“Matthew Pioro, why are cyclists such scoundrels?”
The question came from Brent Bambury. He was interviewing me for his CBC Radio program, Day 6. It was just before the start of this year’s Tour de France. Media outlets who didn’t usually cover cycling had become interested in technological fraud or mechanical doping or, simply, motors in bikes because the organizers at the biggest event in cycling – the one non-cycling fans know about – had announced that they were doing all they could to catch riders cheating with motors. CBC had contacted me for an interview.
I conduct a lot of interviews. That’s a big part of how stories for Canadian Cycling Magazine get made. I love interviewing. I love talking to people, especially about bikes and cycling. Ironically, I hate being interviewed, especially for TV. (Radio is a bit better.) I’m usually not keen about the context surrounding most of these interviews. It’s usually about something dodgy in cycling, such as Lance Armstrong and Ryder Hesjedal and EPO or Clara Hughes and ephedrine. Recently, it was motors in bikes. Still, I participate in these interviews. I want to represent cycling properly. I’m not going to defend its cheaters, but I want to do my best to make sure the sport and all its actors are presented accurately.
Bambury’s question was a good one, but it did bug me a little bit. As an interviewer myself, I understood why he had asked it. People who don’t follow cycling, which is probably most of Bambury’s audience, know a few things about the sport. As I mentioned, they know about the Tour de France. They know the name Lance Armstrong and they know he cheated. When they have heard about cycling outside of the Tour de France or the Olympics, it was probably for the Festina affair, Operación Puerto or USADA’s “reasoned decision.” And now they were being told about motors in bikes.
Imagine baseball were covered the same way? What would your average sports fan know about baseball then? There’d be the no-hitter Dock Ellis pitched while on LSD, the Pittsburgh drug trials (cocaine), Pete Rose (betting scandal), Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s home-run-record chase (steroids) and BALCO (an assortment of performance enhancing drugs). We probably wouldn’t know that some Canadian team was eliminated in that series before the World Series in 2015. (I’m sure we’d know about the World Series, the main event, but not the American League Championship Series.) And what of the CFL? Well, if it were covered as cycling is covered, we’d just know that in June 2015, WADA director general David Howman said, “The CFL’s anti-doping program is outdated and, quite frankly, irresponsible.” NBA? It only announced that it would test for human growth hormone last year. Tennis? It seems you can rise to the top of that sport even if you have a heart condition requiring you (Maria Sharapova) to take a drug (meldonium) that isn’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and isn’t authorized in most of Europe.
For casual sports fans, cycling is the discipline onto which they can project their fears or concerns about fair sport. They don’t have to pay attention to its complexities. They can be smug with their condemnations. Then, they can watch other sports while ignoring, or at least not worrying about, the scoundrels involved there.
I didn’t say any of this to Bambury. It was all in the back of my mind, but didn’t come out as I wanted it to. I said something that was adequate, but not great. If there is a next time, I will defend cycling better.