Uli Fluhme is co-founder of the Gran Fondo New York. A staunch anti-doping advocate, Fluhme gained repute when his event, one of the first Gran Fondos to institute drug testing, captured cyclist David Anthony, who tested positive for EPO at the event in May of 2012 and later admitted to EPO and human growth hormone use. While we wish to provide Mr. Fluhme a platform, his opinion does not necessarily reflect the position of LAVA Magazine.
By Ulrich Fluhme
Convicted doper Michael Weiss from Austria returned to compete one day after the completion of his recent two-year ban after an independent arbitration board within NADA (Nationale Anti-Doping Agenteur Austria), Austria’s anti-doping federation after being found guilty of having blood drawn for enrichment at a laboratory in Vienna, Austria when he was a professional mountain biker.
His return was just a few weeks ago at Ironman Cozumel, and he won the race. There has been plenty of uproar among professional athletes as well as amateurs and fans followed. Bevan Docherty tweeted “Congrats @TyButterfield at #IMCozumel you’re the winner in my opinion!” Heather Wurtele was weighing to be quiet to not upset press and sponsors against succumbing to Omerta.
In converse, others felt that Weiss served his ban and should be welcomed back.
As fans and everyone who works in triathlon, I think we have should help dopers have a second chance on life. But I don’t think a doper should ever be allowed to compete again.
A lifetime ban for proven guilty dopers is appropriate, because permanent adaptations made from doping will always provide an advantage over others who didn’t dope. Doping is irreversible. A two-year ban is too short to really break an endurance athlete’s career, which can be ten years or longer. Starting in 2015, WADA is institutionalizing a four-year ban, a move sparked initially to ensure an Olympic athlete would have to sit out at least one Olympic Games. In most sports this thankfully finally comes closer to a lifetime ban.
That said, while we have to do the utmost to get proven dopers out of competitive sports, we also have to stop right there once this is achieved. That person has to be able to see a chance to do something other than compete. This, I believe, will help them with the decision to drop competing for good.
So how do we as fans and athletes deal with dopers?
1. If you know them personally, try to convince the athlete that racing again is not an option. Don’t support a “comeback” morally or financially. Help them find a different purpose in life. Too often friends support a scorned athlete in their quest for a return. True and caring friends and family members instead should not be shy to confronting that person with what they did and what’s best for them, whether it matches that athlete’s intentions or not.
2. If you don’t know them personally, there are still ways to let him know your disapproval of their return to racing in person. This could be in the form of a discussion or via social media addressed to them directly.
But don’t shun an athlete that ultimately does quit racing. Give them a second chance. Drink a coffee at the bar they opened.
3. Put pressure on sponsors who continue supporting dopers, whether it’s during the ban or after. There is absolutely no reason why a company should support a convicted doper in his racing efforts ever again given the amount of clean athletes keen to have access to this opportunity. Giro and SRM are two companies who continued to support Weiss. It speaks volumes when you don’t buy their products. Tell them why you choose their competitor’s gear, because there are plenty of other great helmet and power meter companies to choose from.
Professional athletes may be worried to be outspoken against companies that are potential sponsors for them. Ask yourself: “Would I want to be associated with a company that also supports a doper?” As a race organizer, I have declined sponsors before because they continued supporting a doper. To date, these have been among the decisions I haven’t regretted at all. If you want a cleaner sport, take action now.
To learn more about Ulrich Fluhme, go to the Gran Fondo NY website at www.grandfondony.com follow him on Twitter @ulif