oddly enough, the book about which you are about to read currently sits midst my almost undiminished pile of review publications only half-read. this has nothing whatsoever to do with its content, for in truth, i'm rather enjoying it, but with five books currently under review, my mehtodology revolves around reading those five simultaneously rather than in sequence. that means, as you've no doubt figured out, that it takes rather longer to finish a single publication. but i like it that way.
however, previous contributor and avid cycling reader, gordon daniels beat me to it in this instance, and i'm very grateful that he sent through his own views of a clean break by christophe bassons. while i delight in imposing my thoughts upon a hapless readership, it's nice every once in a while, to enjoy someone else's. and most commendably, he typed the whole thing in lower case letters.
what a guy.
christophe bassons is a brave man. in the milieu of pro cycling he stood out against the institutionalised doping that enveloped the peloton and asserts that it has not gone away. the us anti-doping agency's (usada) reasoned decision brought about the downfall of lance armstrong. this encouraged bassons to revisit his previous work and update it. armstrong's 'confession' on the oprah winfrey show was a watershed. after years of complicity in doping, and under a new president, the uci has the opportunity to change cycling for the better and has made a start. however, the root and branch changes that bassons believes to be necessary have yet to appear.
independent commissions that encourage riders to admit to past transgressions go some way to purging the past. bassons believes that whilst the management and direction of cycling teams are in the hands of retired racers, amongst them known dopers, little will change and the omerta will remain intact. moreover, the uci needs to expunge its own complicity. tellingly, outside agencies exposed the corruption in cycling and not its own governing body.
young bassons had the potential of hinault. soon spotted by pro teams he joined festina, then under the direction of bruno roussel, one of the key players in the subsequent festina scandal that exposed the depth of cheating in cycling. a clean rider with festina - team-mates like virenque, brochard and dufaux - is surely an oxymoron. acceptance by fellow pros meant that he had to fait le metier, to dope.
university educated, bassons is analytical and critical when discussing cycling. his integrity becomes a crusade as he challenges virtually the entire peloton, vituperative and openly abusive towards him. team-mates, psychologically dependent on dope, failed to destroy him, although he was frequently in despair.
the public gave support. he categorises cycling aficionados as people incapable of hatred. perhaps that is why they have been consistently duped by generations of cheats. obfuscation over the use of drugs, sometimes science-based, attempts to confuse the issue. his first book, positif, was not well received by either team-mates or the peloton. frequently, prejudice, not supported by knowledge of the book, masqueraded as criticism.
under intense pressure owing to his views and outspokenness, and after a short career, bassons quit riding as a professional. he wanted to stay in cycling to educate youngsters on the prevention and ethics of doping, however, the french cycling authorities viewed him with suspicion and proved unsupportive; something to remember.
largely a voyeur during the armstrong era, he watched the spectacle but recognised the outcome as theatre rather than reality. armstrong humiliated similarly drugged riders, who, in turn, had humiliated bassons, a strangely satisfying experience. commentators tied themselves in knots giving cycling credibility, and failed. he believes that there is more to come out of the scandal. post-armstrong, riders did not flag and average speeds did not drop. haematocrit levels stayed constant through the tour de france according to bassons.
invited to become the regional correspondent of the french anti-doping agency, he found himself back in the milieu and with lance armstrong. although the usada reasoned decision exposed armstrong, nothing in the peloton changed. some dopers feigned contrition and then went back to the old ways. bassons' words on the current state of cycling are unsettling and make depressing reading. for example, drugs, other than epo, are available that render the rider leaner yet able to produce more power. cycling's redemption could be accelerated by consigning the 'win at all costs' posturing to the dustbin. sadly, doping is still acceptable in the peloton and holds sway. can it be defeated? the outcome is uncertain but something other than a smoke and mirrors solution is essential.
Gordon Daniels, August 2014
sunday 17 august 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................