“The Ag2r La Mondiale team will continue to do everything possible to defend the ethical values that should be the rule in top-level sport.”
These are words attributed to Vincent Lavenu in a press release from the Ag2r La Mondiale cycling team.
In a sport that is in a constant battle for legitimacy owing to its ongoing and deep-rooted problems with doping, what ethics are being defended?
Professional cyclist Sylvain Georges, member of the Ag2r La Mondiale team, tested positive for heptaminol after taking a “ginkor fort” (ginkgo biloba) “drug” which, unknown to Georges, contained heptaminol.
Georges openly admitted that he took ginkgo biloba, he admits that he did it with the intention of trying to improve circulation in his legs, and he refers to it as a “drug”.
But he did have a desire to cheat. He used what he thought were drugs with the intention of improving his performance through their use. What are the ethics at play here?
But this all gets stupider: this case should be an eye-opener about the use of “alternative” therapies in the quest for performance improvement through doping.
Stupider still: the Georges case isn’t the first time “alternative” therapies have come to the attention of cycling authorities or the law, in the context of sport doping. Outright quackery is pursued by athletes desperate enough to try anything to improve their performance and this quackery is ultimately, unfortunately, given legitimacy by its association with athletes.
Then there is the omnipresent kinesio tape. Athletes from all disciplines have eaten this stuff up based on zero facts, and in fact the way it claims to work contradicts how other products that athletes love are supposed to work.
Even the absolute staple of a professional cyclist’s life for a century — massage — does not necessarily provide any physical benefit: “…evidence to support or refute the effects of massage on sports performance is insufficient to make definitive statements…”; “The research literature to date is insufficient to conclude whether massage facilitates recovery from a fatiguing effort.”
All this demonstrates that athletes don’t always use critical thinking in their approach to performance improvement (judging by what Matt Rendell wrote, I think Marco Pantani may be the poster-boy for that — he rejected the use of heart rate monitors etc., but used homeopathy and chiropractics — then of course backed up his efforts by using EPO).
Frankly I feel that sports authorities/regulatory bodies need to at least try to educate their members and address the encroachment of quackery into sports. For cycling there is the very serious issue of its legitimacy; is cycling going to move from being known for pharmaceutical doping to being known for quack doping?
Follow-up: Sylvain Georges was fired from the Ag2r team.