Another week, another ex-cyclist bites the dust. This time it’s Laurent Jalabert, with evidence mounting he used EPO during his career. While most would file this under A for “Absolutely the least shocking news of the year”, it’s getting quite a bit of attention for two reasons:
- Oddly, JaJa doesn’t really deny there was EPO in his body, but rather that he knew about it. “I trusted my doctors” and never asked questions, never looked at the bottle, I simple wasn’t interested in what kind of stuff was injected into my body. Didn’t care, never curious.
- JaJa is a cycling pundit for French TV and this fuss around his person is unwelcome. In an attempt to avoid the limelight and pretty much disappear from sight, he has now (temporarily) stepped down from that position, either voluntarily or after mild suggestions.
First off, it’s entirely logical he can’t be a pundit right now. With his explanation of unknowingly doping, he has lost a lot of credibility. And a pundit without credibility is, frankly, useless.
Of course, that’s not the reason he stepped down. He stepped down because having to answer questions about his past as a cyclist is uncomfortable. And as we have seen time and again, not answering them or answering them with bullshit only makes it worse. Apparently JaJa missed that part of the memo.
Predictably, JaJa’s conundrum set in motion the truth & reconciliation script. It goes for example like this:
- Somebody will tweet, facebook or – in extreme cases – “say” that JaJa should be stripped of his results, fired from his current cycling-related job, etc.
- Somebody else will respond that “other riders” will think twice about coming forward if this is how we treat them, and that the only solution is truth & reconciliation.
For some reason, these two camps remain diametrically opposed. But isn’t it simply the case that both are true?
- It is appalling to think that some people cheated their way to fame and riches and that once they are caught, they get to keep all their ill-gotten gains? We don’t like it with bankers or scam artists, why would we like it any more with cyclists?
- At the same time, most people in the “strip them bare” group will also concede that the problem was so endemic that punishing the few unlucky guys who got caught won’t restore justice in any meaningful way.
This is it, life is imperfect and so is cycling. We can choose option A, we can choose option B, either way it will feel insufficient and unfair.