Thursday, 6 October 2011

L'esprit de l'escalier: Cadel Evans, Pat McQuaid & China.

So this is the latest scandal: Could it be that a fit of pique on McQuaid's part is setting back the anti-doping crusade? He's pushing the sport in oppressive corners of the world, sending letters to bully teams into attending, he's even talking about shortening some of the sport's most prestigious events in order to shine the spotlight on races in new territories, but he'll abandon dope testing entirely if the testers make the sensible suggestion that administering and policing a sport might best be handled by separate bodies? Jeez.

What does McQuaid think will aid his goal of globalising cycling? I think it would be a cleaned-up image and restored credibility, but McQuaid seems to think that deathly dull, smog-blurred races in repressive regimes are the priority, and dope testing is an optional extra.

When I started this blog just after Cadel Evans' victory in the Tour De France, this was the first post I wrote. It was also the first (and only) post I decided not to publish. It was heartfelt, but it seemed churlish to rake such old news over after so much time. But you know what? Sod it.

The Best Thing About Cadel’s Victory

There are lots of reasons why Cadel Evans’ 2011 Tour De France victory is a good thing. It’s always nice to add another name to the roster of winners and it puts a perfectly placed full stop on his transformation from an aggression-free nearly-man into a worthy winner. It also seems fitting that a man whose last four Tours include two second places and two broken bones should finally experience triumph rather than disappointment. He’s earned that top spot as much by coming back from bad luck in past Tours as by avoiding it in this one.

None of these are the main reason why I’m delighted by Cadel’s victory, however. Victory in the Tour De France makes him the most prominent athlete in cycling, a role I think he’ll make good use of. This is a man who said after the Beijing Olympics:  "Trying to bring awareness of the Tibet movement is something someone in my position can do. I just feel really sorry for them. They don't harm anyone and they are getting their culture taken away from them. I don't want to see a repeat of what happened to Aboriginal culture happen to another culture."

Compare Cadel’s awareness that there are more important things than sport with the most prominent bureaucrat in cycling, current UCI President Pat McQuaid. During his days as a cyclist, McQuaid looked at apartheid-era South Africa and decided that a bit of extra pre-Olympics training (and a shot at some prizes) was worth violating the international sporting boycott of the country.

He never actually admitted to anything so shameful as weighing up brutality and repression against training and money, but unlike the many cricketers who openly defied the boycott, McQuaid competed secretly using a false name, which suggests to me that he knew how shameful his actions were and chose to do it anyway. He claims to have been motivated by a “genuine interest in South African politics”, which is the 70s athlete’s equivalent of buying Playboy for the articles.

Over the next year, the articulate and aware Evans will be mingling in the same circles as McQuaid. I hope some of his class rubs off on Pat.

No comments:

Post a Comment