Michael Barry Confessional in NY Times

In the News

Michael Barry, the Canadian rider who was named in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation of Lance Armstrong, published a confessional –and a plea of sorts to the public in the NY Times today.

Amid the general “mea culpas” , using words like “wrong”, and “code of silence,” Barry also struck at the heart of the matter, why they did it.

A decade ago, doping was tolerated and even encouraged. The risks and consequences fell to the riders. Although I accept full responsibility for my decision to follow that path, the problem was endemic and involved people on every level of the sport, most of whom profited far more than the riders. Many cyclists, who came from families living below the poverty line, saw doping as a way to survive and to make a living that exceeded what they could make on the farm or one that, at the very least, beat unemployment benefits.

Indeed, Barry points to the system of profits for the companies, that gave little or nothing to the riders.

Unfortunately Barry isn’t completely honest or straightforward because he fails to name the companies that profit from big races, such as the Tour de France.

This last summer, riders were rising in revolt because they wanted a piece of the action from the venerable race, all of which now goes to the Amaury family.

Few riders or even journalists for that matter would dare to criticize the famous French family’s company, for fear of being blacklisted from participating either in the Tour or any number of the many major cycling events they organize every year.

Indeed, the world of professional cycling could use a major overhaul. But transforming it to the type of league structure that football, baseball and basketball now enjoy, where the team unions do their own testing, and rarely is anyone found guilty of indulging in performance enhancement, is not the solution.

Barry also touches upon the safety of racing. He writes:

Races have become increasingly dangerous in the last 10 years, and serious injuries more common. Yet, as it once did with doping, the U.C.I. denies there is a problem or blames the riders. Its role is to ensure we race on safe courses and to protect the athletes. After Wouter Weylandt died while racing in the 2011 Giro d’Italia, there was little investigation. A death on a mountainside is “part of the sport.” Sadly, the cycling world accepts the excuse. As a parent of two young boys, and a fan, I don’t.

He also mentions that cycling is produced free, and no one pays admission.

Again, a reference to the big moneyed, big sports which frankly, are ruined by the amounts of money that have poured into them.  The players are ruined, the fans are ruined, and the entire spectacle is ruined. Because it’s not just about sport anymore, it’s about money.

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