My parents have just returned from a month long vacation in Spain, courtesy of their pensioner’s fund. Or it might have been some deal my mother got. Either way they became Spain’s problem for almost a month. With their return my dad calls me to get caught up with all the news.
“Hey, what’s this I hear about Armstrong and the French? Bloody people won’t leave him alone!” My dad then goes into a rant about how a French team tried to gang up on him in some race he did in Europe, but I suspect he’s thinking of a scene from Breaking Away and substituted the Italians for French riders. At this point there is no use correcting him, the anger train has departed and you either need to be on board or just wave from the platform as it chugs away.
In the background I can hear my mother. “Tommy, remember what the doctor said. Don’t get so bloody riled up!” This then gets my dad going and he yells back, “I’m not listening to what some f%#@ing quack told me!” I think my mom likes to get my dad riled up so that he will stroke out and die. That’s a post for another day.
So then I catch him up on the latest doping drama with Tom Zirbel. I explain to him what he’s accused of taking and Dad goes on to laughingly tell me how mom is on some kind of hormones and she hasn’t gotten any faster, just “bitchier.” I continue to explain the circumstances of what I know. Dad knows I’ve interviewed Zirbel before and I re-tell dad how Zirbel was always a good guy to me and was very accommodating to any interview requests. From a personal standpoint I would hate to see Zirbel’s B Sample come back positive, but I’m not holding my breath. From what I’ve seen the positive A Sample is followed by a positive B Sample. And again, I truly hope this isn’t the case. He had just signed a contract with Garmin-Transitions and was getting his shot at racing in Europe. If his B Sample comes back negative I hope that everyone can let the accusations go and he can continue with his contract. However my dad has more stories to tell.
“Let me tell you about doping back in my day. You’d be ten kilometers from the finish and you could smell the whiskey. I wasn’t a sprinter so I never worried about doing shots. ”
In my father’s time alcohol was supposed to get the blood pumping and make you faster for the sprint. However all it did was get the racers drunk really quick and lose all inhibition. “One arsehole crashed into a lorry!” is usually how these stories conclude. Ahh, doping in my dad’s time. Those were simpler days…
As we continue this crusade against doping it makes me wonder if we’re going in the right direction. I’ve heard people call for lifetime bans for first offenses, which is ridiculous. Teammate Burke Swindlehurst has a blog post in which he says a jury by peers might be the way to go. Interesting… Others have stated that the Biological Passport is sufficient, while confessed doper Bernard Kohl said it was just a benchmark to see how much they could get away with. As the doping gets more sophisticated the methods to try to catch the cheats needs to be completely transparent with no room for mistakes. Aside from the fact that Zirbel is now under a cloud of suspicion, any and all sponsors have to be doing a gut-check right now when considering spending their corporate dollars on the sport of cycling. Because now, even if found innocent, Zirbel’s name will be tarnished and the sport takes another hit to the gut.