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Ethics in cycling?

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Ethics in cycling?

28 May 2018 20:16

In the shadows and context of another amazing/hideous Giro, and another incredible/implausible third week (depending on your point of view), this may be a good time to review and consider the ‘ethics’ of doped cycling, if there is such a thing.

I think it is reasonable to say that there are currently 3 categories of riders:

Category A – the no-holds barred, full program, whatever you can get away with, dopers. Think Froome, maybe Dumoulin, or if you don’t agree with either of those, then let’s just say Armstrong as a past example.

Category B – ‘low level’ dopers on a restricted program. This may include recovery drugs, micro-dosing, perhaps even the occasional blood bag, but something short of a full-blown whatever it takes mentality. Perhaps Yates and Pozzovivo belong here, or if you think that sprinters still dope too, then a Viviani or similar.

Category C – fully clean riders. Maybe George Bennett or Rohan Dennis, possible Pinot, or if you don’t believe that it is possible to even finish top 20 on GC and be clean, then let’s go historical again with Bassons or Moncoutie.

The point isn’t who belongs in which category, or even the exact definition of each class, but acceptance of the general premise that these categories exist.

I think it will be universally agreed that the Cat C riders are (still) being screwed over, forced to hope for only limited success or else to simply go home. That is neither fair nor ethical.

But are the Cat B’s unethical simply because they dope, or within the context of a doped sport, is it reasonable and are they still admirable if they dope at least to the point of being able to compete at a high level?

Then, are the Cat A’s unethical and even more deplorable because they go all out, and use substances either not known to or unobtainable to others, or is there no difference or unfairness to the Cat Bs, because a doper is a doper no matter what they take, and if some riders simply push this harder then the low level ones have no right to feel hard done by? Similarly, is it fair and in any way still an indicator of ability or performance that some riders respond to doping better than others, or is this just dumb luck? Do you still feel comfortable supporting someone who at least partially simply lucked out on their ability to improve through chemical enhancement relative to others, rather than purely their natural talents?

Related to this is the question of the stances and methods of different teams. Is it more or less ethical to act and preach ‘clean cycling’ like Sky, while giving many demonstrations to the contrary, or is it worse to be an Astana who simply ignores doping and the questions around its past altogether and just ‘gets on with it’?

Or on a fundamental level, is there any place at all for ethics in a doped sport, in terms of results and fairness, and for working out some sort of logical rationale for why you choose to support this or that rider/team, or is the whole thing simply corrupt entertainment on wheels, so you may as well just pick whoever you like the look of to cheer for and enjoy the show?

Personally I find there are no easy answers to these questions. I like riders who attack, ride hard but fair and show spirit, as long as they don’t preach or do things that are ridiculous. I rationalise to myself that I prefer and find more deserving of support the ones who seem to keep it relatively low key, and who look like they actually suffer, against the aliens, while realising that most of those I support are probably still doping, and it is really only a question of degree between them and some others, and I wonder whether that alone is a sound basis to deem one or the other more ‘worthy’, and if it is really appropriate to be cheering for any top and therefore probably tainted and unfairly advantaged rider on the pretext that the whole sport has ever been thus, and can therefore only be accepted and followed as such.

What are people's thoughts on this?
Mamil
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31 May 2018 12:48

I think that those in the motor thread would like you to add a category M to your list. Many would argue that RH won the Giro using motor. Many would also argue that using a motor is even less ethical than doping (that discussion happened in more than one thread).

I don't know if there are any Cat. C in the world tour. Plus if you believe that Dumo, Froome Are cat. A (top fuel), how could a Cat. C (stock) like Dennis go faster?

Sprinters who win are definitely top fuel. They have to survive the stage, put on a 3K hammer fest, and then rip the cranks off of their bikes for 300 M. Their leadout guys the same.

As to the ethics of teams, there is no difference between preach clean and ignore.
jmdirt
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

31 May 2018 13:09

Personally I think it is almost impossible, now that the possibility of motors is widely known and can be tested for (even if the UCI's methods leave something to be desired), that anyone is using motors in the World Tour. The risks of being caught, either through testing, a mechanical or a crash, are simply too high. Doping is cultural to pro-sport and can often be explained away, at least to some extent, but for a rider to be caught with a motor would be instant career and reputation death. I haven't seen anything lately that I don't think can't be explained by anything other than good ol' fashioned chemical doping. Froome in 2013 maybe, Cancellara in 2010 much more likely, even Bassons' book makes a somewhat cryptic allusion to it in the early 2000s, but not now. But for the sake of the discussion I would be happy to add it as a 'Category D', since it certainly adds another dimension to it.

