Cycling is the whipping boy of sport when it comes to doping. It has one of the most vigorous testing programmes in the world but the sport, as today’s CIRC report highlights, keeps getting tarnished with the reputation of a dirty sport.
I would say that since I started following cycling a few years ago it has come access as quite an honest sport. There are still skeletons in the closet from years gone by, but Astana aside it seems that every team is striving for a cleaner future. And on Astana the authorities have moved swiftly to remove their racing licence – could you imagine the Premier League removing West Ham, for example, if they were found guilty of a violation? No.
Speaking of football, our national sport, it is surprising to discover the lack of drug testing compared to cycling. I would go so far as to say football is a dishonest sport, even more so when it comes to doping. There was 1,604 tests in the 2013-14 EPL season shared amongst 654 registered players (based on provisional August 2013 squad list) which equates to 2.5 tests per player per season.
(Edit – The website doesn’t actually specify that is just Premier League teams and give guidance notes to parents and for ladies football so the number of players could be many times higher if it takes into account ladies and youth football)
Cycling on the other hand is much more energetic when it comes to testing. Just in the Tour de France in 2013, during a 3 week period, there was 1,041 tests shared amongst 219 riders equating to 4.75 tests per rider in just 3 weeks, the cycling season lasts 10 months.
No wonder cycling catches more drug cheats when they test in such large numbers. The real problems are sports like football who claim there is NO doping culture or problem and they barely test players. Due to this they only caught 4 players in the 2013-14 season. In the 3 weeks of the 2013 Tour de France no riders tested positive.
I can’t recall who the 4 players were, I imagine there wasn’t the interest in the media as they probably weren’t ‘big name’ players, and to be honest I’ve struggled to find the names of the players on the internet (spending 5 minutes searching).
Whilst searching for the 4 players who were banned I stumbled across the UK Anti-Doping website who handily provide a list of all UK sportspersons currently serving bans for rule violations. Upon glancing through the list of banned athletes I was aghast at how many rugby players are serving sanctions – 26 out of 47 (55%) – (19 Union, 7 League). Of the 47 sanctions only 3 relate to cycling.
In the 2013-14 rugby season there was 1,017 tests, including 481 tests in their ‘Illicit Drugs Programme’ which operates a counselling service (4 positive tests). With the amounts of banned athletes this amount of testing is woeful and an insult to the fans of rugby.
Maybe the wider non-cycling media should concentrate on the total lack of testing in our other national sports rather than sticking it to cycling yet again.