It was inevitable, in the face of Great Britain?s dominance in the cycling at the Olympic Games, that there would be sideswipes and oblique allegations.
French Cycling president Jean Pitallier was reported to have contacted the UCI to express doubts about the scale of the British performance, prompting Dave Brailsford to say that he would welcome any scrutiny from the authorities to prove that British Cycling is not breaking the rules and that doping is not providing one of the ?marginal gains?.
Sadly, the world of elite cycling is so riddled with baggage and mistrust that dominance is eyed with suspicion.
Let?s face facts, if it were the Italians, the Russians, or any of the other nations who walked out of the velodrome with 70 per cent of the gold medals on offer, our eyebrows would be raised.
But it is not ?because they are British? that we are automatically inclined to trust, it is because we know them that we believe them.
On the subject of doping, Brailsford has never been anything other than straight-talking.
In March, Rob Hayles failed a haematocrit test at the World Championships and the immediate reaction from them was to blow the halo from above the heads of Britain?s track squad and say: ?Ah-ha, there we are. The game?s up.?
But I spent several hours talking to Hayles a couple of days later and I spoke to the British team?s doctor, Roger Palfreeman. Hayles was absolutely distraught. The explanation was plausible.
Am I predisposed to believe the British but not foreigners? I don?t think so. But I am prepared to believe people who give straight answers to straight questions and, so far, I have not heard anything that has given me cause for discomfort.
It may be that the ruthlessness with which British Cycling?s elite performance team pursues excellence and improvement in every single other area make some wary.
Perhaps the reasoning goes: ?Well, if they?re prepared to spend hours and hours in the wind tunnel, if they are prepared to invent new bicycle equipment and push the laws of bike design to the very limit, if they are studying nutrition and training techniques to maximise every possible advantage, what?s to say they?re not doping or tampering with their blood??
I simply don?t believe they are.
I simply do not believe that Dave Brailsford and the rest of the coaching staff would use National Lottery money which is, after all, the public?s money, carefully allocated by order of the Government, to dope riders.
I simply do not believe that they would take teenage riders as they did Mark Cavendish, Jason Kenny, Geraint Thomas, Shanaze Reade, Steven Burke and the rest and tell them that if they want to succeed they have to take drugs or a blood transfusion.
Because if they have, it is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated in British sport and it would place the perpetrators beneath contempt.
Now the doubts have been raised by the French, and now Dave Brailsford has stated that he welcomes all and any scrutiny of his team and their methods, perhaps it is a good time to publish their test results or sign up to an external anti-doping programme in addition to all the testing already conducted.
Because that will be the only way to convince everyone.
Team GB performance director Dave Brailsford
Dave Brailsford was a man in demand last week. Every radio station and newspaper wanted to talk to him and he wasted no time in tapping into the things that work the talk radio stations and popular press into a frenzy ? obesity and knife crime.
Cycling can be a cure for both, was the general contention ? or it was once the newspapers had finished fitting his direct quotes to the editorial line they wished to take.
Put down your weapons, get fit, lose weight, make something of yourself, and why not do it through cycling.
Brailsford knows well enough how the press works, and he knew it would generate headlines. And why not?
Why not tap into the youth of the nation and get them on their bikes. Lurking somewhere on the sofa playing Wii Sports is a potential Olympic champion or Tour de France winner.
Brailsford did a great job of trying to make a convincing argument that cycling is not elitist, and it is not expensive.
That?s all very well in theory, but not in practice. We?ve all seen 12 or 13 year old children in junior races on the very best bikes money can buy. Bikes they will grow out of all too quickly.
This is the next big challenge for British Cycling. The Go Ride scheme is excellent. It is getting children involved, but more must be done. Go Ride has targeted schools, but Brailsford?s suggestion that cycling should be included on the curriculum hit the nail on the head.
Investment in a huge pool of children?s bicycles to take to schools up and down the country could be the next step.
How about a Cycling Sports Day scheme where cycling takes over for the day, in the same way as the traditional sports day.
Using the school?s playing field (if it hasn?t been sold off for flats) and some cones or tape, a grass track can easily be set up. It doesn?t have to be a velodrome-style oval, it could make the best use of the space available to make the races as interesting as possible.
Then, all you need is a pool of bikes of different sizes. Keep race sizes down to six or eight at a time to minimise the number of bikes needed. Then, just like the traditional school sports day, run heats and finals over a range of distances for every age group in the school.
Without wishing to sound like Richard Littlejohn, the obvious snag is the Health and Safety legislation and the possibility that a crash could mean dire consequences for the school with parents threatening to sue. Sadly, the modern world brings the need for disclaimer forms so making cycling obligatory could be a problem. But if you make it fun and exciting for the kids, they will be desperate to take part.
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The Tuesday Comment – January to July 2008