In recent times, the once proud and noble sport of cycling has undergone something of a transition.
Starting with the doping controversy surrounding Lane Armstrong and the subsequent decision to strip him of his seven Tour de France titles last year, there have been questions raised with regards to the integrity of the sport and its numerous competitors.
The quest to repair cycling’s tarnished reputation began in earnest this week, however, with the International Cycling Union (UCI) announcing that a three-man commission to investigate doping claims within the sport has been created.
The Anti-doping commission and its role in the sport
The commission faces a serious challenge, especially when you consider the impact that the Armstrong investigation has had on the sport. This is reflected in the serious and experienced nature of the panel, which includes a previous war crimes investigator, a Swiss politician and a German anti-doping expert.
This panel will delve beyond the Armstrong controversy and explore deeper-rooted issues within the sport, in a bid to safeguard its long-term integrity and expose any additional athletes who have also transgressed.
This is only part of its role, however, as the UCI and the commission will also work alongside the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) to determine the best methods of incentivising athletes to cooperate with any future investigations.
The latter is thought to be particularly important, as Armstrong recently revealed that he will discuss his drug taking in more detail if the UCI gave guarantees that he would be treated fairly. Without strong and mutually beneficial lines of communication between cyclists and the governing bodies, the sport is unlikely to move forward in any genuinely positive way.
The future for cycling: A long and arduous journey
In many ways, the sport of cycling faces a decidedly uncertain future. From grassroots suppliers such as the Skate Hut to those in the higher echelons of the game, there is a huge challenge ahead in terms of cleansing the sport and reaffirming its appeal to the next generation of riders.
This process will begin in earnest in the next few months, as the newly formed commission will be given access to all of the UCI’s detailed files and garnered electronic data, with a view to reaching a comprehensive conclusion by the end of 2014.
In the shot-term, however, the UCI must also deal with the ongoing issue of Armstrong’s lifetime ban. With the quest to learn as much as possible about the level of doping prevalent within the sport and identify those responsible, cycling officials may be forced to reduce his ban in a bid to encourage more detailed cooperation.
This may significantly undermine the ultimate aim of eradicating doping from the sport, however, as it sends conflicting messages about those who are found guilty and the importance of punishing them appropriately.
So while the willingness to incentivise cyclists and solicit their cooperation is crucial to protecting the integrity of the sport, it should not come at the cost of banning those who have sought to cheat their way to success.
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