Every year, at least recently, it's the same thing. The drug testers re-double their efforts in their search for drug cheats, and the UCI inevitably announces that they have some new program designed to catch even the most wily cheat. 2009 has been more of the same, as the UCI announced recently that they will be announcing allegations against and unspecified number of cyclists in relation to the results from the over-hyped and late arriving blood passport program.
It is great that the UCI are doing all they can to catch cheats in cycling. But why does it always seem that these allegations are made ahead of the Tour de France instead of earlier in the season? Now, to be fair, there have been a handful of cheats caught throughout the first part of the season, including Davide Rebellin, Christian Pfannberger and just a few days ago Antonio Colom. But the announcement by the UCI that they will be releasing a number of names next week sounds ominous. Will it be 2? Or 3? Or 10? For now, no one knows.
To the casual viewer, it would seem that cycling's governing body likes to drum up the drama before announcing a positive test result to the public. Instead of moving swiftly and decisively, they always seem to find a way to delay their findings until the Tour de France is imminent. Hardly a coincidence, this allows the UCI to attract the maximum exposure from the media to highlight their efforts in the fight against doping. Which is a crying shame. This time of year should be dedicated to predictions and conjecture about who will win the Tour, but instead it always ends up being a debate about who will be the next rider found positive for doping.
The UCI has a job to do, one that requires them to be thorough and steadfast in their search for truth. But it is no coincidence that they are waiting for July to roll around each year before announcing their most damaging test results. Meanwhile, races are being contested and sometimes won by cheaters, forever altering the history of results in the sport of cycling. Instead of waiting for the publicity before announcing who the cheats are, perhaps the UCI should start putting the well-being of the sport ahead of their own agency's objectives. Until then, the Tour de France will be as synonomous with bad news about doping as it is about good news regarding competition and tiumph.