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On the Morals of Teams

October 31, 2012

If society’s morals are aligned, laws are not needed.

If society’s morals are misaligned, laws are unenforcable

These are the words my A level history teacher embedded in my brain. More than a teacher, he took on the responsibility of moulding minds with the kind of enthusiasm and panache we like to see breaking out of the peloton on a hot summers day. He taught me to not just accept what people said, but to question ascertain the motives behind.

I believe these words apply to where we are now in cycling. We have reached a situation where everybody’s motives are questioned, and no more so in the last week than those of Dave Brailsford and Sky. Some people see the reaffirmation of the zero tolerance policy as the team being forced into a blind alley, others as them sticking to their guns. There are views that the policy is foolish given the level of doping, that there are many people to learn from, and those include ex-dopers.

I see Sky’s approach as a natural end state for the statement at the top, where morals are aligned.

For too long cycling lived in a moral vacuum, one where the views of those participating in the sport were directly in opposition to the laws. Cycling proved that in these situations laws are unenforceable, people could cheat, win and only get caught upon admission of themselves or others.

Now cycling seems to be in a state of flux, part way between the moral alignment where laws are not needed and the cesspit out of which it is crawling. So where do laws fit in such a state?

I would claim that now is when they are required and enforceable. Laws are enforced by the threat of punishment, it is that fear that drives us towards the total moral alignment state. It should be cycling’s goal to define those punishments so that cheating is not seen as a way to success, but as a way out of the sport.

The logical step from here is who is best placed to define the deterrents and incentives to avoid doping? The easy, and correct, answer is the ex-dopers, those who stumbled, fell and picked themselves back up. They know the pitfalls, they know what would have stopped them and they know the pressures a neo-pro faces. The team models maintained by Garmin and their ilk are essential in getting us out of the current situation. They will change our morals.

And then, when we have gotten ourselves aligned, we can step away from the past. We can move upwards to Sky and go fully zero tolerance. If everyone believes in a clean peloton, no one will want the dopers around, so zero tolerance makes sense. You don’t need a law to stop you cheating if no-one will employ you if you do.

As I’ve said in the past – it’s Garmin to transition from earth to Sky.

(BTW I recommend Gerard Vroom-Sieyes’ blog on the logic behind Sky’s words – Skyfall)


From → Pro Cycling

  1. Alastair S permalink

    Well said sir. Sky seem to get a lot of stick for trying to do the right thing while some teams do nothing but recruit (or are even run by) unrepentant dopers.

  2. Hey Alistair S. I think you need to read this again. I think you’ll find that the argument being made is that the Sky position is an admirable one to aim for but is foolish to impose right now. We should be encouraging dopers and ex-dopers to come clean and tell us everything, esp how they got away with it. Personally I think Sky deserve the flak they are getting for having such a stance at this critical stage. If we do not encourage a Truth and Reconciliation Commission with amnesty powers NOW then we will just be feeding the omerta beast and we will not get to the point where Sky wants us to be. Like Dave Brailsford, I too support the endgame but we need to be smart how we get there.
    Great blog and even greater letter to Trek. Chapeau.

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