I'm still sitting in a turkey-induced coma and read that Roberto Heras' B sample has come back positive for EPO. How could that be? He's innocent after all.
Honestly, I hope he is innocent because I like the guy. He's a quiet guy who just seems to ride his bike and not get too caught up in his celebrity or in trash-talking. Basically, he appears to be a decent person.
But... it does all seem suspect. I mean, both samples were positive (or "non-negative" as they say in Europe most the time). If you look at how he rode at the Tour in July and the the way he rode at the Vuelta, he does appear to have risen from the dead to kick some serious ass with his stage wins and better-than-ever time trialing. Was he just that off in the Tour and that on at the Vuelta? I hope...
BUT... there is a pattern in our beloved sport. Cry foul, claim that the test is flawed or that the supplements were tainted without your knowledge, you didn't know what the team doctors were giving you, etc, etc... and then come clean in a sobbing breakdown/ confession and suddenly become a media/ fan favorite. Admittedly, it doesn't always work, nor are all of the accused actually guilty. Still, cycling and every other sport in the world has a problem with drugs. The UCI is pretending to make an effort to get rid of dopers, as is USA Cycling. WADA thinks both organizations aren't doing enough and the IOC seems to be somewhere in the middle.
Here are my two gripes on this (for today);
1) Why in the hell is Amgen, maker/developer of EPO, the title sponsor of the new Tour of California? Really. How on earth does this make sense? Cycling needs big corporate sponsors to make races happen, but this one just feels all wrong.
2) Cycling is going to get hammered in the media for this, but cycling actually has one of the very best records in sport for detecting and penalizing dopers. In our sport, people get suspended/ banned and fined... on the first offense. Baseball? Get caught a dozen times and we're gonna fine you a couple bucks and then ask you not to do it again- unless you still want to and are going to hit a lot of home runs. Football and basketball? Here's your drugs, now go play! Cynical? Yes I am. A little bitter too. I admit it.
To borrow a quote from my wife; "Here's the thing..." Doping in sport exists and always will as long as there is fame or fortune to be had by either the athlete or team/ sponsor, somebody. Cheating, in the way of doping, has been around since the dawn of competition. Anybody who believes it doesn't happen is seriously delusional. Anybody who believes that there aren't teams or organizations or national federations that do not actively encourage doping are just as delusional. It's there and it always will be. Are there clean athletes? Yes, most athletes are clean.
Sport has been plagued with the problem for a very long time and it isn't going away any time soon. Let's just stop acting surprised when somebody gets caught. Let's also stop ignoring our roll in this all; as fans we want to see faster/ stronger/ better athletes. Well, we are getting that. The media, the sponsors and the fans place an amazing amount of pressure on athletes to perform. We spend a lot of money on our heroes and that money becomes important.
I hope Roberto is innocent, just like I hope Tyler is innocent, but I'm not going to be heartbroken if either is really guilty. I'll be sorry they got caught- caught trying to give me a thrilling and compelling reason to love my sport.
Drugs in cycling? Yeah sure, you bet there is.