonus penalty: any jerkface who let that oily tool Fuentes slander their innocent dogs by using them as code names forfeits an extra 6 months' pay.
--Soigneurs, Couriers, and Assorted Hangers-On: no book deals. Othern' that, you're probably the most sympathetic out of this entire tainted bunch, but given the likelihood you'll get fired anyway, you might polish up your resumes preemptively.

4. 2008 on: one strike and you're out. I've had it.

5. UCI and WADA: no coddling your own. First xenophobic son-of-a-!@#$% to make a nationalistic slur against another rider, team or their governing body while protecting their own under the exact same circumstances wears the rival team kit and/or national flag apparel for 12 months at all public appearances.

Now, of course this won't ever stop doping, and of course it's not fair that some guilty saps will continue to get caught and some will, well, win the Grand Tours and other races without ever being held to account. That's justice for you, striving yet ever-imperfect. But with any luck, we can keep on with this pleasant trend of late of fewer healthy 23-year-old newbies dropping dead of undiagnosed "heart problems", and, if not clean up the show, at least keep the infestation under some control. Now it's time for the Tour--allez!

1 comment:

Shameless St Millar Defender said...

Hey Racejunkie,
Well, you've given me a name so I guess I'd better use it...
Loved the amnesty idea, particularly upping the pressure on the DS's. I think a lot of the pressure to dope comes from a two-faced "Don't dope. But you must win this race" approach - plus a hefty number of blind eyes being turned.
But I'd do more and specify how they need to do that - conduct their own testing. Teams that really want to be seen to be clean need to do something themselves since not even the blindest fan believes "We've never tested positive" is anything more than a shallow dodge. And new sponsors don't exactly seem to be falling over themselves, not even to get a piece of Lance.
You're making them take responsibility, I'm pointing out other teams (my fave three. Go on - guess!) have shown how this is possible. Honchar's suspension by T-Mobile - and he's not exactly your bog-standard domestique - shows this is working.
Allez le Tour. Jolly good show, London. And I love Erik Zabel too. And David Millar, of course. And Floyd. But only sort of, now.