WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO CHIOTTI?

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO CHIOTTI?

Mike Cushionbury

It was only a matter of time before it had to happen. One of the top riders in the sport has come out and admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, not to just win a few races but to win the biggest race of all, the cross-country World Championship. The far-reaching effects of this aren?t known at this time because a decision on the fate of team Giant rider Jerome Chiotti hasn?t been made yet. Most likely, Chiotti will be suspended for one to three years by the French Cycling Federation-basically ending his career. There is also talk of the UCI stripping him of his World Championship title, thus erasing his name from the history books of elite-level racing, (at least in a positive light anyway). Giant hasn?t made a decision as of yet either, but if Chiotti is suspended there is no reason for them to even consider keeping him on their pay roll.
Chiotti claims he was a past user of EPO, a drug that boosts one’s red blood cell count, hence improving endurance dramatically. For the record, Marco Pantani was kicked out of the Giro de Italia for using EPO and the Festina team was kicked out of the 1998 Tour de France because a staff member was caught carrying vials of the stuff at a border crossing enroute to the start of the Tour. Interestingly enough, when Chiotti won his mountain bike title in ?96 he was also a member of the Festina road team.
Now, every World Cup, World Championship and Olympic medal winner will be under the eye of suspicion. It’s just like watching The Rock in Wrestle Mania, You know it ain?t reality but for a few brief moments when he drops the People’s Elbow, he really is the People’s Champion, an honest to goodness hero who won the match fair and square. The same holds true for professional cycling. We all know Pantani isn?t reality when he slides into the drops on Alpe d? Huez and attacks, putting something like six minutes on the pack. But for a few brief moments he is a true hero, a rider who trained the old fashioned way-the way we train-and won the race fair and square.
When ?The Pirate? had a high red blood cell count at last year’s Giro and was tossed out on the second to last stage, we weren?t surprised. We were bummed because Pantani was supposed to be the good guy, the people’s champion, but this time the match was fixed as usual, but we saw it.
Chiotti claims he hasn?t used the drug since the end of ?96 and came out with his revelation as a way to expose the growing drug problem in dirt racing. He was shocked that the federations and governing bodies of cycling have chosen to punish him, because he says by ending his career, other riders will not come forward in fear for their own careers.
The problem with this is Chiotti’s career is now a sham! If what he claims is true (that he hasn?t used EPO in the last three years) then his dirt career was a lie the second he took ?the jag? leading up to the ?96 Worlds. He is now a famous, highly paid rider because of that one win in 1996, a win he might not have achieved without cheating. If the UCI is serious about trying to clean up the sport, then it needs to start right here, with Chiotti. I don?t like the fact that Chiotti’s career is over. The guy was a good rider and always smiling-happy to be on the start line. But his win robbed someone else of a rainbow jersey. Now, you may say, ?Well, some other doper would have won then.? Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that the riders this year are going faster than ever before. Not everyone is enhanced, but the odds say some are. I don?t like saying it but let’s get a jump on this so we don?t have the same situation as they do in road cycling with random raids, and charges pressed for performances that happened years ago.
If riders know they will be gone from the sport if they are caught using performance-enhancing drugs from today on, maybe, just maybe, they will all become people’s champions. My worst fear is that all the up-and-coming juniors will feel like they need the juice to make it in the big leagues. That is already the attitude of many amateurs in Europe. Take a look through the trash at a hotel where amateur road teams are staying during a small tour and you will find interesting things at the bottom of the barrel. Let’s throw out the dopers today.
I will say this, it is noble of Chiotti to step forward and try to bring this situation to light. His intentions were good and he will no doubt become the scapegoat-the doper. He is not alone. If he truly went clean after ?96 what do we do? Should he get a second chance? He did confess after all. Tough choices need to be made and a rider’s whole life is at stake. I hope it turns out OK. For Choitti and for mountain bikng, especially when all eyes are turned to the sport a few months from now in Australia.
As more info on the situation becomes public, I will let you know right here.

 

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