New positives, same negatives

Stefan Schumacher and Leonardo Piepoli coming up positive has barely registered a raised eyebrow of surprise in the cycling world. Ghoulish Leo had already confessed so it was just a matter of waiting for that box to be ticked while Schumi’s time-trial performances at Le Tour proved to be too good to be true.

For one a career as a Marty Feldman impersonator beckons. That remake of young Frankenstein can’t be far off.

Marty Feldman as Leonardo Piepoli

For the other there’ll always be work at comic fairs as a live action Mekon.

The Mekon as Stefan Schumacher

Neither is a rider I’ll miss particularly.

Much as Piepoli was a fabulous climber to watch I could never get past his bars being at a ridiculous angle, the mismatched shifters and his apparent fear of a flat road. Schumacher, well the fact that his helmet always looked like a saucer perched on a boiled egg cast more than enough of a shadow over his riding for me.

As ever the press are having a field day with the usual mix of opinion. Page impressions must be through the roof for online sources.

“What’s great is that this latest batch of positives has come from a test that wasn’t fully implemented during the event itself. The anti-doping agencies are now going back to old samples and re-testing them when new test techniques are developed.”

“No longer are the dopers one step ahead – the message is clear. You may think you’re getting away with it now, but what will happen in a few months’ time?” – Cycling Weekly

As far as I’m concerned the dopers are still one step ahead. That’s why the tests are being done retroactively and why the cynics will tell you a whole list of other products out there that are still going through unchecked.

Let’s look at this a little more. MIRCERA – Roche Pharmaceuticals’ third generation EPO product, a continuous erythropoietin receptor activator (C.E.R.A.) – came to market in mid-to-early 2007 in Europe and was in the later clinical trial stages in 2006.

If we know anything about professional cycling it’s that when there’s a new drug being talked up, it almost always finds a way into the peloton quickly. I’d say it is fairly safe to assume that CERA-type products were being passed round before they got signed off for public consumption.

Which means that the testers were still behind the game by at best six months and at worst two years. The fact that these samples are being retro-actively tested sets what I believe is a dangerous precedent.

If we’re going down this road, there’s not a lot of cycling history left. Well not a lot left from the period since testing started to be standardised and doping was seen as the ultimate evil in an increasingly professional sporting world.

Until the dopers know they’re guaranteed to be caught if they use a product, they will continue to use those products, regardless of whether they appear on a prohibited substances list. The only reason these guys are being caught now is the co-incidence between a product become widely-used and a test becoming available before it was known to the users.

Which is why I find it so hard to get worked up in condemning the dopers and continue to argue for substantiated proof of guilt rather than the sort of gossipy hearsay that I used to write about for a living.

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