I have not been following the Tour all that closely this year. I don’t have the RV and Rodeo Channel (Versus) and so I am left to follow the race online. And I forget to do that. And honestly, the last year or two I have just not been all that interested. The post-Lance era was shaping up to be epic. Great young riders who could time trial, climb, and sprint were rising above the peloton, ready to establish themselves as the next cycling Bosses.
But then they all doped and were banned and everything went to hell.
David Millar is an admitted and convicted doper. And he also once threw a fantastic tantrum, tossing his bike over a set of barricades. Anyway, since his return to professional cycling he has been an outspoken critic of dopers, and doping. And for that I admire him. He was once part of the problem, but now is determined to be a part of the solution. He is doing what Mark McGwire, and others have not had the guts to do. When McGwire retired he talked up and down about helping educate young athletes about the dangers of this and that and all sorts of other noble things he intended to do. Instead he hides behind a gated Malibu neighborhood and never says a word.
But I digress.
It was a little surreal and disheartening watching the police and dozens of media surrounding the Saunier Duval bus. But at the same time, it was gratifying to see the little bastard getting caught. Because that’s what he is, a little bastard. Forget ‘The Cobra’, I’ve got two better names for him: The Trouser Snake (courtesy of Danny Pate at the Giro), and The Worm (courtesy of Mark Cavendish here at the Tour). Well, I had a feeling the snake’s move on the Aspin was too good to be true. And unfortunately of late when I have that feeling, doping is involved.
I love his frank way of telling it like it is. The war on doping needs riders who will call one another out like this. If a rider worries about what the peloton will think of him (since what the press and fans think seems to have no impact) if he is caught juicing, perhaps he will think twice before he plunges that needle.
But then again, maybe not.
I have to wonder about the intelligence of people who continue to cheat in an environment where the number one focus of all involved is to stop the cheating. Or, conversely, I wonder how effective the testing procedures are. Neither side (athletes/testers) is perfect. And both probably dabble in collusion, corruption, manipulation and conspiracy. But certainly there must be well meaning chemists and scientists and athletes and coaches who are sincerely trying to clean up the sport?
The reality is that doping is not going away. There will always be a new “Clear”, a new “Cream”, a new EPO, steroid, hormone, juice, pill, bar, patch, and whatever else you can think of that will artificially enhance athletic performance.
But hopefully the efforts of David Millar, and others like him can help slow that tide. Maybe, just maybe the younger riders will develop a competitive ethic based on clean racing. That was the hope this year. At least it was until the snake came along and played us all for fools.
“Little bastard” indeed.