Danny Pate (HTC-Highroad) has called for stricter punishments for doping offences in cycling. The American rider has also called for a single governing body to deal with doping cases rather than individual national federations, who in his opinion, are inconsistent.
Cycling has been rocked by several high profile cases in recent years, including 2010 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, while the likes of Danilo Di Luca and Emanuele Sella have served much shortened suspensions after providing police with doping information.
“There’s an issue on the processing and the national federation when it comes to doping cases. Some federations don’t treat their riders appropriately. Everyone should be dealt with by the same court because some nations are more lenient than others. Look at the Italian federation against the Spanish one. There’s a big difference going on there,” Pate told Cyclingnews.
Pate was speaking in general terms and told Cyclingnews that he applauded the Italian Federations recent steps in the fight against doping but drew on the inconsistencies surrounding lifetime bans.
“Look at Phillip Zajicek in the US who got a life time ban. I don’t know all the details but he’s stolen around $50,000 a year but then there are guys in the sport stealing millions of dollars and are doing the same offences if not more if you look at blood transfusions. They’re getting two years and coming back on big contracts.”
“Some of these things need to addressed with more life time bans. How has Riccò not got a life time ban? That’s just insane to me.”
“It’s coming to a time where we need to think about longer bans. People should be treated fairly and some of the bans don’t seem fair anymore. To me an 18 month ban when you give some information… I think maybe two years if you give information. But it should be more.”
Taking a stronger stance
However the punishment handed to riders shouldn’t be just a ban, according to Pate, with returning riders encouraged to show a stronger stance.
“Once you’ve cheated and been found guilty you need to show that you’ve changed because you can’t just come back and say sorry. One sorry isn’t enough; you owe the length of your cycling career to having a stance against doping.”
“Like David Millar. He’s one of the only guys. His offence was bad but afterwards he’s paid the fine by paying more time to fighting against it afterwards. Anything that has to do with EPO, blood bags and matching DNA needs a life time ban.”
Despite this Pate has seen encouraging signs within the sport. As well as the recent move by the Italian Federation to ban former cheats from national championships, Pate has witnessed a shift from within the sport’s mentality.
“It’s really hard to say about doping these days. At least everyone says it’s wrong now. You never heard that ten or seven years ago. They just ignored it or pretended it didn’t exist.”
“Doping still happens though but it’s part of every sport. That’s one of the main things why cycling gets run through the mud. At least cycling, maybe not in the most positive manner always, tries to deal with it. Some other sports turn a blind eye big time.”
Can the media help?
The media’s stance on doping has been the topic of serious debate, especially in recent months with speculation mounting that Federal Investigators from the US could opening proceedings against several high profile cycling figures.
“The media drives everything. We wouldn’t get a sponsor without the media, cycling wouldn’t leave this press conference without the media,” he said.
“They have a place in the fight against doping too. Just like world or local news you only hear or see what the media want you to see. So if every story is about doping then that’s all you see in the news. Lately there have been stories about amateur cyclists but why are they on a professional cycling news board?”
Pate’s role in the Tour de France
Pate signed from Garmin at the tail end of 2010 having spent the majority of his career with Jonathan Vaughter’s team. The 32-year-old and former U23 world time trial champion has settled into his new surroundings at HTC-Highroad and has secured a place in the team’s Tour line up in his first year.
Over the next three weeks he will spend the majority of his time on the front working for the likes of Mark Cavendish and Tony Martin and he’s looking forward to the challenge ahead.
“There might be pressure but I don’t think the team treats it that way. When you say it like that it sounds negative but when it comes down to the team meeting it’s always a positive vibe that we can win today. It’s not that we have to do this or that, but the fact is we want to win every day and we’ve the guys to do that. So we don’t talk about pressure or other people, we just talk about our race and how we want to ride. That works for us.”
“A successful Tour for me is being able to do what the team wants me to. I’m here to be a support rider and we’ve got some of the best riders in the world here on the team. Instead of calling it responsibility it’s part of my work. We’re going to go out there and race our race everyday. My part of that will probably be riding on the front and that’s fine.”