Age 12, watching the 2006 Tour de France, my father explained blood doping to me. It’s an unfortunate part of the sport’s history that most of us know about but, at that age, I did not. Here was an opportunity for my dad to talk about the morals and values we all buy into when we enjoy sport.
Here was also an opportunity to explain a biological process. He could have done both, but never one to speak too emotively, he only explained the latter and how you could greatly increase your blood’s oxygen carrying capacity.
Now, I don’t mean to fault my poor dad (though I definitely can on a wide range of topics if you are interested) because he no doubt believed I was a smart kid who knew this was against the rules. But I wasn’t. It didn’t help that he spoke like a cynic. The way my father explained blood doping, it was simply a part of the sport.
That summer I started senior school, a new and exciting world where different teachers taught different subjects. My biology teacher, Mr Quinn, made a big impact on me after our first lesson. He was also the outdoor education teacher, and sometimes ran to school.
Well, it wouldn’t have been that very first class that I asked him, though it wasn’t long after. Here was a grown up who was interested both in biology and sport, and over the summer I’d learnt something super interesting about biology and sport! So I asked, as casually as you would your hairdresser about their holiday, if he’d ever tried blood doping.
Then I got confused and embarrassed, because he got confused and angry and at the time I honestly didn’t know what for.
It took becoming more socially educated before I really understood the interaction, and since that penny dropped I’ve felt sick any time I think about it. So, Mr Quinn, if by chance you read the mag: I’m sorry. It’s not that I had such a loose grip on moral ethics that I thought cheating was OK, it’s simply that I was a moron. Please forgive me, if you have any memory of this brief conversation. If not, well… good.
This Katie Archibald column originally appeared in the print edition of Cycling Weekly, on sale in newsagents and supermarkets, priced £3.25.