Shortly after 1 p.M., fritz sorgel looks at his cell phone at the institute for biochemical and pharmaceutical research in heroldsberg near nurnberg and laughs out loud. Sorgel is one of the most renowned german doping experts. He has just read the statement by pat mcquaid, head of the world cycling federation. "Lance armstrong has no place in cycling. Something like this must never happen again, reports a news site. Sorgel shakes his head.
The world cycling federation UCI turns 180 degrees: armstrong loses all titles, is banned for life. Didn’t you expect this?
Fritz sorgel: the transformation of pat mcquaid is amazing. This is real satire, which can not be met other than by cynicism. But what would have been the alternative? Turning a blind eye? Then cycling would also have been finished as an organization. The armstrong story has shown that the UCI has at least passively supported him by dragging its feet.
But dopers have been around since competitive sports began. What distinguishes armstrong from the others?
He clearly maintained a mafioso system. The other superdopers ullrich, pantani and contador have been supplied with their substances. Lance armstrong also organized it all. Imagine the stress of a stage of a tour: if someone says to his teammates, due to hormones and adrenaline, "dope with me or you’ll be kicked out," i can just imagine it. But it took more than that to keep this whole system going. Lance armstrong was obviously the one who held the threads in his hand.
Armstrong has recently proposed to do a test on the lug detector. He is obviously still convinced that he has done nothing wrong. This reminds of jan ullrich, who argues in the same way.
Now, in retrospect, it all fits together very well. There must have been some decent riders. But I think many have taken this doping system as a justification for themselves. The riders and teams of that time all say: that can’t be, he’s racing past us, we don’t train any differently. Many have trained hard and just didn’t make it to the top. Then they have doped. Slowly the whole doping thing is getting round. What makes me think about the armstrong story is how things were kept secret. All were silent. If doping is done with perfection, it can’t be traced.
So cycling will not recover after the armstrong case?
We go through the same phases over and over again and hear the same excuses over and over again. Of course it starts all over again. Maybe there’s a transitional generation coming along now where the number of clean cyclists is a bit higher. But in the last tour de france, the times that were ridden were almost as good as in the high doping times. Is it possible to improve training methods in such a short time that a generation without doping is now riding almost as fast as an earlier generation with doping?? Something can’t be right.
Is it really the athletes who are to blame or does the performance principle that applies everywhere contribute to this: only if the sponsor rides in front, there’s money too.
This problem is insurmountable. Sport is performance-oriented. We expect athletes to win. If you do competitive sports and earn a lot of money with it, you also have to live with the fact that you are under increased scrutiny. If a sport becomes popular, then money is in it. And if there’s money in it, the dopers are back again.
What must happen now after the verdict?
Armstrong was a special case. He was a doping athlete and an organizer of doping. That was mafioso behavior, there is no other way to describe it. I don’t think the armstrong case will change anything. The athletes learn nothing. We need legal possibilities. Possession of doping is punishable, but doping itself is not. That’s where we have to start. We must criminalize sport if we really want to achieve something.
On friday, the world cycling federation will decide what to do with the titles. What do you advise?
There must be a line between 1999 and 2005. No winner. Anything else would be a scandal. I can’t put a jan ullrich up there who has also doped. We need an overall solution for these years. It must be seen as a lost decade. No winner is allowed to reprint when the second and third were most likely also doped. People can live with the fact that there is a line instead of a name.
The doping expert
life: professor fritz sorgel, born in 1950, is the director of the institute for biomedical and pharmaceutical research (IBMP) in heroldsberg near nurnberg, germany.
Career: the doping expert was a member of the anti-doping commission of the federation of german cyclists, along with former swimmer michael grob and stefan netzle, judge at the sports court CAS. The commission ended its work in 2007 because it did not have a clear mandate and did not feel that it was being taken seriously.
Doping: fritz sorgel provided the analysis in the doping case of the long-distance runner dieter baumann in 1999/2000 and interrogated the german cyclist patrik sinkewitz in the anti-doping commission.
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