Cycling has had its fair share of doping scandals in the past and as a result, it is always under the eye of regulatory bodies and the media. Even the slightest, unfounded hint of foul play can attract a flurry of publicity with the majority wanting to throw those involved onto the coals. In the eye of the public, cycling is now seen as a sport tarnished by doping and is fighting to keep, or even regain, its credibility, even though, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency, there were more adverse findings last year in the sports of Bridge, Billiards and Chess!
Recently, Australian sport has had its first ever major drugs-in-sports crisis with the 2011 Cronulla Sharks rugby league team. 17 players and staff from the squad are allegedly involved in ‘unknowingly’ taking prohibited substances through the club’s supplement program. Almost 2 years after the fact, in February 2013, an investigation was opened and those involved were offered a measly 6 month ban by ASADA, which they refused. 2 months later, investigations resumed and not until this month, August 2014 (3 years since the actual event), have we heard any other repercussions.
So what is ASADA’s punishment for those that admit to taking a prohibited substance??? They have been offered an up to 12 month ban that is BACKDATED to 21st November 2013. This means, at worst, the players will miss a handful of games remaining this season and be ready for pre-season training/matches again in November!!!
Let’s compare this to the sport of cycling… If a rider is implicated in a doping case, they are generally suspended immediately from their team and cannot participate in any races. The Cronulla Sharks have continued to play the entire time that the investigation has been going on.
If a cyclist is convicted of a doping crime, then they will usually be forbidden from racing for a period of 2 years. Even if a professional cyclist is not where they say they will be in mandatory athlete whereabouts reporting and miss 3 tests, they will receive a 2 year suspension. The Cronulla Sharks were offered 6 month bans by ASADA and they refused!!!
ASADA claims that ‘It is the organisation with prime responsibility for implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code (the Code) in Australia.’ This being, ‘…the aim of bringing consistency to anti-doping policies and regulations within sport organizations and governments right across the world.’
Cycling is always painted in such a bad light when it comes to doping, however, I can’t help but feel that there is some inconsistencies between professional cycling and other sports. Many of the Cronulla Sharks players have voiced that they are upset about missing this season’s finals but in reality, they should be counting their lucky stars because comparatively, they may have gotten off pretty lightly.