Raw talent in its rarest form is not enough. Training combined with the “gifts” given to many athletes leave many of us with our mouths open. The human body is an amazing machine. Top athletes are paid to be watched and revered for what can be done in their field. It is when the training and talent of an athlete go beyond a level of even the general expectation that leave many of us shaking our heads and doubting the basic belief being only training and talent. It is because of this that cycling has entered the world of the “shady.” Professional bodybuilding use to be shown on the Wide World of Sports, back in the day, but it has faded into a world of rampant and blatant drug abuse and now only covered in magazines.
Cycling has been and is still under a spotlight. Even major sports networks shy away from the big ones, like the Tour de France. I am aware of contracts with certain networks for exclusive rights, but even the daily highlights of each stage aren’t covered on ESPN morning shows. ESPN seems to be pouting from their marriage with Liar . . . err, Lance Armstrong. Speaking of “pants on fire,” he mentioned in his heart-felt (my tongue firmly planted in my cheek) confession to Oprah about not being able to compete without doping. Did he actually stumble over the truth? Don’t get me wrong. I will always have a problem with Lance. He’s done more to hurt the sport than anyone and some of the damage is irreversible, but if there is even a drop of truth to his claim, it’s very ugly in the sport.
I often watch cycling in person or on television, and I am in awe of pelotons that move at 40+ mph for 150+ miles and still have the kick to sprint at the end for 200 meters at speeds reaching or exceeding 50+ mph. I am a huge fan of Chris Horner’s stead-fast riding, Peter Sagan’s flamboyant flare, and Andre’ Greipel’s brute strength. The characters are in place for cycling to promote the sport, but the cloud looms. The rules and testing concerning doping are hit or miss. I was personally sick of hearing, during the 2013 Tour de France, how Alberto Contador was not at his best form. No kidding, Bob Roll. Wonder why? He was just coming off a two-year suspension for doping! Tainted beef, indeed! If the UCI does not face this problem, during the off season, this will grow beyond the limits of control . . . and so goes cycling with sports like bodybuilding.
Drugs have been a part of cycling since the mid-19th Century. Yes, the mid-19th Century. Cheaters will always be in every sport. Catching every cheater all of the time is virtually impossible. I absolutely love the sport of cycling. I think that there are phenomenally talented and clean riders in the professional ranks who need to be highlighted in our sport. Yes, it is our sport. From the club rider to Chris Froome, we must protect the sport and honor the sport by lifting the good and crushing the bad . . . not ignoring the problem or slapping someone’s hand.