Idea 5: Salaries & pensions
This may provide the biggest break-through but also meet the most resistance. As with all of the previous ideas, it could work in any sport, it’s not cycling-specific.
Think about the guy who dedicates himself to his sport for a decade or two, struggling to make a living, only to find out that he competed against cheats. The lost prize money, salary, his economic loss would be staggering, never mind his sportive loss. Contrast that with somebody who has made millions per year for many years, then buys off prosecution for a few bucks or by crying in Congress. He lives like a king until the end of time.
So I would suggest a change in salaries. Just like now, a rider can get any level of financial compensation. But we cap the amount that is actually paid out immediately to a certain amount, say 250,000 Euro/300,000 USD per year. Anything above that will go into the sport’s athlete pension fund. As soon as the athlete retires, he will get a pension out of that fund which is related to the amount he put in (the compensation he didn’t get each year). The pension will last his whole life, or until such moment when he is caught cheating through testing (during his career or retro-actively). In that case, he forfeits further pension payments and instead his pension money is redistributed among the honest athletes who are still in the fund. It has several benefits:
- Honest riders may have lost out on some salary during their active career, but they will receive a very generous pension, in line with what they would have earned if their career hadn’t been hampered by the cheats. Imagine the pension a clean baseball player from the McGwire era would make. It would be astronomical.
- There is no need to claw back money from an athlete after he is caught, as he never received those large amounts to begin with.
- Athletes who burst onto the scene quickly, get big salaries and lose themselves in expensive cars, cocaine and dog-fighting are now a little more protected from their own stupidity, as they won’t have that much to spend.
Obviously there could be many refinements (increasing salaries as the athlete gets older, etc), but you get the idea. And don’t say it won’t work because teams will make side deals and image contracts and whatever. If a team is caught circumventing this rule, it is avoiding an anti-doping effort. Teams can’t afford to take that risk (especially since testing for financial tricks is much easier than for doping products). I know there are hundreds of reasons why it wouldn’t work, but why not think about the reasons it will work.