I worship Team Sky. But I feel like I’ve been taken for a ride

first_img Read more The Guardian view on drugs in sport: a deep corruption Sir Bradley Wiggins hits out at ‘malicious’ campaign after MPs’ accusations Bradley Wiggins How to feel when, for reasons that are purely negative, the sport you love and the riders you admire appear on every front page and dominate every radio news bulletin? The answer: weary, conflicted and confused. Have this report and the ongoing stories around Team Sky affected my enjoyment of the sport? Honestly, not that much. I will still watch the races on TV, still ride and race my bike with the same enjoyment and still imagine I am a professional rider as my friends and I sprint for a town sign. Cycling fans want the sport to be 100% clean – but given how tough it is, how much is at stake and how marginal the gains at the top are, it would be foolish to think that’s a possibility. Sky’s downfall lies in its arrogance – declaring it would be whiter than white, a clean team to clean up the sport – even if its crime at the moment is an alleged ethical one rather than a clear legal one. And so I remain on the fence, confused, troubled, hoping it will all go away to leave me to enjoy my heroes in peaceful ignorance.• Charles Graham-Dixon is a freelance journalist and keen road cyclist based in London and Madrid Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via Email Share on Messenger comment Support The Guardian Topics Since you’re here… … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. 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Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Reuse this content The latest report from the digital, culture, media and sport select committee into Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins’s alleged use of therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) and corticosteroids as performance enhancers ahead of the 2012 Tour de France, among other high-profile races, is another headline cycling does not need. The report suggests Sky has crossed an “ethical line” rather than clearly violated any doping rules – but it’s not a good look for a team that sold itself as a paragon of virtue. Sky and Wiggins continue to protest their innocence as the vultures gather.I have always supported Sky and its riders when they compete in the biggest races. While I am by no means hugely patriotic, I take pride in watching a British team dominate cycling’s biggest races where previously they did not come close to French, Italian, Spanish and Belgian competitors. However, more than any team, rider or nationality, I am a fan of the sport of cycling. I love fast, thrilling racing and place my trust in the integrity of competition.I am also an amateur cyclist inspired to ride by the pros. So how to react? On one hand, given cycling’s often negative exposure, I feel defensive when it is dragged through the mud, particularly by those without much knowledge of it or those with an axe to grind. Though more popular than ever, cycling has always been niche, the classroom outsider in a country where football is king. Cycling is full of peculiarities and foibles that those without a real understanding of its demands and intricacies struggle to grasp. So I often feel the need to stick up for cycling when it is beaten down. But as each new story emerges about practices at Sky it becomes increasingly difficult to support the team and its riders without feeling increasingly naive and duped.center_img Cycling has always been among the very toughest sports. Before I started riding I saw these people pushing themselves to their limits, sometimes for days at a time in Grand Tours. Now that I ride, it only makes me appreciate how challenging pro cycling is and I respect the riders even more. These are feats of superhuman strength and endurance.But to think some cyclists do not take performance enhancers is naive. The idea of naivety is key when thinking about pro cycling. Given its history of doping, was it naive to think rules would stop being broken just because Lance Armstrong was caught? Is it naive to blindly believe in Team Sky just because it was founded on the premise of being clean? Is it naive to support Wiggins because he seems like a good bloke? The answer to all is: probably. Yet I still believe. Belief is part of the reason we watch sport.With each fresh revelation, why do I find myself still hanging on to my belief, unable to condemn until concrete evidence that they have definitely cheated is revealed? Of course, nothing has been proven – ethically questionable perhaps, but not illegal … yet. Then there is the sense that any wrongdoing from Sky comes within a larger web of rule-bending within pro cycling. If Sky has bent the rules, one senses other teams must have too.And of course the source of all this is deeply uncomfortable. The Fancy Bears are Russian hackers whose morally and ethically redundant means of revealing this information was based on deceit, and a relationship with the Russian government – and whose countrymen and women have been found to operate a systematic doping system across a variety of sports. But perhaps I just don’t want to believe some of my favourite riders would cheat. Share on LinkedIn Team Ineos Drugs in sport Opinion Tour de France 2012 Read more Share on WhatsApp Given its history of doping, was it naive to think rules would stop being broken just because Lance Armstrong was caught? Photograph: Sipa Press/REX Tour de France Cycling Pinterest Share on Pinterest Twitter Facebook last_img

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