Canadian rider Will Routley took out the garbage the other day. He was disgusted with all the doping admissions by high profile riders and sick of their way of framing the issue.
In his scathing rebuttal, he mocked the statements these riders had made. “‘I had no choice, I had to ‘cross the line’ or end my dream’.” This is just a taste of the utter garbage that has filled my ears as of late.”
We were happy to read Routley’s comments as we’re for any rider speaking out on doping and the need for clean cycling, greater enforcement, better testing and the immediate termination of UCI president Patrick McQuaid.
Routley came through the ranks the hard way, slow and painful and practically riding for free before he finally found some success. In 2010, he took the Canadian national road race and third in a stage of the Ruta Del Sol.
Those victories don’t mean he isn’t bitter about how little money he made versus the guys who doped. “These guys also enjoyed the success that goes with it: podium finishes in monumental events such as the Tour de France, fame, success, and money. The pay range would be from $300,000 to $3 million a year (a lot more if you are Lance).
We applaud Routley for speaking his mind and wish more riders had the courage to voice their convictions. Still, we differ with Routley on where to assign the percentages in this blame game.
For Routley, it’s all an individual choice, a simple yes or no, right or wrong, doped or clean. That’s certainly a valid position but he makes no mention of the cycling culture at the time.
Pick the years from 1999 to 2005 and you’d have to say that doping flourished not simply because a lot of riders said yes, but because the culture itself encouraged doping. The proliferation of EPO happened because the UCI was unwilling and incapable fighting the doping battle and in their rush to promote the sport, they turned a blind eye to a situation that was quickly out off control.
It’s easy to put in all the blame on the individual but that misses the cultural and institutional forces at work. It’s a lot easier to be morally and ethically strong when the entire sport isn’t corrupt from top to bottom.
It’s easier for a young rider to be strong when there isn’t a team doctor telling him he needs banned substances to perform. It’s easier when there isn’t a director sportif telling him he could get some results with banned substances. It’s easier when that rider doesn’t look around and see rider after rider, team after team with organized doping programs and a governing body with almost no ability to enforce clean cycling.
So while we say “Chapeau, Routley, we disagree that the issue of doping was a personal choice only. It’s a much more difficult situation to go against an entire doping culture. There weren’t that many Christophe Bassons in the pro peloton.
Since the USADA Reasoned Decision, there have been plenty of armchair moralists who place the blame 100% on the riders. It’s just not that simple or black and white and very few of us have the courage and moral strength to be the maverick who says no.
The plain fact of the matter is that put in that situation, with those circumstances and that dream, a good many and probably a majority of us would have said yes.