I think there are clean riders at WT level. You may well be right that they aren't the likes of Dennis or Cavendish, but I think they exist. Whether or not they can be competitive for individual stages or classics, or can only aspire to be half-decent domestiques at best, is hard to say. The sport is cleaner than it was 15 years ago - a dangerous and over-used phrase I known - but in relative terms it surely is, and if there were a smattering of clean riders even in the dark 90s/00s, then logically there must at least be a few now.
Mamil
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31 May 2018 15:02

I agree that the gig is up with motor use at the world tour level. But you never know...

I'd like to think that a clean rider could still make a world tour squad. Svein Tuft comes to mind because he seems like he does it just to suffer and doping would lessen the suffering. Not to be a USA homer, but I wonder if the USA guys don't do well because they are clean/cleaner? Maybe they're just less talented?
jmdirt
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

31 May 2018 15:39

There is no ethics in cycling, or pro sports in general. As for the USA guys, id say they are just less talented. Cycling is a niche sport in the US and the best athletes typically pick a more popular sport.
ngent41
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

31 May 2018 16:56

ngent41 wrote:There is no ethics in cycling, or pro sports in general. As for the USA guys, id say they are just less talented. Cycling is a niche sport in the US and the best athletes typically pick a more popular sport.

Money is always a priority over ethics (sports, business, politics, religion...).

True, cycling is a niche sport in the USA for sure, but look at the surge we had for a while, did the surge end (slow) because we backed off of the juice a bit? Really cycling is a niche sport in most countries now, with the exception of Belgium maybe.
jmdirt
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

31 May 2018 20:36

At a doping level, ethics are not involved whatsoever in sport. Doping is purely a legal matter of rules for riders, teams, UCI & WADA.
There are simply two categories of rider. Those using 1. Legal performance enhancement and those 2. Illegal performance enhancement. Anything ethical that goes beyond what is legal and into ethics is simply personal ethics outside the rules of anti-doping.
samhocking
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

31 May 2018 20:50

samhocking wrote:At a doping level, ethics are not involved whatsoever in sport. Doping is purely a legal matter of rules for riders, teams, UCI & WADA.
There are simply two categories of rider. Those using 1. Legal performance enhancement and those 2. Illegal performance enhancement. Anything ethical that goes beyond what is legal and into ethics is simply personal ethics outside the rules of anti-doping.


Not sure i understand. Are you saying anything legal is ethical?

If not then why point 1.2?

You should probably know that the rider definition of legal/illegal - ethical/unethical is much more fluent than what you portray..
User avatar mrhender
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

31 May 2018 21:28

I'm saying doping is a legal matter. No athlete can be sanctioned using ethics because ethics are not used to decide doping cases, only rules can.
So, yes anything legal is ethical if you as the athlete believe not breaking rules is ethically where the line is. Of course personal ethics can move the line, but that would be your personal ethics moving it, not rules.
samhocking
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

01 Jun 2018 01:01

samhocking wrote:I'm saying doping is a legal matter. No athlete can be sanctioned using ethics because ethics are not used to decide doping cases, only rules can.
So, yes anything legal is ethical if you as the athlete believe not breaking rules is ethically where the line is. Of course personal ethics can move the line, but that would be your personal ethics moving it, not rules.


The OP wants to have a moral discussion though.

And you seem to be saying: there are no moral considerations, only legal ones ~ doping is a legal question not a moral question.

That is really quite absurd. Of course it is a legal question, but it is also a moral question, also an economic question, also a sociological question etc etc.

It reminds a bit of the behavioral economists from Chicago - Gary Becker - who could only think about love in economic terms; yes, you could perform certain kinds of economic analysis on love, but to think that that tells us everything there is to know about the topic is not only ridiculous, but also disturbing.
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

01 Jun 2018 05:33

The Hegelian wrote:
samhocking wrote:I'm saying doping is a legal matter. No athlete can be sanctioned using ethics because ethics are not used to decide doping cases, only rules can.
So, yes anything legal is ethical if you as the athlete believe not breaking rules is ethically where the line is. Of course personal ethics can move the line, but that would be your personal ethics moving it, not rules.


