The International Olympic Committee today moved to dismiss rumours that cycling could be removed from the Olympics, but what a ridiculous notion it was to start with.
Canadian IOC member Dick Pound had only yesterday warned that cycling could lose its place in the summer programme based on its history of doping. It was going on for years and was everywhere a few decades ago, but the sport has supposedly cleaned up in recent times. Even so, the whole mess surrounding Lance Armstrong and the will he/won’t he debate about him confessing to his transgressions has brought the issue back into the public eye.
When the 2008 Olympic and World champion Nicole Cooke announced her retirement this week, she quickly attacked Armstrong and the entire drug culture that had dogged her sport for the past decade or so. She revealed that she had been approached to take “medicine” when she was struggling in the Grand Boucle, but refused to go down that path. Unfortunately, not everyone resisted the temptation, but it says a lot about cycling’s current state when the vast majority of the current stars are clean.
Silver medallist Lizzie Armitstead expressed her disappointment at Cooke’s comments, stating that she felt doping should be left in the past and there was no need to bring it all back up. This misguided attitude wasn’t at all welcome; doping almost certainly isn’t gone and attention needs to be paid to ensure it doesn’t come back in full force.
Then again, Pound’s insistence that Olympic cycling could be a thing of the past was ridiculous, to say the least. Cycling makes up a whole four sports of the Olympic calendar – road, track, BMX and mountain biking. Sure, the latter goes by pretty anonymously and receives little coverage (in this country), but the rest of them are big draws for the viewing public. Road racing mixes endurance and high levels of stamina, track cycling enjoys quick bursts of excitement and BMX is just hugely exhilarating.
Perhaps I’m biased, as might we all be in this country. Without Olympic cycling, we’d have lost out on eight golds, two silvers and two bronzes. Twelve medals that deserving, clean cyclists would have missed out on. The likes of Bradley Wiggins would have been denied his ultimate achievement of being the most decorated Olympian, Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton denied their chance to bow out in style, Jason Kenny and Laura Trott missing out on becoming the future giants of their sport.
Fortunately, the scenario and worrying is moot for now. Still, IOC member Sir Craig Reedie agreed that it was a possibility, one such reaction to the problem. A favoured one is working with the UCI to improve the sport and clean it up. It’s a slow process but the signs are already encouraging.