The Bad Guy (a reasoned rebuttal)
24 Tuesday May 2011
Padraig, over at the Red Kite Prayer, wrote a great post today comparing Pat McQuaid’s proposed rule which will prevent riders caught and banned for doping practices from working in team management in the future.
When we consider the problem of doping it’s easy to look at the issue in terms of black and white. There are the clean riders (white) and the doped riders (black). There are the teams whose management actively work to keep riders clean (white). And there are teams whose management organize and facilitate doping (black).
Such an outlook keeps the problem chopped up in easy to digest chunks. And while it may be easier to organize our thinking and ability to pass judgement on who should be in or out of the sport, such an assessment does little to shed light on the reality of the problem.
Every time we reduce someone to “culprit” or “doper” what we are doing is labeling them “the bad guy.” By reducing them into a two-dimensional role, they become cardboard cutouts, symbols, for what we find offensive. Dressing a guy in a black hat automatically makes him the bad guy. That’s what makes old spaghetti westerns so laughable; you didn’t need to know anything more about the guy than the fact that he had the black hat on.
Go read the rest of Padraig’s post. Seriously. Go now.
Now, I generally agree with Padraig, and generally disagree with most of the things that Pat McQuaid and the rest of the UCI has run our sport over the past few years … but this is one situation where I think McQuaid might be right.
Padraig argues that:
It would seem that Pat McQuaid is a big believer in the black hat. McQuaid wants every former rider who ever had a brush with doping to be banned from roles in team management, banned from the sport. If we consider the example of guys like Jonathan Vaughters, a manager who says he faced some difficult decisions while he was a rider, banning him would mean losing a figure who understands the trials riders face better than most. Who else would better understand the agonies of the riders than someone who was confronted with those very choices.
The last I read, McQuaid’s proposal would essentially have a grandfather clause … people who are already working in team management would be able to continue to do so. His proposal is to prevent current riders who have doping issues in the future from becoming part of team management after they retire.
One point McQuaid stressed surrounded retrospective analysis, saying that past doping offences before the new rule comes into place would not be punished. Cycling has numerous team bosses and DSs whom either tested positive – in some cases several times – or who later confessed to doping.
“You can’t make it retrospective. Everyone must know what the playing pitch is like before they go onto it, and you can’t do it in another way. However, once that rule comes into place and all riders are informed of it, they will know what the consequences would be should they get involved in a doping infraction and try to come back in another way.”
“You can only bring in the rule for the future so it will only apply to people that get involved in doping after the rules comes in – so the riders know and they’re informed.”
“All we’re trying to do is break the cycle so that the doping influence is less involved in the sport and that the managers are a group who have the highest ethics as cyclists and continue to have the highest ethics as management. I’m bringing in the rule for the future.
So what this means, should McQuaid’s proposed rule be finalized and implemented, is that not only would current managers like Jonathan Vaughters be able to keep his position in team management, but once Tyler Hamilton’s current 8-year ban is up in 2017, he would also be able to work as a team manager if he could convince someone to hire him.
However, should Johan Vlaamsewieler become involved in some sort of doping practice in 2012 and get caught … serve his two year ban and then return as a rider in 2014, he would be still be prevented from working in team management after he retires from cycling as a rider in 2019.
It’s one of the few UCI rules (proposed or otherwise) that I think I can get behind; today’s team managers who are outspokenly anti-doping, like Jonathan Vaughters, were active professionals in a time when doping was widely accepted within the peloton. They do understand the choices and the pressures that riders felt, and are best suited to help educate and keep the current crop of riders from falling into the same traps. And hopefully, by the time the current crop of riders is ready to retire and join team management, a new culture of complete intolerance for doping will have taken hold.
I think it’s time to for the sport to say, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther.”
If you prefer Star Trek references to Biblical ones, “Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther!”