The OP wants to have a moral discussion though.

And you seem to be saying: there are no moral considerations, only legal ones ~ doping is a legal question not a moral question.

That is really quite absurd. Of course it is a legal question, but it is also a moral question, also an economic question, also a sociological question etc etc.

It reminds a bit of the behavioral economists from Chicago - Gary Becker - who could only think about love in economic terms; yes, you could perform certain kinds of economic analysis on love, but to think that that tells us everything there is to know about the topic is not only ridiculous, but also disturbing.


I generally agree. For example, gaming TUEs to 'maximize' performance. Illegal? Technically, no. Unethical? Definitely.
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

01 Jun 2018 08:34

The Hegelian wrote:
samhocking wrote:I'm saying doping is a legal matter. No athlete can be sanctioned using ethics because ethics are not used to decide doping cases, only rules can.
So, yes anything legal is ethical if you as the athlete believe not breaking rules is ethically where the line is. Of course personal ethics can move the line, but that would be your personal ethics moving it, not rules.


The OP wants to have a moral discussion though.

And you seem to be saying: there are no moral considerations, only legal ones ~ doping is a legal question not a moral question.

That is really quite absurd. Of course it is a legal question, but it is also a moral question, also an economic question, also a sociological question etc etc.

It reminds a bit of the behavioral economists from Chicago - Gary Becker - who could only think about love in economic terms; yes, you could perform certain kinds of economic analysis on love, but to think that that tells us everything there is to know about the topic is not only ridiculous, but also disturbing.


I see anti-doping like a speed sign. It says 30mph, so you do 30mph because that is the fastest you can go. Ethically, perhaps going 20mph would be the right speed in all built up areas as much safer, but nobody can say you are not ethical or moral at 30mph.
If a TUE has been applied for under falsified therapeutic medical need, that is already an Anti-doping rule violation in code so not even a grey are, it's a violation anyway.
samhocking
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

01 Jun 2018 09:00

samhocking wrote:At a doping level, ethics are not involved whatsoever in sport. Doping is purely a legal matter of rules for riders, teams, UCI & WADA.


I simply can't accept this. Yes, doping on one level is a legal matter, but to say there are no ethics involved in it, or in pro sport at all, strikes me as incredibly nihilist. At the very least, surely there is an ethical line between those who take illegal performance enhancing products, or too much of a controlled product, and those who don't. I can accept the argument that once an athlete has crossed that basic line, there is no difference between one who does it minimally and one who goes all out, even if I'm not sure I agree with it. But to say that it isn't unethical to take banned products to gain an illegal advantage over an athlete who chooses not to I just don't buy. I understand cycling's history, and the fact that especially for GC riders it's most probably still a case of dope or fail, but to me its still unethical for the individual to choose the 'dark side' and perpetuate the sad state of the sport, even if it's understandable.

If doping is purely a legal matter, then the sport is doomed to be marred by it forever. No rule book, testing or money will ever be able to stop it on their own. With any laws, yeah the fear of getting caught is a factor in not breaking them, but far more important is the concept that a law exists because the action that would contravene it is deemed to be unethical or dangerous. Since it will almost certainly always be possible to dope to some extent with a pretty low fear of being caught, that alone ain't gonna stop it. Unless enough riders and teams eventually decide that it's neither ethical nor fair, and eventually unnecessary, to dope, it will continue. A fantasy perhaps, but that's what it would take. The only other way it could happen would be economics, where enough sponsors and investors finally get so sick of the scandals and cheating, and enough people stop watching, that they leave the sport so broke and unloved that the teams have no choice but to cut it out. Given that the sport has got this far, despite everything and the many sponsors it has lost over the years, that doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon.
Mamil
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

01 Jun 2018 09:30

Ripper wrote:I generally agree. For example, gaming TUEs to 'maximize' performance. Illegal? Technically, no. Unethical? Definitely.


Actually technically I'd say that is illegal, since it violates the rules around the reasons for which TUEs may be issued. But those rules are borderline unenforceable, since it would be so hard to provide solid evidence of a false justification for an exemption. Greater independence and rigour in the system would certainly help though.

