Who is your favorite cheater? Why cycling embraces some ex-dopers but shuns others

Has the sport figured out how to deal with cycling’s doping history?

Recent evidence suggests that sections of professional cycling and society as a whole are still struggling to choose between who they see as the good guys and who the bad guys are.

The recent great departure in Copenhagen may have looked spectacular and attracted truly incredible crowds, but far from all the obvious reasons why cycling remains such a beautiful sport, there was an undercurrent, a feeling, that just didn’t fit .

The obvious starting point is with Bjarne Riis, who was not invited by the Danish delegation or the Tour de France organizers ASO.

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Some will read this article as a defense of Dane’s crimes, but that is absolutely not the case. Riis cheated to win the Tour de France in 1996, allegedly encouraged Tyler Hamilton to visit anti-doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, then sold himself to a Russian oligarch. Riis is certainly not the victim in this story.

“If the sport has gained credibility, then someone you don’t want to invite is Bjarne Riis,” said one of his former CSC riders, who did not want to be named. BikeNews.

Part of Riis persona non grata status depends on karma, and what happens happens, but his snobbery at the hands of fellow Danes and ASO has been a hot topic of debate, and has once again exposed the hypocrisy that runs through our sport .

“But cycling is full of hypocrisy. You have all these dodgy doctors who have been riding bikes for 25 years and they are still here. I can tell you about three to five doctors who have practiced doping on riders and then there are those managers, those like Riis who are there. They are the same,” the same ex-pilot told us.

And just days before the Tour started in Riis’ hometown on Stage 3, fans cheered and cheered as a team took to the stage during the team presentations despite being raided repeatedly for drugs by several factions of Europe. law enforcement.

No charges have been brought, but encouraging a team that has been attacked for drugs and is backed by a regime with documented human rights abuses is a difficult situation to explain.

At the same time, if the obvious answer to Riis’s ban is doping, then why are so many of his former peers celebrated and held in such high regard when their conduct was on so many levels as bad as the Dane’s? ?

One of Riis’ ex-teammates, and another self-confessed dope, was asked by a Belgian publication last week if he was the coolest man in Denmark. This person may not have the same question marks about his post-race career as Riis does, but does that, and the fact that he’s friends with fashion designers, really hide the morality?

ASO is releasing plenty of riders from the 1980s and 1990s with questionable pasts, and if the Tour started tomorrow in Belgium or Spain, you can bet the Tour de France “heroes” from those nations would be transported to the stage with great fanfare. Explain that.

And for those who think this is an issue that only focuses on the vetting processes of race dignitaries, that is not the case.

It’s curious, isn’t it, that a former rider like Richard Virenque, who cheated and constantly lied for years, is part of a media brigade that proclaims that the new generation of cycling is entirely clean. This runs counter to rational and common sense. However, the former Festina rider is not alone in this, everyone in the cycling media landscape lives in glass houses, but there is a feeling that singling out certain individuals while passing on bad deeds of others goes through cycling.

Popularity, it seems, matters so much. Riis, again, was not a popular Tour de France winner. The French laughed at him, the nickname “Mr 60%” was invented but he was far from the only donkey to turn into a racehorse.

He was, however, brash, confrontational, and certainly arrogant at times. On a higher level, that may have counted more than anything when it comes to his non-invitation to the Tour.

“There was a lot of talk about it in Denmark and I spent a week with Bjarne before the Tour,” says one of his former riders and 2010 Tour de France winner Andy Schleck.

“He’s disappointed, but on the other hand, who cares when it comes to inviting him? Is it Denmark or ASO? If you ask me personally, he is the only Dane to have won the Tour. Sure, we know he was using EPO at the time and he admitted it, but he wasn’t the only one. Should we treat all the people who took EPO in the peloton at the time, and there are still many of them today, the same way and say that they no longer have a place in the cycling? We would lose a lot of important people. For Danish cycling, Bjarne has inspired so many children and he is the only winner of the Tour, and he is not on stage. It’s a sad story.

The Tour de France would indeed be a lonely place if all ex-dopers were expelled overnight. The fleet of cars following the race each day would be reduced to a minimum, while many teams would be forced to rush to LinkedIn to post job ads looking for their next GM.

No one is advocating a rug ban, it’s unrealistic, but when you see someone like Riis shunned while others across generations are given a free pass, you wonder who the good guys are, who the bad guys are. and who drew these invisible lines?

According to Schleck, one thing is certain.

“I can tell you that if Bjarne Riis comes to sport tomorrow with a sponsor and 40 million euros, he will be invited by the UCI, ASO and all the other cycling institutions.”

This is a point on which we all agree.

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