Former professional Jörg Jaksche has accused sponsors of turning a blind eye to the problem of doping in cycling, suggesting they are happy to take advantage of rider's and team's success, but do little to enforce responsibility or support the fight for clean sport.
The German, who admitted to doping during his own career after being caught up in Operacion Puerto, saw some good news about Armstrong revealing his sins, suggesting that his confession could radically change cycling.
“Corporate sponsors, like all companies, are looking for high return on investment,” Jaksche said in the New York Times. “In sports, winning provides that return, and doping increases the chances of winning. So the message that, directly or indirectly, sponsors give athletes is simple: we want you to win, and in order to do that you can do whatever you want. As long as you don’t get caught.”
Jaksche rode from 1997 to 2007 for a number of teams, including Team Telekom, CSC, Once, and Liberty Worth-Astana. He was not allowed to ride the 2006 Tour de France after being named in Operacion Puerto, and the next year gave a complete confession.
“Each new doping scandal follows the same pattern,” Jaksche suggested. “When someone is caught, the system acts shocked and upset, declares its absolute rejection of doping and depicts the athlete as a black sheep that deserves to be slaughtered. After that, everything continues like before. But the fact is that they slaughter a scapegoat, not a black sheep, and nobody ever looks at the shepherd’s responsibility. I’m talking about those in the higher levels, those who govern the sports and, most importantly, those who provide the money that fuels everything."
“For the sponsors, this system has no downside. If nobody is caught doping, they gain all the commercial benefits of the visibility generated by great performances. If somebody is caught, they have a swift exit strategy — they declare their disappointment and receive the extra benefit of the good publicity gained for being righteous. It’s the win-win situation. That’s why nothing ever changed.”
Turning his attention to the upcoming Armstrong television interview, in which the American is said to confess to doping, Jaksche said that it could bring a sea change to cycling – but only if Armstrong really tells all.
“If he is 100 percent honest and open, then that will be super. If he is only 75 percent, then not. We don't need crocodile tears like we had from Erik Zabel. We really don't need these crybabies,” Jaksche told the SID news agency.
“And it is clear: the EPO didn't come to him of its own accord. He must name names and, for example, also say whether that was true with the hush money to the UCI. But then, it is also clear that the UCI cannot continue in this configuration. If everything comes out, then that will have enormous consequences.”