I’ll readily, even proudly, admit to being critical of cycling’s efforts against doping. I think the “Dopers Suck” campaign is counterproductive and simpleminded. I found Dick Pound’s sweeping proclamations about dopers and who was doping—regardless of evidence or due process—utterly inappropriate. And for better—Alessandro Petacchi—and for worse—Ivan Basso—I’ve stood up for riders who I thought were maligned by a system stacked massively against the athletes
(photo by Paul Schreiber)
But I have to admit that I am genuinely impressed with the UCI’s new “True Champion or Cheat” educational program. I’ll be honest, the only reason I even bothered to look at it was the overwhelming potential for mockery. Certainly, the descriptions on cycling news sites didn’t do it any favors—an interactive video program on doping? What a waste of time and money, right?
While the program is occasionally as goofy and as—shall we say, budget-limited—as you’d expect, the content is largely worthwhile. Rather than the monotonous, monolithic “Which of these is a doper—trick question! All of them are!” that I expected, the videos do an excellent job of actually putting you in the place of a rider faced with doping- and doping control-related issues.
While the focus is on the anti-doping restrictions athletes face, and the consequences of doping itself “True Champion or Cheat” really does an especially commendable job of pointing out an athlete’s rights. In one particularly effective segment, you follow an athlete through a doping control in which the tester makes several protocal errors.
You’re given a “stop” button to point them out—which is both a clever way to prepare athletes to reacting as they would have to in a control, and a reminder to wise-asses like me how completely unaware they are of the rights riders have while going through a dope test.
This brings me to the third, and potentially most terrifying part of “True Champion or Cheat”—it’s actually kinda fun. Imagine a Choose Your Own Adventure book about considering doping, getting caught doping, or taking a doping test, and you’d be hard pressed to do better than the UCI has done here.
I suppose it shouldn’t be all that surprising—after all, we pretend to be pro cyclists all the time. When no one’s looking, we all raise our arms after beating our shadow in a town line sprint and pretending it’s Tom Boonen. And you can’t snatch away victory on the Roubaix velodrome without a trip to the control trailer afterwards.