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The doping debate and its impact on fans

I had the pleasure of heading out to Belgium for Liege Bastogne Liege this year, 3 days cycling around the stunning Ardennes and then a day spent following the race itself. Having seen the race head up the Stockeu we headed for home, choosing to listen to the last hour on Belgian radio. Luckily it was a Belgian French channel, not Flemish so with our O level French we could make out about 1 word in 20 – most of those were surnames though!

Even in French it was exciting and when Purito broke clear into Ans we thought it was the winning move. However, repeated uses of the name ‘Marteeeeeeeeen’ had us shouting at the radio, willing the 'Irishman' to win – and what a win it was. For myself, the unfortunate thing was that my immediate thought was – ‘Wasn’t expecting that, was it legit!!’. How bloody sad is that but it’s pretty much the same with every race and every rider?  There’s always a thought lurking in my mind that maybe, just maybe, this rider I’m rooting for has gone over to the darkside.  Luckily Fast Sheep is more versed in results than I am so went over Martin’s previous history and near misses in for instance Lombardia.  He convinced me, probably needed to convince himself as well but maybe that’s how it is these days.

 

It certainly wasn’t always like this and I was definitely in the ‘innocent until proven guilty so let’s cheer and celebrate now’ camp -  but the steady occurrence of ‘he’s doped’ headlines made most of us realise that there was a lot of it about.  The USADA US Postal report was a shocker and pretty much convinced me to try and forget about 10-15 years of cycling moments however great they seemed at the time. There’s a lot of talk suggesting the sport has been cleaning it’s act up but then again there’s enough people in the know(in particular I’m looking at Paul Kimmage) suggesting that we’d be mugs to believe too much of what we see.

So  I wonder if every time I hear a commentator say ‘that’s the biggest win of his career to date’ will I immediately question why? Certainly at the moment my cynicism is running high and that’s exactly what I think. Pretty crap situation, but I bet I’m not the only one.

 

Sadly, I’m not sure if things will ever get any better and I’ll get my belief back. Presumably I’d be a fool to believe any riders protestations of innocence or lack of positive tests but what’s the moratorium on celebrating results? How many years have to elapse before I can think, that was a great ride, there’s no skeleton’s come out, so it must finally be a  great win? Lot’s probably. Still, at  the moment I’d  call myself a fan, even probably a massive fan of cycling. Albeit one that cheers at a few decibels lower than before. Just in case.