The JaJa case, Cookson’s manifesto, McQuaid’s diatribe against same, Jonathan Vaughters on twitter; after a brief lull, truth and reconciliation is back in a big way.
It seemed to gain momentum right after the USADA report, when it was even embraced (likely with the goal to smother it) by McQuaid. At least I think it was, tough to figure out through the usual contradictions. Here are some points to consider:
- Many of the bureaucrats ditched the concept after first seeming to embrace it “because the WADA code doesn’t allow for it”. But the WADA code was not sent to us from Mars with explicit instructions never to change it. Humans from planet Earth wrote the code, and if enough people make good arguments to change it, it can be. So if the bureaucrats think T&R is the way to go, they should not complain the WADA code doesn’t allow it; they should work to change the code. And personally, I think such a request would be seriously considered by WADA if it didn’t come as part of a salvo of sniping press releases and asinine public statements.
- Can we allow people to “get away with it”? I wrote about that in my previous blog post, and we have to accept that there is no perfect solution. The outcome will feel insufficient and unfair regardless. But if it is possible to use the concept of Truth and Reconciliation in a country that has suffered murder, torture, bomb attacks and other unspeakable crimes, then surely it should be possible with something as insignificant as illegal drug use in sport. Furthermore T&R needn’t mean there is zero punishment for transgressions.
- Ex-dopers can’t call for Truth and Reconciliation. It’s quite alright for ex-dopers to call for truth, but they should leave to others the call for reconciliation. Problem is, there is no real “other side” in this conflict. Actually there is, made up of clean riders, fans who were fooled, etc, but this is a rag-tag group that is not easily identifiable Even worse, until the moment a T&R process starts, every rider will continue to claim they were part of that small minority in the “clean rider” camp. Tough to start Truth and Reconciliation with such a fundamental lie.
- Cycling doesn’t have a bishop Tutu. Whatever you may think of the man, he could speak to large parts of both sides with authority. Cycling doesn’t have a person like that – there is so much conflict on so many levels and so many topics. Who has the authority or even credibility with a large portion of the cycling world?
- What is the purpose of a T&R process? Is is that (ex-)dopers no longer have to fear getting found out? Is it to avoid embarrassing stories appearing one by one for the next decade? Those are all pretty self-serving goals. But what is the goal for cycling, what will the sport get out of the process? You hear very little about that.
As a result, it is entirely possible cycling (and maybe other sports) will have a process through which people will confess their doping sins without penalty. The truth part is easy, it can certainly be “bought” with the prospect of never having to worry about getting caught up in your past anymore, and in essence future job and financial security. Just like any bank robber would confess to the crime if he could keep the loot and avoid jail.
But the question is, how does this help the sport? Will it make the environment any healthier for the next generation? Will it give riders who are doping as we speak an incentive to stop? Will it encourage their clean teammates or pelotonmates a reason to speak out about them?
As long as it is unclear how Truth and Reconciliation will help the sport – aside from giving peace of mind to the ex-dopers and avoiding future embarrassing media stories because all the sewage comes out at once – there isn’t any real point.
And as long as we don’t really know what reconciliation entails, and with whom, it’s an affront to South Africans to even use the expression.