One reassuring aspect of all of the latest doping related news is that the perception inside the peloton is changing. Cyclist are now angry at the dopers because they see sponsors going away and jobs being lost. Doping inside the peloton may be see as a reckless way to get ahead, with the doping racer risking not only his job, but that of the team and support staff.
So why dope? The issue has to do with money more than anything. In the high flying 90s when the miracles of EPO and other drugs were making pasty Italian guys fly up hills the sport was going a renaissance in Italy. More money and sponsors come in and expect results.
The Telekom guys such as Zabel and others said they had to dope to get results that the sponsor wanted.
If the whole field is doing something then in order to compete you must dope. To get a paycheck or keep your spot on a team you dope because otherwise the next guy who is doping will take your place.
Guys like Christian Moreni dope to survive another day and collect the next paycheck. When faced with the prospect of getting a real job vs. racing for a living it may be a no brainer.
Cycling is a target because there is no central control and it does not bring in enough money and have enough political connections like soccer does in Europe.
There is no powerful “players” union which would protect cyclist from various forms of doping tests. Could you imagine the NBA, NFL or Baseball having their players submit to regular out of competition tests? And have to tell some organization their exact whereabouts at all times?
It’s turning around now since sponsors are thinking twice about their commitment to the sport. Rabobank was weary of any doping related issues with Rasmussen which is probably why they decided to fire him. They did not want a Landis-style off season.
The testing process is flushing out the cheaters little by little. So now the incentive is to not cheat. If a racer is caught cheating he is basically putting his job and the entire team and supporters jobs on the line.
Teams like Slipstream, T-Mobile, CSC and others are putting testing processes in place so that their sponsors can be reassured that their racers are clean.
Its a tough process, but cycling is undergoing a baptism by fire to become a cleaner sport. Its something that other sports may face publicly in the future too. By that time us cycling fans will react with a “been there, done that” attitude.