Pro cycling and doping. Tipping point tipped?
Does it feel like the dam has finally broken?
We have UCI president McQuaid embarrassed and exposed, former UCI head Hein Verbruggen outed as bombastic, vindictive and uninformed, Lance Armstrong, the most powerful pro cyclist of the dark doping years, stripped of his seven Tour de France titles in a no-contest.
Perhaps at last the Devil himself, Michele Ferrari, is on the run, Operation Puerto is finally coming to trial, Johan Bruyneel is fighting for his career and legacy, dirty doctors are about to be thrown out of the sport.
It’s a tipping point that has finally tipped over. Riders have testified to federal authorizes and the US Anti Doping Authority. Collaboration between anti doping organizations in the US and Europe has never been higher.
Even cycling journalists have engaged in a frenzy of self recrimination, admitting to past mistakes for not doing enough to expose doping. Betsey Andreu, David Walsh and Paul Kimmage, once vilified as outsiders shouting “dope” are now heroes.
Cycling fans, fed up for so long with the corruption and incompetence of the UCI leadership, have raised over $33,000 to help Kimmage defend himself again the UCI’s vindictive lawsuit.
Floyd Landis is no longer called a crazy man or a liar. Tyler Hamilton has his soul back and maybe somewhere in Spain, Jesus Marzano, the rider who blew the lid off the Puerto scandal, is smiling just a bit. Whistleblower is a thankless job.
This season Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France and Ryder Hesjedal wins the Giro d’Italia. Two clean riders on teams with a strong anti-doping stance and program. (Alexander Vinokourov won the Olympic Road Race but you can’t have everything go your way.)
So are we finally there? Has the worm finally turned? Are we going to a far better place? Right now, it’s hard not to be optimistic. This doesn’t feel like the false change after Festina or Puerto.
The last hurdle is the overhaul of the UCI. As the Inner Ring points out, that won’t be easy. But then, this story is far from finished. USADA’s Travis Tygart guesses that once the Armstrong testimony is shortly made public, the impact will be “terrible — 30 times greater” than anything we’ve read in Hamilton’s book. The secrets are really out.
That impact — including the allegation that the UCI covered up a failed doping test by Armstrong — may finally lead to change at the top. In the meantime, enjoy the sound of what feels like the Berlin Wall coming down.