Canadian rider Will Routley this week published a scathing editorial, denouncing riders such as his compatriot Michael Barry, who recently admitting to having doped and claimed to have "quietly stopped cheating on their own accord".
"To say I am frustrated would be an understatement. Cyclists are coming out of the woodwork at the moment – big name athletes admitting to doping. I use the term ‘admitting’ loosely, as in reality they have been caught and forced to come clean. Canadian legend Michael Barry is on the list, many American superstars are on the list; it is saddening to say the least," Routley wrote.
As part of the USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team's doping practices, and the era of prevalent EPO use that surrounded them, a number of North Americans have confessed. Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie, Tom Danielson, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, and Barry were all given six-month bans for their admissions.
Later, Bobby Julich confessed after facing Team Sky's zero-tolerance policy.
One common theme in the confessions was that each rider spontaneously decided to stop doping, and that is something Routley finds odd.
"I find it very hard to believe that every doper out there suddenly decides to quit on his own accord, and I also object to the idea that even if this were true, the rider is now "clean"," Routley wrote. "This person has taken his body way farther than what is naturally possible, and has lifelong adaptations to this, so even if he were no longer on drugs, he would in all likelihood still hold an unfair advantage."
"The thing is, along with doping, these guys also enjoyed the success that goes with it: podium finishes in monumental events such as the Tour de France, fame, success, and money. The pay range would be from $300,000 to $3 million a year (a lot more if you are Lance).
"These guys go on to say they quietly stopped cheating on their own accord, and continued racing "clean." Then in the years of "clean" racing that followed they all seem to incredibly achieve similar success to that seen in the years in which they were doping."
Routley said that he was writing the opinion piece in order to give the viewof a real, clean athlete.
"Yes they do exist. Initially we heard that there are two choices: dope, or quit the sport. But there is a glaringly obvious third choice, and that is to not dope, and just continue racing clean. Seems simple enough to me, it's the choice I made along with many of my colleagues.
"'I had no choice, I had to 'cross the line' or end my dream'." This is just a taste of the utter garbage that has filled my ears as of late."
Routley called doping "toxic" and dopers criminal. "I don't believe these guys set out to be criminals, but at some point they choose to be. To me, if you dope you defeat the purpose of competition altogether.
"I compete to see how good I am, and test the limits of my capabilities. If I dope, then I am really cheating myself. I am happy to remind anyone that will listen that you can indeed be a professional athlete without drugs. You can even win."
Routley's path to professional success was slow and rocky. He details a difficult entry into the world ranks, being dropped in the world championships at 18 and roughing it on no salary for years, enduring a "rough window" where he very nearly gave up the sport.
"...it seemed like an insurmountable gap for me to jump to the elite ranks, but I was lucky and had tremendous support from family, friends and fellow teammates. We all committed to each other that we'd stay clean, and kept convincing one another that it is indeed possible to win clean. This mantra went against the popular sentiment, but we held to it."
The persistence paid off in 2010 with the Canadian national road title, and since moving to the Spidertech team he was second in the UCI 1.1-ranked Tro-Bro Léon in 2011, third in a stage of the Ruta del Sol and ninth overall in the Presidential Tour of Turkey.
"In short, I am a successful professional athlete, and I made the third choice, not to dope, not to quit, but to persevere."
Routley also goes on to support a zero-tolerance policy toward dopers. "It is so common that a former doper becomes the authority on how to be a clean rider, but in my estimation this is totally backwards. A cheater cannot tell a young kid how to race clean, because he has never done so," he wrote.
"The cheaters all justify their decisions as saying, 'it was normal at the time, it was institutionalized'. If they can't own their personal mistakes then get rid of them. Why is a lifelong ban from the sport so bad? There are many other jobs out there, get a job somewhere else. I want to work with drug-free riders, and set an example for the next generation."
Finally, he encourages his fellow clean athletes to keep to their chosen path.
"I see young kids coming up with the goal to stay 100 per cent true and clean. This goal needs to be fostered by all of us. What I want to see is clean riders working with coaches, becoming mentors, managing teams, and helping to develop the future of the sport."
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