Watching a Sport Die in Realtime

It is car-crash fascinating — and very sad — watching professional cycling die in realtime. The main cause remains blood doping, but the recent troubles are tied to a Spanish investigation last year that implicated many top riders — some of whom continue to ride:

Cycling’s biggest doping probe is dividing the sport as teams hire riders linked to the investigation by Spanish police.

Some race organizers say riders like Ivan Basso and Tyler Hamilton should stay away until their cases are resolved. Basso now rides for Discovery Channel, part-owned by seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. Olympic gold medalist Hamilton has signed with Tinkoff Credit Systems.

“Cycling is at a junction: we can either go the way of entertainment-style wrestling in the U.S. or the way of a credible sport,” says Victor Cordero, general director of the Tour of Spain.

[via Bloomberg]


  1. ironic that the one sport that tries to do something to eradicate drugs amongst its players is the one that takes the most heat.

  2. this is the one sport that can weather the storm. die? yeah right. and victor cordero can suck a d

  3. Professional cycling is hardly dying. Also: no reports on the tour of CA, Paul? Just because they stayed north does not mean you need to hold a grudge. Go Levi!

  4. I would love to see Macho man randy savage riding for discovery

  5. Paul: I completely disagree with you on this one. Next time you’re in Europe in March or April head up to Northern France or Belgium on a cold, rainy day and see one of the classics such as Paris-Roubaix and stand on the roadside with the other hundred thousand plus people and tell me it’s a dying sport.
    Read a little of the history of the sport before you make these kind of sweeping statements and understand that it is deeply rooted in many cultures, specifically those of Belgium and Italy. It might well “restructure” itself but it most certainly will not die.
    There have been drugs in cycling since day one — probably the most famous incident was Tom Simpson’s death on Mont Ventoux in July 1967. The sport survived.
    Of course there are huge problems in cycling but they are being addressed. Great examples are Bjarne Riis at CSC and Bob Stapleton at T-Mobile.
    Unlike the major pro sports here in North America such as football and baseball where there is rampant drug abuse and absolutely nobody is dealing with the issue or even seems to care.
    The most talked about current incident is, of course, Floyd Landis. I don’t know if he’s guilty or not but what I do know is that he should be presumed innocent until proven guilty as should all those who were implicated in the Spanish doping case.
    I might also point out that in the Spanish investigation many other sports such as soccer and tennis were also implicated. I see no media coverage of this at all and none of those implicated have been suspended from their sports.

  6. I wish more sports died. Can cycling even be considered alive, considering nobody in this country cares about it (except for the fact that Lance kept winning)? Ice hockey, baseball, boxing, and soccer have been dying, which is good to see. I hope that football starts dying soon as it’s a barbaric sport. Basketball is the best of all of these but even it deserves to be taken down a couple of notches and it will be. With the rise of the X-games and new sports, it is inevitable that old sports die out. One hopes that monotonous and one-trick sports, like cycling and baseball, and barbaric and brutal sports, like ice hockey and football, die out, and quickly.

  7. Sean — Actually, I know the history of cycling well. Have followed it actively for more than two decades, as well as being an amateur racer years ago.
    While I was exaggerating somewhat to make a point, cycling is in a tough spot, with sponsors increasingly second-guessing support in a sport that is not cheap to run. That’s not good, and it’s not getting better.
    At the same time, I have a hard time calling Bjarne Riis helpful on the issue of drugs. Do you honestly think his victory in 1996 over Miguel Indurain was clean? Let’s just say that I and many others find it very hard to believe, which is reinforced by his current “I never tested positive” non-denial denials.
    Granted, cycling at its roots — like in the northern Europe races you cite — seems as entrenched as ever. But the major events, which require major sponsors, are the things that give the sport a global marquee, and those events are shaken to the core by the sport’s ongoing public struggle with performance-enhancing drugs.
    Is cycling alone? No, of course not. Every major endurance sport is tainted. Cycling just has been a highly visible example.

  8. Paul:
    Agree that cycling is in trouble. But at least highlight the double standard that it must meet when compared with every other sport. Track and Field, Baseball, Football, etc.
    While I don’t agree 100% with the actions of the governing body, at least something is being done.
    Rather than destroying the sport, Cycling is trailblazing a path (in a messy way right now) for other sports to follow if and when they decide to really go clean.

  9. Fair enough Paul. You’re a cycling fan yourself and you make some good points. I agree that some major sponsors might pull out and the current spat between ASO and the UCI might kill the golden goose and to be honest it might not be a bad thing.
    I think however that I’m actually very positive about the future of the sport and the direction in which it is headed. I agree with Andrew. I hope that the current painful experience of cycling will allow the introduction of a new generation of ideas and athletes.
    Naive? Possibly. But cynicism, as shown by Ajay above, is way too easy. Sport is excellent, it evokes passion and excitement. You can’t beat singing in the Kop watching Liverpool win or standing on l’Alpe d’Huez screaming a rider up the hill.

  10. Rafael Montoya says:

    BTW Paul, most of our big (and some of the more expensive) individual and team sports practiced and watched by the masses started on the second half of the XIX century and the first of the XXth. And for the most part of the XX Century there were no new sports, just adjustment or “modernization” of the same ones.
    There are still the “classic” sports originated on the ancient civilizations, like track and boxing, but these were not displaced in general terms by other sports.
    But with the exception of the (very limited appealing) X sports there has not been a new major sport in recent history, one that could generate a disruption on the current sports pecking order. This is very odd, because almost everything else with humanity has changed a lot in the last 150 years.
    And this also has a social angle: for example, the only common thing I had with my grandparents were their sports fanship, nothing else.
    So, even with the doping scandals, I think there is not in sight a disruptive change that would destroy the professional cycling industry.
    And there will always be a percentage of non-fans of any sport.