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The Podium Cafe Anti-Doping Manifesto

This is a rerun of an old post from last November. Slightly edited since it first came up in the middle of another conversation, and with one addition. I'm curious how this is holding up. All criticism welcomed.

  • A single, fully-authorized governing body headed by a person of unimpeachable integrity and acceptable to various factions.

  • A unified testing process, also with verifiable integrity and strict procedures.

  • A single appeals process before the body in bullet #1.

  • Strict codes of punishment.

  • An audit of the sport to gather recommendations.

  • A medical staff within the governing body that can keep up with the dopers.

  • Some sort of peace with the grand tours.

One World Government

This is the most important step the sport can take, IMHO. Cycling's power structure is too diffused for any real changes to happen in a meaningful time, and yet the sport has reached a crisis which requires real change. As a condition of Pro Tour licenses, require all teams to adhere to all actions of the PCT governing body (let's call this the PCT for now). To ensure teams and riders buy into the concept, make sure all decisions are made by a sort of legislative committee with reps from the riders, the race organizations, maybe the medical field, etc. Most pro sports have a single governing body (AFAIK), time for Cycling to get one too.

Create a Commissioner of Cycling. Someone chosen from a list of people acceptable to the factions. Someone of unimpeachable integrity, if you can find one. (Hinault?)

Testing, one... two... [that's it]

Create a single doping control body for enforcement and testing. Make it answerable to the Commissioner, so people have some faith in it. Develop a list of laboratories that can carry out the tests, and use a single lab at a time on a rotating basis (i.e. exclusive one- or two-year terms). Subject the labs to adequate peer review and performance evaluations, including adherence to procedures; bad evaluations can result in being kicked off the list.

The point here is to create a unified system that functions decisively and inspires the utmost confidence. And integrate it into the PCT.

Court of Last Resort

Create a single appeals process within the PCT. Once you get a positive test, it gets retested and a finding is issued. You can challenge the finding in an appeal before the PCT appellate board/court. If you win, god love ya, and if you lose, the Commissioner issues your punishment. Punishments would NOT be appealable... but to make sure the Commissioner isn't drunk with power, there would be some sentencing guidelines.

No more waiting for a rider's national licensing authority to sort out the mess. Let's have this all in one place. Why do the national licensing bodies have to have a role? Sure, for the continental tours, the PCT system I'm proposing would not apply; they can either have their own version of it, or something looser (since the continental riders will mostly be aspiring to the PCT, the PCT's rules will have a trickle-down effect). This way, the PCT doesn't need to get buy-in from every country's federation; they can just say: Spain, you can do what you want, but if your riders want to join PCT teams, here are the rules they'll be living by. Maybe cheaters would drift off to the continental tours to avoid detection, but once the PCT roots out cheating, the other pro systems will follow suit.

Off With Your Head

Strict punishment codes. Kind of speaks for itself. I'm thinking of, 4 years first major offense, 2 years or less for more minor stuff (e.g., failed to get a doctor's note for asthma meds), lifetime ban from PCT for second major. Doesn't mean a guy can't get a license elsewhere, but he's out of the pro tour.

Update [2007-7-26 11:59:50 by chris]: Lately we've talked about excluding teams for riders' violations. I say now: first vio (a & b positives), team stops for a month. Second, a year. Third, buh bye.

Audit Me

I seem to recall this is underway. The problem is, w/o the PCT to implement it, I'm not entirely sure what will ever be done w/ the results. With a PCT as I propose, the audit could go to the legislative committee and recommendations could be put into place.

Dr. No

Instead of always trying to keep up with the Ferraris and Cecchinis, here's a radical idea: hire one of them!! Why should the UCI always be the last to hear about new doping techniques? Let bygones be, and get a real expert on staff. I'm sure one of these guys will take the job, since the entire PCT would be geared toward putting them out of business. And I for one am not convinced they're completely evil, at least from what I read in LA's War. [There's only so much I can know about such people, I admit.] Anyway, in addition to staying on top of the doping R&D, presumably this guy could oversee a lot of the testing too, or at least be a consultant. And I'm not merely advocating hiring one doc; a panel of them may be needed.

Update [2007-7-26 11:59:50 by chris]: Apparently the doctors are forming an association. his is actually a better idea than a single one.

All for One

Peace with the grand tours is pretty important. If it were just the tours themselves, maybe the PCT could shove it down their throats by setting up THE ultimate clean-cycling apparatus and challenging the tours to get on board. But since the GTs own several classics too, they really do wield some power. If they held out, they could possibly scuttle the buy-in of the top teams by creating a parallel structure made up of their races, and riders/teams might bolt. So I'd advocate holding our noses and giving in to some of their demands.

On a related subject, this kind of uber-structure would need to create an inclusive system. Sure, you might only give out 20 PCT licenses a year, but you could have relegation and promotion with the continental teams, like they do in soccer.

Some lingering topics...

  • I'm officially for DNA testing. Does it make riders feel bad? Yep. But they had their chance, and blew it. If you give them a real appeals system, they should feel confident of their innocent-til-proven status. The objection to DNA testing is too symbolic to respect.