Thomas Dekker's admission of having doped in 2007 adds to a growing and disturbing trend of younger guys getting caught cheating. Dekker is all of 25 now, and was a babe of 23 when he downed his EPO-filled Christmas pudding in 2007. Here are some other young guys getting dinged:
- Patrik Sinkewicz, 27 at the time of his team-administered positive for testosterone.
- Moises Duenas, 27 when he got the boot at the 2008 Tour for EPO.
- Ricardo Ricco, 24 when he got dinged at Le Tour '08 for CERA.
- Emanuele Sella, 27 when he got caught for his sham performances at the 2008 Giro.
- Bernhard Kohl, 26 when he made his illicit breakthrough at the 2008 Tour.
- Christian Pfannberger, 25 when he got kicked out for testosterone and 29 when caught again this year.
- Clement L'hotellerie, only 23, and already battling a positive for Methylhexanamine, though I am slightly unsure if he should be lumped in with the EPO and testosterone cheats.
This undermines somewhat the notion, propounded here by hopeless optimists (ahem!), that the next generation would be on notice to clean up their act, and the results would follow. Well, that generation is on notice, and a handful of cases does not give cause to characterize the "whole lot of them" as irredeemable cheats. But it does say clearly that just because the memo went out, doesn't mean everyone read it. There is a huge difference in the climate of the sport between the pre-Puerto years and now: testing is on the rise, winking and nodding on the decrease. Fans and sponsors alike have spoken clearly that we won't go along with the old program anymore. Riders have an unmistakeable reason to say no to the drugs, and at least some hope that they won't be punished for doing so. That's changed, no?
But what hasn't changed, what never will change, are two things: the temptation, and the stupidity or cravenness of the occasional rider who will run the risks of a positive control, however acute that risk may be. Undoubtedly the actual list is longer than that above, though one hopes it's much shorter than it used to be and the system will continue to close the gap between the total number of cheaters and those we actually know about. I will almost certainly never give up on the sport, and this news doesn't depress or surprise me really. It just makes me think that we (? I?) need to readjust my view of the new generation of stars from "unlikely suspects" to "less likely suspects." Trust? OK, but verify too.