Cyclist doping revelations a shock to no one
When the names of the cyclists whose retroactively tested blood samples had come up positive for EPO became known, there was a palpable and collective sense of nothing new.
There were no surprises, no scandalous revelations, no intrigue, no ambiguity. The results merely confirmed what was either already known or long suspected.
Already, Jan Ullrich, after years of denial, had finally, belatedly come clean in June about his doping.
Marco Pantani had been kicked off the 1999 Tour of Italy due to an elevated red blood cell level. Although he was never caught doping, and never admitted to it either, he was also caught up in the infamous Operation Puerto case and died of a cocaine overdose in 2004.
Other names cited in the report by the French parliamentary anti-doping commission included Erik Zabel, who admitted to doping in 2007 and alongside Ullrich was part of the German Telekom team, several of whose former employees, including former Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis, had already owned up to a systematic EPO programme in the 1990s.
One of the main lines of thought in the years of suspicion directed at Lance Armstrong before his own, and indeed his team’s, sophisticated doping programme came to light, was that how could he be clean if everyone he beat was doped?
The men who finished second to him included Ullrich, three times, Alex Zulle and Ivan Basso, who both admitted to doping, Joseba Beloki, who was caught up in the Puerto affair, although later exonerated, and Andreas Klodden, who was accused of an illegal blood transfusion in 2009, although nothing came of that.
All these revelations and scandals led to a climate of mistrust and suspicion surrounding cycling, particularly during the 1990s and 2000s, to the point that the majority of cycling fans, followers and journalists were convinced that during that period the clean athletes were surely in the minority.
It meant that Wednesday’s announcement had something of the mundane about it as the French commission revealed what everyone already thought they knew.
True there were a few surprise names on the list, but mostly those of riders who never achieved any great success in their careers, demonstrating the validity of the widely held belief that almost everyone was on it, even the no-hopers.
One of those names, Frenchman Jacky Durand, had already come clean when he found out his name would be released and openly said he supported the naming and shaming policy as he felt it would help the sport put its murky past behind it and continue forwards into an era of openness, fairness and clean racing.
But there are others who were adamantly against the publication, arguing perhaps justly that they had no chance to refute the findings as the samples have long been destroyed.
The re-testing happened in 2004 and hence there can be no testing of B-samples and no opportunity for defence — thus those named are guilty without trial.
The only real hope that can come out of these revelations is that so many cyclists have been tarred with the same brush that many others will now find the strength to come forward and own up to their past misdemeanours.