Imagine you’re a professional rider for almost two decades
Imagine all these years, against a tsunami of cheating, you ride cleanly
Except for two measly weeks
For two measly weeks you used EPO
Imagine that of all the weeks you could have done that, you picked two weeks before the Tour de France
But luckily you came to your senses and stopped. Phew.
Now imagine that at some point, years later, they decide to retest Tour samples
Imagine that of all the years they could have chosen, they pick the year you cheated
Fortunately, it’s for scientific research and the riders are never identified. Phew
Now imagine that another decade later, some country decides to waste tax payers’ money to look into doping
Imagine the chance that this country is France
Imagine the infinitesimally small chance that they not only target your sport, but also that one year, and that they manage to unearth the rider names behind the positive samples
Now imagine that although there is no real reason, they decide to make the names of the dopers public
There you are, always played by the rules, one little slip-up and you’re caught
Just like Erik Zabel really, oh no, wait, his claim to have used EPO only once turned out to be a complete lie
Now imagine that fans of the sport have gotten so accustomed to the excuses that they don’t believe you
How unlucky. Truly.
Note 1: Paris-Roubaix 2007 has always been one of my favorite races, making the recent revelations a pretty bitter pill to swallow
Note 2: Instead of only focussing on the positive tests, let’s also acknowledge that apparently several riders won stages in the 1998 Tour without using EPO. Maybe that should give us some hope for the future, and if nothing else it should serve to show the claim of “I had no choice, everybody was doing it” is off the mark.