Earlier today the Al Jazeera headline for the Vino-doping crisis was ‘Cycling has blood on its hands’. This has now been changed to a less contentious headline from the Arabic news channel.
According to L’Equipe, there’s been yet another leak from the LNND lab in Paris. A Tour de France rider is claimed to have supplied a non-negative sample, believed to be exogenous testosterone. This leak breaches WADA guidelines but, just like in the Floyd Landis case last year, the cycling media is going into introspective, we’re-all-doomed over-drive anyway.
This morning, AFP, the French news agency, reported that an anonymous official from the International Olympic Committee said cycling’s place in the Olympics was at risk because of the continued doping revelations.
Other sports, with deeper, more hidden doping secrets – and laxer doping controls – are not at risk of expulsion, just cycling.
Into all this debate comes Brian Cookson. Here’s his statement:
"Cycling is a great sport, loved by millions around the world, and the Tour de France is the ultimate sporting challenge. This year’s start in London was a huge success, millions of people enjoyed the spectacle and many were encouraged to get out on their bikes and enjoy the simple pleasure of cycling. The sport is undergoing a boom in Britain, the Great Britain cycling team has proved reliably successful at major championships, and British Cycling is determined to make the most of this success to develop our sport further, with all the health, environmental and social benefits that it can bring to this country.
"Once again however our sport is faced with having to deal with the fallout from what is, quite simply, organised professional cheating. I simply cannot understand the mindset of those people who, knowing the damage that has been done by a succession of similar scandals in recent years, continue to delude themselves that this kind of activity is in some way acceptable, or indeed that they can get away with it. It isn’t and they won’t.
"At British Cycling, we have always taken a very strong anti-doping stance throughout all our structures, from the elite Podium level, right the way through to our coaching and development programmes for youngsters. We have a zero tolerance policy, but we also educate our riders about the issue and do everything that we can to ensure that there is the back up to support them and help them avoid falling into anything undesirable. We co-operate fully with UK Sport, with WADA, with the UCI (International Cycling Union), and with all the other agencies involved. We will always do everything we can to ensure that everyone who competes in our sport, at every level, can do so, cleanly, fairly and ethically.
"I believe that what we are seeing now is partly because testing procedures have taken a great leap forward in the last few years, both in the laboratories and in the way in which the anti-doping agencies are working together to ensure that slipping through the net is no longer quite as easy as it may once have been. But more still needs to be done, in my view, by Governments around the world to ensure that the supply chains and conspiracies are dealt with through the criminal justice system. We are seeing the signs of this beginning to happen now, and I welcome this.
"That some individuals and indeed some organisations still seem to be in denial must not stop us facing this problem head on. In that context, perhaps the most sickening aspect is the constant dissembling from many of those who have been caught – I am personally sick of hearing the pathetic excuses and the accusations of conspiracies against individuals, of laboratory mistakes, of administrative errors and so on. These people would at least retain some respect if they were prepared to admit their failings, but sadly, so many seem to think that if they deny it long enough then it will go away. If those people will not accept that their behaviour is wrong, then we must exclude them permanently from our sport.
"Finally, I urge the Tour de France organisation not to give up the fight. The Tour is one of the world’s greatest sporting events and always will be. It can and will survive this crisis. I have already told Patrice Clerc, President of ASO, the Tour organisers, that he has our support in standing firm on this matter, and that if there is anything we can do to assist, we will certainly do so. The same message has also gone to Pat McQuaid, President of the UCI, and I urge both bodies to work together in harmony to tackle this most difficult situation."