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Doping: Salt in a Wound and a Recommendation — An Editorial

February 8, 2008 – We’ve been following the Geneviève Jeanson affair, her admissions in 2007 of having doped almost all her career, and the more recent news of a possible film about her life by Quebec-based Forum Films. We contacted one of the principles at Forum Films, Richard Lalonde, to find out more about this project and asked one obvious question – is Jeanson being compensated for her collaboration in the film? We still haven’t heard back on this but one can feel the hair rising on the back of the necks of every rider Jeanson displaced on her road to sullied success in cycling at the thought of her possibly making even more money from her years of doping – like salt in a wound. By her own admission she’s made a million dollars through cheating in cycling.

The likelihood of any money being returned isn’t realistic – but it should be returned. What about the medals she won? They should also be returned. While there’s a better chance that something can be done about the medals versus the money she won, don’t hold your breath.

Then there’s the opportunity cost to other riders which is one of the heftiest price tags in the doping game. It’s a challenging task to measure the damage to the many riders who came second or third, or weren’t selected to teams because of Jeanson, and other cheaters who doped. And it’s disheartening when to you think of what might have been – the impact and ensuing damage to those riders’ careers and lives.

We contacted the CCA’s CEO Lorraine Lafreniere, the FQSC’s director general, Louis Barbeau, the organizer of the Montreal Women’s Road World Cup Daniel Manibel (which Jeanson won numerous times and admitted publicly to having doped at the event), David Lech, the CCES General Counsel (Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport), and Sports Lawyer, Patrice Brunet, for their comments on these topics and other aspects of the Jeanson affair and we’ll report on this very soon. We asked them where things stand regarding any process that is reviewing Jeanson’s case and the medals won with a possible outcome of stripping her of such medals.

We also asked a question which may in itself be a part of the solution to the doping dilemma – is there a clause of any kind in a race license that obligates riders to forfeit all winnings (read “money”) and medals should they be found guilty of doping? All sport federations have the right to determine the obligations for riders to hold a racing license. Including such a clause would add another potent component in the battle against doping. Since most sport federations are funded with government money i.e. Sport Canada, the notion serves all parties by engaging sport and government in a co-operative partnership to stem doping in the early stages of an athlete’s life, and throughout their career. What about event organizers at all levels having a similar clause in their contracts with teams attending their event?

Sports lawyer, Patrice Brunet, suggested in a recent editorial in Pedal Holiday 2007, that governments lack the political will to combat doping in sport – we couldn’t agree more and see adding the racing licence and event organizer deterrents as additional mechanisms within a framework that should reward honesty and fair play, while directly punishing cheaters. Isn’t this one of the pillars of social conduct in a civilized community? Our legal system is in place to provide a platform for justice in society, and sport is but one facet of the system that is in dire need of solutions to benefit the rightful winners, and curb cheaters with harsh reprisals for breaking the rules.

Brunet’s editorial also focused on making an athlete’s entourage behind the scenes, such as doctors, coaches and trainers accountable as well. This must also be a part of the process to hold all parties responsible, because athletes can be exchanged if the infrastructure managing them is not bound by the same strict rules and legal penalties.

When Floyd Landis was accused of doping at the 2006 Tour de France I thought to myself “Good – now maybe something will really get done. A doping fiasco like this can’t be brushed to the sidelines.” In the ensuing months some referred to cycling as the tip of the spear, taking the brunt of the negative doping press, but other sports such as running are showing their true colours as well – you can bet there’s lots more to come.

Compared to other sports, cycling is leading the way to clean itself up. Why not go further and establish strict guidelines with respect to racing licenses and event organizers at all levels that force riders to forfeit winnings and medals if they’re caught doping? Funds and medals can be held in trust if there’s a time lag involved in the process i.e. appeals, or bank accounts can be frozen (with respect to the amounts of money won). Then at least no one benefits unfairly from winnings, or glory, until a court rules.

Perhaps other sports will follow suit. In the short term, we’ll still have a mess to clean up, but the next generation of athletes will think more than twice about doping if all can be lost soon after the thrills of winning wear off.

Some years ago I was having a conversation with our printer’s rep about the different stories I was getting from them regarding timing and delivery schedules. She asked me, “what would you like us to tell you?”

I replied, “How about the truth, it works in other parts of my life.”

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