Cycle sport will carry the wounds inflicted from the recent sanctioning of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong and the evidence in USADA’s Reasoned Decision document for a long while yet. Journalists who have never even written about our beautiful sport have been queuing up to join the character assassination of cycling. ‘Rightly so’ some will say.
Increased testing, coupled with the introduction of the bio-passport system in cycling are due in part to the many doping scandals to have hit the sport in the past. It is learning and some will argue that more must be done. More has been done and will continue to be done, but many, especially non-cycling sporting journalists, have long since failed to address the overall issue of doping in other mainstream sports such as football, tennis and golf to name just a few.
Cycling may be growing but compare it to mainstream sports with their extensive salaries, sponsorship and TV rights and it pales into insignificance. Lets be honest, athletes dope to win, success creates more publicity, better contracts, higher salaries and increased sponsorship deals. It’s a no brainer. You would be naive to think that the big money sports aren’t affected by doping.
The feedback we receive from pro cyclists is that on an anti-doping level, their sport is being sacrificed for the failures of other sports.
So whilst other sports are having a chuckle at the demise of cycling through it’s doping scandals, what are they doing to keep their house in order? To be honest it’s difficult to know because once you mention that dirty word ‘doping’ to them they don’t really want to discuss it.
For some time we have been in touch with @Tehaspe on Twitter. He is passionate about cycling and tennis and increasingly shown his frustration to us about the lack of testing in top level tennis. He has even set up a website/blog titled http://tennishasasteroidproblem.blogspot.com.au to help raise attention.
We were reading through the International Tennis Federation (ITF) website today, paying particular attention to their anti-doping section.
To us cyclists, it makes alarming reading. Their lack of appropriate drug testing is won over by the significant amount of transparency on testing, from individual tennis players to actual event and Grand Slam testing statistics for blood, urine and EPO tests. (applause)
As fans of cycling, dope testing has almost become part of the sport. Its a sad analogy but a fact nonetheless. We are used to riders being tested, the yellow jersey, random tests, stage winners etc etc. But what is quite alarming within the sport of tennis is the lack of testing, more be it the lack of out of competition testing, the backbone to anti-doping (in our opinion).
Having read considerable amounts of literature relating to the issue of doping in cycling (Tyler Hamilton and David Millar for example) it’s clear that one of the most powerful (yet costly) tools in the anti-doping arsenal is out of competition testing (OOC). The lengths that Hamilton and others went to avoid being tested out of competition only adds to the importance of the need for more OOC tests across all sports.
Add to this the confusion and vague filling in of Whereabouts forms by doping athletes and this makes locating athletes all the more difficult. It has long been known that athletes, not only cyclists, will travel to remote locations to avoid the possibility of an OOC test.
According to the UCI website there were a total of 13,144 anti-doping tests (blood and urine) conducted on cyclists in 2011. The number of out of competition testing from that figure was 5,699.
Compare this to the ITF 2011 dope testing figures where there were a total of 2,150 tests, of which 216 were out of competition.
We also looked at data on USADA’s website for 2012. USADA have tested 544 cyclists so far compared to only 14 tennis players.
Alarmingly, it appears that two of the world’s top tennis players, Serena and Venus Williams, failed to undergo a single out of competition test in 2010 and 2011. Both have undergone one OOC test so far this year. This doesn’t point to doping but simply shows the difference between world class athletes in both sports. Compare to one of our very own rode models, Ben Jacques Maynes who was tested a total of 7 times by USADA in 2011.
Dr Luis Garcia del Moral worked within many cycling teams during his career and was implicated in USADA’s recent Reasoned Decision document. On 7th August 2012 the International Tennis Federation (ITF) banned Dr Luis Garcia del Moral from working with it’s own athletes. In a statement on its website it said “Dr Garcia del Moral practices sports medicine in Valencia, Spain, and in that capacity has worked with various tennis players.”
Cycling may have a doping problem but it is doing more than other sports in at least facing up to it’s responsibilities and embarking on promoting a cleaner sport. More than can be said for other sports. The more you test, the more you will catch, simple maths.
Many sports have changed dramatically in recent years. Tennis continues to speed up, longer rallies, more injuries, players failing to display signs of fatigue. As cyclists we have become wise to the signs of suspicious goings on in our own sport. It’s time for other sports to wake up to those tell tale signs and ask questions of themselves.
USADA’s Individual Athlete Test History http://www.usada.org/athlete-test-history
International Tennis Federation anti-doping statistics section: http://www.itftennis.com/antidoping/news/statistics.asp