One of the striking things about the USADA Reasoned Decision is how unsuprising the whole affair is. To the mainstream media (newly attuned to cycling in the UK) it is an enormous scandal. To cycling fans, it is more of a confirmation of what we all knew and know: cycling was full of cheats and there are still some in the peloton.
It was obvious that in a period full of dopers, those who could compete with the known dopers were likely to be similarly prepared. But it was still beautiful, wasn't it? 'The Look' from one who still denies to one accepting of his misdeeds was still drama. Pantani flying up mountains with super-human haemocrit levels like a exuberant goose, keener to go south than his brothers was just like the movies; and when the close up of the star came, he wasn't even sweating. It was fiction: glorious fiction. We suspended our disbelief, we loved it.
The generation who came into cycling in the late 90's early 00's were left with little choice in an amoral professional sport. I have sympathy for those riders who came into the sport in that period, they made shoddy moral decisions which appeared good career decisions at the time. Doping has been endemic in cycling for very long periods of the sport's history. Many cyclists will have genuinely doped in deep regret, but few have stood up since and said so. Until now.
Matt White today has admitted his doping past. It feels that the seal is broken, that finally cycling can confront itself and wash it's dirty bib-shorts in public. Riders have been released from the crushing shame and allowed a confessional in the knowledge that people will not judge them as a demon in a sport of pure corinthian ideals, but as an agent in an oppressive system. It is only sport, after all.
But there is an impediment to our metaphorically clean gusset. Ironically, the anti-doping rules themselves will prevent others from coming forward. A 'truth and reconcilliation' process would be welcome, but as it stands would be very difficult to achieve. In those juristictions where sporting fraud is an offence, amnesty would have to come from the state as well as the sporting organisations, which could leave any future convictions on a shuggly peg. The law must be evenly applied or repealed.
These real difficulties should not stop the sport from trying however. It's reputation cannot suffer more damage; it's now time to dig out the splinter and the UCI along with WADA should, insofar as it can, offer amnesty to all those (and only those) who give full disclosure. The results of the past could be left, but shamed by an asterisk as the era of dopage. We all know it in our hearts anyway. After that the UCI should devolve testing to another organisation, it has suffered too greatly by being both ring master and police officer.
If the UCI cannot do this, it gives an opportunity for the professional teams and organisers of the major races to break away, taking the moral high-ground and sponsors with them to form their own new start. The UCI has to act, and will to save itself if nothing else. I just hope it is bold enough to take a radical path.
In the last two or three years, the sport appears to have changed and the UCI should get some praise for this - although it is arguable that the change in culture has come from the teams. No longer a sport of deux vitesses, more of a single-speed, more human. I am only now beginning to trust the sport I love.