But yeah certainly unethical. To link it to my initial post, is 'gaming' the TUE system, or taking controlled products right up to the limit simply because you can rather than due to any legitimate medical need, more unethical or 'worse' than out and out doping? Is there some sort of ethical difference or scale between one and the other?

Let's pretend that all Sky have ever done is exploit the TUE system and take as much as they can of anything controlled that they think they can get away with - if this is deemed prima facie to be unethical, is it nonetheless relatively 'ok' because any other team could do the same, budget and connections permitting, and do such practices make them as unethical and bad as a team that uses outright banned substances and/or undertakes illegal procedures like blood transfusions? I would say no and no - it's still perpetuating practices that violate the spirit if not the letter of the rules and seek advantage in areas far beyond smart training and nutrition where it was not intended, but there is probably still a moral difference between that and straight cheating.
Mamil
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

01 Jun 2018 09:39

Mamil wrote:
samhocking wrote:At a doping level, ethics are not involved whatsoever in sport. Doping is purely a legal matter of rules for riders, teams, UCI & WADA.


I simply can't accept this. Yes, doping on one level is a legal matter, but to say there are no ethics involved in it, or in pro sport at all, strikes me as incredibly nihilist. At the very least, surely there is an ethical line between those who take illegal performance enhancing products, or too much of a controlled product, and those who don't. I can accept the argument that once an athlete has crossed that basic line, there is no difference between one who does it minimally and one who goes all out, even if I'm not sure I agree with it. But to say that it isn't unethical to take banned products to gain an illegal advantage over an athlete who chooses not to I just don't buy. I understand cycling's history, and the fact that especially for GC riders it's most probably still a case of dope or fail, but to me its still unethical for the individual to choose the 'dark side' and perpetuate the sad state of the sport, even if it's understandable.

If doping is purely a legal matter, then the sport is doomed to be marred by it forever. No rule book, testing or money will ever be able to stop it on their own. With any laws, yeah the fear of getting caught is a factor in not breaking them, but far more important is the concept that a law exists because the action that would contravene it is deemed to be unethical or dangerous. Since it will almost certainly always be possible to dope to some extent with a pretty low fear of being caught, that alone ain't gonna stop it. Unless enough riders and teams eventually decide that it's neither ethical nor fair, and eventually unnecessary, to dope, it will continue. A fantasy perhaps, but that's what it would take. The only other way it could happen would be economics, where enough sponsors and investors finally get so sick of the scandals and cheating, and enough people stop watching, that they leave the sport so broke and unloved that the teams have no choice but to cut it out. Given that the sport has got this far, despite everything and the many sponsors it has lost over the years, that doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon.


I'm not in agreement for my view, i'm just stating a fact that doping in sport is 100% about what is decided legal to do and what is illegal to do. All i'm saying, is for some, the ethical line will simply meet the rules, for others the ethical line will move to meet their own opinion on what they consider doping even though rules might actually allow what they personally consider to be cheating. Both however, will be judged legally though using the same WADA rules, because there is no other method to decide what is doping in sport at a WADA level. This is why e.g. Wiggins & Froome's TUE stands as being legal after-all, despite what anyone's personal view and ethical opinion is on the matter. The rules say it isn't doping as long as medical need isn't falsified and anything ethical doesn't come into it legally after that.
samhocking
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

01 Jun 2018 10:17

Sam, you've rather missed my point. I'm not debating what is and isn't doping. I accept that the laws are the ultimate arbiter of this, and must be so. What I'm asking is, in the context of pro sport, and pro cycling in particular, is there an objective ethics around the decision to dope or not, or between one 'level' or method of doping and another? Is exploiting the TUE system, or taking controlled products for pure performance rather than illness reasons, also objectively unethical, or is it just smart of even common sense in the context of ruthless competition and financial imperative, or ethical simply because it's legal?

You've said that there is no ethics in sport, implying that even a decision to dope to the gills is purely a decision based on whether or not one is prepared to break the law and risk sanction for competitive advantage and everything that comes with it, completely divorced from any notions of morality or fair competition. Is it really that simple? Is modern sport so much just a 'game', or a marketing tool/product, or sheer entertainment, that it's come to that? Maybe it has, but I'm not sure we've collectively come to the point of accepting it.
Mamil
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01 Jun 2018 11:28

Anyone who is a 'b' is an idiot, do it clean or go all in and get some glory/money.
Singer01
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Re: Ethics in cycling?

