Perhaps you’ve asked yourself after years of reading about operación Galgo, Grail and Mantova — could you run a time consuming, farcical, expensive and ultimately pointless doping investigation? The answer of course is, damn right you could. With Twisted Spoke’s eight point plan, you can fly to Italy or Spain tomorrow and make headlines.
Step one: The name is everything
A great operation name captures the imagination of journalists and the public at large. It gives the investigation some instant drama, importance and style. Don’t be afraid to be creative. Operacion Grial is Spanish for the Grail, the search for truth, the crusade, the fight against doping. Great names might include animals like Condor (police swooping in) or Viper (spying on evil, striking with speed) or Pit bull (snarling with rage against doped riders). If you’re feeling creative, go for something more poetic — operation Weeping Angel or Clenched Fist or Wind of Justice. Naming is critical — do not shortcut this step.
Step two: Name big fish
Nobody wants a doping investigation into a bunch of amateurs, fat former pros or gym club members. The bigger the fish, the better the media coverage. Don’t be afraid to think big with headlines like “Schleck questioned” or “Nibali implicated” or “Cadel Evan’s cell phone confiscated by Anti-Doping Police” or “Contador photographed at Sunday picnic with Dr. Fuentes.” All you need is one lit match and the internet will build the roaring bonfire.
Step three: Appoint a judge who craves attention
You want this investigation to drag out for years. Find yourself a judge who likes to hear the sound of his own voice. Somebody who is not afraid to make bold statements about justice, truth and ridding the world of the scourge of doping. Not that he’s going to actually do that — this is theater, the show is everything and no actual consequences are necessary. Maximize the bluster, the outrage, the war to end all wars. Former opera directors and circus managers are an excellent choice.
Step four: Keep the waters muddy
Make use of the chaos to build a doping investigation that simply won’t go away. Nationalistic sporting federations, competing doping agencies, complicated UCI regulations, Olympics committees, local and state and anti-doping police — it’s all one big mess to manipulate. Pit one against the other, make loud claims about a lack of cooperation, create important fake evidence, then mis-translate it, then lose it. You want everybody involved and angry and fighting over cell phone transcripts and blood bags.
Step five: Have fun with the evidence
In order to keep the story on the front page, to build the internet buzz, it’s essential that you keep delivering a steady stream of enticing details and shocking new revelations. A suspect secret bank account, confiscated laptop or cell phone, a list of code names, an incrimination photo. Let journalists know that new evidence or an admission of guilt is just around the corner. Only a fool releases all the evidence at once. For bonus points — give conflicting stories to different news organizations. This creates confusion which leads to wild speculation and rumors — that’s the life blood of any farcical doping investigation.
Step six: keep your dates fluid
One of the essential keys to keep your bogus doping investigation going for years is the careful manipulation of time. Delays, postponements, sudden unavoidable legal situations that force a final decision on guilt or innocence to be re-scheduled yet again. Don’t be afraid to push the limits — a judge suddenly retires or dies, a last minute mistrial, the intervention of the president of the country, outside claims of conflict of interest — all these things work in your favor. Look at the genius of the people who run the Mantova investigation. Every season, at precisely the same time in late March or early April, they resurface with sensational allegations, then the story goes quiet for ten months. Play the game, keep your pieces moving and delay, delay, delay. Keep your audience hungering for the verdict, some dramatic resolution, but never give it to them.
Step seven: Know when to drop the curtain
Hey, it’s been a fun ride, right? You’ve had the entire cycling world on pins and needles for years. You’ve dominated headlines, created endless buzz, stoked rumors, manipulated the media, filled the cycling forums with feverish commentary. But all good things eventually come to and end. IMPORTANT: don’t just drop the curtain, fold the tent and sell the lions. Close the investigation with a blaze of glory — although there were no indictments or sanctions or punishments to any riders named in your fake investigation, you must still declare your operation a glowing success. Announce that you have put the dopers on notice, commend your judge for his hard work, the police for their valor, the public for their appreciation of this fight against doping. A verdict was never a requirement but a final flourish is needed.
Step eight: next steps
You’ve proven your skills — it’s time to leverage that expertise and the sky is the limit: A high level job at the Spanish Cycling federation is a given as is a high profile position at the Italian Olympic committee. But you want the final prize, a seat at the kangaroo court, the ringmaster in the big show. You want the one job where your creative talents and enlightened media manipulation are best put to use. Pat McQuaid, step down, there’s a new UCI president on his way.