ONCE bitten, twice shy

July 1, 2013

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.

9 Responses to “ONCE bitten, twice shy”

  1. Doug Says:

    Gerard. I agree there is no way forward that delivers fairness for what has already happened. You’re right: life isn’t fair.

    I think our best bet is to find a way forward that gives us future fairness. And, one that restores our beleaguered fans’ confidence in the sport.

    To that end, getting the full truth out (if that is possible) may outweigh punishing the wrongdoers.

  2. Luis Oliveira Says:

    Alright, but “coming forward” is not a good way to describe this particular case, is it?

  3. With this being the “100th Edition ” , nobody with the “Le Tour ” is really missing his face on the RTL vehicles !

    Pretty sure i saw a smirk on Richard’s face when i commented to him about Ja Ja on Saturday !

    Makes the sheriff’s , ” Didn’t know what the team was giving me “, even more pathetic !

    Capping it all off is Simon G. winning the 3rd stage . With personnel from the Saunier Duval Team of Peopoli & Rico on the scene , the wags on the ” clinic ” will be on overtime !

  4. Craig Says:

    Gerard, how certain are you that the riders you had at Cervelo Test Team were clean while they were there?

  5. Part depends on what the French release on July 18. If they name 98 riders (as has been suggested) who tested positive for EPO in 1998, that puts a lot more riders in the “Truth” category. There’s already a groundswell of folks like Tyler Hamilton who seem to be willing to finance their childrens’ tuition via tell-all books once they no longer rely on cycling for their livelihood. Throw in the probability that the Danish are going to expose systematic doping under Bjarne Riis, and the number of riders who can claim to have been riding clean in the 1995 – 2007 era becomes vanishingly small. It may be that we can tell they were clean because they weren’t riding at the ProTour (or equivalent) level; they were toiling in continental teams or shifting to cyclocross and mountain biking.

    If you want to keep guys like Bjarne Riis, Andy Rijs, Jim Ochowicz, the heads of Astana, Katusha, Movistar, Liquigas, et. al., in cycling – which we should, since there’s irreplaceable knowledge there – then we have to find a way for this to all come out, but not flush them all out of cycling forever.

    The truth is coming out – are we going to deal with it, or stick our fingers in our ears and sing, “La la la la la” like they did when Jaksche went to the UCI? That’s the real question.

    • I agreed with you until you said the dopers have irreplaceable knowledge. Well, maybe they do, but is it knowledge we need?

      I have no doubt some of these people know more about cheating then we’ll ever learn, but I get sick and tired of this excuse that these people are needed in cycling. They aren’t.

      First of all, most of them are terrible managers by any objective standard. Second of all, even if they were good, do we really need those skills from them? Plenty others have those skills.

      If you toss them all out and start fresh, you’ll build all the knowledge you need in a year and during that year, the Racing will be fun an exciting as well.

      I’ve sponsored teams and owned them and I can say, it’s not rocket science and the average level is low.

    • Btw, I also disagree with this concept that in the end it will turn out the whole ProTour was doping. There are already very good indications that’s not the case. For example, we already know that many samples from 1998 did not test positive for EPO. That doesn’t prove those riders were always clean, but it’s a strong case if an undetectable and super effective drug is NOT found. We also know from the Willy Voet book that half the Festina team was not doping.

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