01 Jun 2018 14:01

Mamil wrote:Sam, you've rather missed my point. I'm not debating what is and isn't doping. I accept that the laws are the ultimate arbiter of this, and must be so. What I'm asking is, in the context of pro sport, and pro cycling in particular, is there an objective ethics around the decision to dope or not, or between one 'level' or method of doping and another? Is exploiting the TUE system, or taking controlled products for pure performance rather than illness reasons, also objectively unethical, or is it just smart of even common sense in the context of ruthless competition and financial imperative, or ethical simply because it's legal?

You've said that there is no ethics in sport, implying that even a decision to dope to the gills is purely a decision based on whether or not one is prepared to break the law and risk sanction for competitive advantage and everything that comes with it, completely divorced from any notions of morality or fair competition. Is it really that simple? Is modern sport so much just a 'game', or a marketing tool/product, or sheer entertainment, that it's come to that? Maybe it has, but I'm not sure we've collectively come to the point of accepting it.


That's not what I mean, but probably my poor explanation, sorry. I'm saying the ethical line for most athletes and teams will simply be decided based on what is legal and what is not according to WADA rules. i.e. the rules decide what is right and wrong for them, not their own personal ethical opinion. If Caffeine was banned tomorrow, many athletes would stop taking caffeine. If you asked them why, they would say because it's illegal. If you asked them what's wrong with taking illegal substances, they would say it was wrong to do that. Something being wrong is therefore now unethical even though before it was ethical for the same substance and athlete.
As for athletes taking illegal substances on purpose without medical need, that is not ethical. The rules apply a minimum ethical standard expected by default - it's called a prohibited substance. They cross that ethical standard. I think every illegally doping athlete will be consciously aware what they do is not ethical.
samhocking
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Re: Re:

01 Jun 2018 15:07

Singer01 wrote:Anyone who is a 'b' is an idiot, do it clean or go all in and get some glory/money.


That's probably true. The difference between an A and a B may often be more down to money, resources and knowledge than anything else, and as such it may not be 'fair' or make for good sport, but it's probably not really an ethical distinction. At that point it largely comes down to the individual athlete and them asking how much they're willing to take and risk, how much they want to win and make money, and how they justify to themselves that what they're doing is still acceptable and within the bounds of at least a vaguely fair/even fight, so as to maintain satisfaction in success.

Putting to one side the behaviour and history of Sky as a team, I think what often turns people off Froome (and similar others before him), aside from some of the things he has said and (ghost)written, and of course now his riding whilst facing a possible ban, is not that he dopes more than anyone else, but that doping seems to have benefited him more than pretty much everyone else, and put him at a level and a place in the pecking order well above where his natural talent would seem to suggest he belongs. That and he perhaps has got a hold of something powerful that no-one else, not even at Sky, has got or is allowed. Of course some people go beyond this and think that Froome has special protection as well. None of this makes him any more unethical (other than a motor, should that highly unlikely contention actually turn out to be true), rather it upsets people's sense of 'fairness', makes the competition less interesting (not for his fans obviously), breaks the traditional correlations between power and weight and what makes a good climber or TT'er, and further delays any hope of a clean(er) sport. Whether or not it really makes any sense to rationalise what is fair and good for the sport or not within the corrupted construct of pro cycling is open to debate, but it certainly happens.

I think for the fans who believe/accept that Froome dopes and don't go in for the full blown corruption/conspiracy stuff that's the key determining factor - he hit the doping jackpot and either that is considered just his good fortune in a field of fellow dopers so well done him, alongside the fact that he clearly also works incredibly hard, or this is deemed distasteful for the reasons outlined above. Personality plays a part too, but it's not ingrained or thought out like a sense of what is perceived to be right/fair/beneficial or wrong/unfair/damaging.
Mamil
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01 Jun 2018 20:32

I'm not sure of the purpose of the thread. There isn't any ethics where doping is concerned at the top level in sport. Its each to their own with whatever advantage can be gained to chemically enhance the athlete or give the best equipment. The only rule is don't get everyone caught and damage the sport.
It amateur dreamers that believe their are ethics involved. Blue pill or red pill sceanarios
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