From our friend Martin Hardie
AN OPEN LETTER TO:
Dear Â Juan Carlos CastaÃ±o, President of the Real Federacion Espanol de Ciclismo, Mr Mike Victor, President of Cycling Australia, Mr Pat McQuaid, President of the UCI, The Honourable Kate Ellis, Minister for Sport, Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency Mr Jaime Lissavestsky, Minister for Sport, El Reino de Espana, Mr John Fahey, President, World Anti Doping Agency, and Mr Ettore Torri, Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano.
Isn’t it Now Time to Act?
Hasn’t the time come for some real action? Enough is enough. When can we start to tackle the problem at its source, rather than reacting by engaging in witch hunts of those who did what you wanted and gave their lives to our beautiful sport of cycling?
This week in Australia we woke up to the dreadful news of the death of yet another cyclist whose life was destroyed because he may have gone one step to far in trying to bring glory to his country. Â Jobe Dajka was a good kid, a troubled kid maybe. Jobie was as people say one of those rare gems, an incredible sprinter, full of the qualities we all love to hold in awe.
Today he is dead and the gutter press feed on his carcass. And for some it is business as usual in maintaining the sport’s integrity, indeed just keeping on with the job of covering over a history of neglect.
Don’t you all know that the problem does not lie with the choices made by individual cyclists? Don’t you all know that these kids grow up, institutionalised from a young age and taught that here is only one objective – winning at all costs? And don’t you all know that you and your colleagues are too ready to be at their sides like sycophants when they do as they are told, when they toe the party line and bring home glory for your countries?
But why is it that so few of you are prepared to do more than react in a knee jerk way by shooting the messenger? By crucifying the kids? When you know it is the system that you administer that makes them do what they do?
The judges in Operacion Puerto were probably right. Like the sponsors who claim to have been defrauded, you might just wilfully close your eyes, you simply don’t want to know. Is it because to do so would be to admit this simple fact that: sport is sick because the world is sick.
Jobie joins the list, of the dead, like Marco Pantani and Jose Maria ChabaÂ Jimenez. Those cast aside, after their minds could no longer bears the burdens of the contradictions foisted upon them by a system that demands that they fly to the greatest heights, whilst always being subject to the threat of being shot down at any moment. Free as the birds they are, to soar and bring us glory. Free as the birds they are to be sacrificed in the name of ensuring the integrity and protection of the government’s or big business’s image. Jobie joins the list of others who have had their lives destroyed, or are in the process of having their lives destroyed because of choices not made by them but by others higher up the food chain. In my country of birth, Australia, Martin Vinnicombe comes to mind. Right now in my adopted country, another young man who brings us such delight, Alejandro Valverde, faces the same fate.
Is it all because the lives of these kids are worth so much less than the investment of the sponsors and government?
Spain at least, despite all the undeserved criticism from many of you, has bitten the bullet. At last we have an enquiry, Operacion Puerto, which does not seek to victimise the kids, but deal with the pushers and dealers, the directors, who are so protected by the system you preside over. The Spanish courts should be applauded for this step. For the first time we are actually dealing with the problem. But some of you don’t get it. You still want to chant that Spain does not do enough and you want to hang the kids for doing what the system expects of them. For being free as the birds and creating that bright light in which you all love to bathe, only to have them thrown on the social scrap heap because you cannot find the strength to deal with the problem at its source.
It is a sad and hopeless day when another young rider dies after being made an outcast. But it is even sadder when those in charge seem more concerned with their image than with really getting to the root of the problem and making the systemic changes that are necessary.
How many more kids must die before you open your eyes? When will you help us to love the bike and all it gives us again?
School of Law,
Deakin University, Geelong, Australia
MH is working on a project to rewrite doping policy in cycling based upon the economic and social causes rather than increasing testing. He is also one of the organisers of the planned New Pathways for Professional Cycling Conference to be held to coincide with the 2010 World Championships in Geelong, Australia.