ED­WARD PICK­ER­ING

Procycling - - PREFACE -

Well, it hap­pened. Ale­jan­dro Valverde won the Worlds at the age of 38, and the re­ac­tion ran the full gamut of opin­ion. There was joy and there was con­dem­na­tion. For some, the rain­bow jer­sey was just re­ward for a stel­lar ca­reer, the fi­nal ad­di­tion to a glit­ter­ing pal­marès. For oth­ers, the sight of an un­re­pen­tant doper win­ning the most pres­ti­gious of ti­tles stuck in the craw. Some peo­ple held both opin­ions – this is cy­cling, af­ter all, where in­con­sis­tency of opin­ion and judge­ment runs through the sport like words through a stick of rock. So what do we think? The an­swer is easy: it’s com­pli­cated.

At the time, I was re­ally un­happy at Valverde’s dop­ing. He was bang to rights, from the mo­ment it emerged that a blood bag la­belled ‘Valv.piti’ had been found in the in­fa­mous freezer of Dr Fuentes dur­ing Op­eración Puerto. Puerto blew up in 2006, but Valverde ob­fus­cated and didn’t serve a ban un­til 2010, and he did so without ever fronting up for cheat­ing the fans, then or since.

I’m still a lit­tle un­im­pressed, but mainly for that last rea­son. He doped and served a ban. The wrong was done and jus­tice served. We move on. I’d have liked it more if he’d said sorry, even if he’d put it in the con­text of the re­al­i­ties of the sport at the time, but stay­ing an­gry at a pro cy­clist who doped 12 years ago at a time when most pro cy­clists were also dop­ing is kind of a waste of en­ergy. It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily help the anti-dop­ing fight now.

Valverde races hard from Feb­ru­ary to Oc­to­ber, he wins a lot, he’s pop­u­lar among many of his peers and he’s pass­ing the dop­ing tests. He’s also an ex-doper who helped drag the sport through the mud and never said sorry; since Inns­bruck he’s shown the same in­sou­ciant de­nial about his past. Re­ally, the long-term con­se­quence for his sins is the am­biva­lent re­ac­tion to it. A great win by a great rider who will never be uni­ver­sally loved.

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