In addition to the long list of pro cyclists being prohibited from racing because they were caught doping, a friend and former pro cyclist pointed out that the pro cycling peloton has had a long list of dopers that have recently returned to racing. For example, just last week it was reported that Danilo Di Luca is ready to return to the peloton after serving his suspension. Di Luca is only one of many high profile pro racers that have returned recently including Alexander Vinokourov, Ivan Basso, Riccardo Ricco, Michael Rasmussen, Stefan Schumacher, Alessandro Petacchi and numerous others who are not as high profile.
My friend also asked a very good question about this observation. He said: "Why don't the clean riders refuse to race with these guys?" He continued by saying that the racers should just protest that the dopers are returning and proclaim that they won't race against cheaters!
There are several possible reasons why the clean riders in the peloton are not being more vocal including the possibility that there aren't enough clean pro cyclists to put their foot down. However, putting aside the option of refusing to race, I wonder if the pro cyclists who are clean and have raced clean for their careers couldn't be more instrumental in cleaning up the sport if they were more vocal. For example, these riders could petition the UCI to make the sanctions longer, instead of the opposite trend of short sentences. In this regard, Pat McQuaid stated this week that the UCI would support four year bans. An article covering McQuaid's statements in VeloNation says that the longer bans have been an option for some time but no sanctions over two years have been given out. Why not?! If I was racing in the pro peloton, I would be lobbying for the UCI to get with it and give out the four year sanctions. Walk the talk McQuaid! Let's get serious.
Sadly enough, it may be that the clean riders are too far down in the pecking order to have much influence. After all, if doping improves your performance as much as they claim it does then the clean guys are probably domestiques who would be quickly replaced if they put their foot down. That's a pitiful possibility that may be the most likely reason given that the top racers seem to have a pretty poor record when it comes to doping. As more of the top riders dope, it puts pressure to dope on anyone who wants to compete at the pro level making it hard to even be a domestique without doping.
Whether there is just one or 100 of these riders in the pro peloton, the clean riders need to stand up and be counted. If they did then they might just find they are more competitive than they thought. If they were shunned and knocked off by the cycling mafia then so be it. There is more to life than being a domestique (or a yellow jersey winner) in a corrupted sport...