"Polish under-23 World Championship gold medalist Pawel Szczepaniak has explained the circumstances that led he and his brother Kacper down the road to a positive doping control for EPO at the World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic. He insists that just weeks prior to the competition, where his brother finished just behind in second place, the brothers had yet to be involved with the seedy world of doping...
Now the talented young riders have learned their lesson about doping the hard way, and realize that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. "My life is ruined and my brother too, " concluded Pawel. "Kacper hardly eats. All he does is sleep and stare straight ahead. We both go to a psychologist."
The anti-doping authorities need to wake-up and reshape their education modules to better reflect what resonates with and influences young riders so they won't dope. I'm telling you, it's not just appeals to fair play that will stop doping. Szczepaniak's father earns 250 euros per month as a bus driver. Had the sorcery that led to victory not been discovered, the brothers' new contracts could have helped the family to increase its monthly earnings by an order of magnitude! But trotting out charts and statistics about long-term health risks and the unenviable possibility of becoming a uniballer before one's career is over are weak countermeasures.
Morality and ethics have to be taught in the rider's home, and this must be carried over into his club and amateur teams. If, like Matt Decanio, a U-23 finds himself in a foreign country, isolated and lacking a support system and confronted with enormous pressure to begin doping under team orders, it's the moral guidance established at home that will help him to avoid the rot for as long as it takes to either arrange extraction or figure out how to beat the dopers at their own game (note: here's where I think Bike Pure adds practical value: it provides a means by which geographically-scattered riders who don't wish to dope but are confronted with the pressure to do so can connect with each other and others in the anti-doping community to gain support and find the strength to stay clean).
In the right here right now, trotting out casualties like Pawel and Kacper, and even me, for God's sake, and letting us tell our stories as we struggle to rebuild our lives has the potential to add a dimension - an element, even - to anti-doping education targeting riders who are already likely to have access to products like EPO and who might be considering actively whether or not to use. I'll admit that I haven't organized peer-reviewed research to test the effectiveness of dollars spent on different forms of anti-doping education, but I guarantee that unless radical changes (or AUGMENTATION of curriculum) are made in the content and the messaging, the same-old-same-old "I Compete Clean b/c..." and "Fair Play Matters" is NOT going to deliver the impact that our anti-doping education HAS TO PRODUCE for our INTERNAL CONSUMERS - the athletes whose minds we're trying to reach.
Sure, juniors and U-23's need to all receive a standardized anti-doping education that deals with such topics as the concept of strict liability, and advises athletes on how they can reach a drug reference line (should it be available in their country) to check the legality of medicines before they pop a pill or inject. Hit them with the feel-good, "Play Fair because Life's Fair and Better that Way" slogans. Whatever. But then drag before them real live, breathing, shattered human beings who - much like them - are only there in their disgrace because of the same kind of love of cycling that's driving the new riders. Make the kids uncomfortable - but make the penalty phase of doping something less abstract and much more real for them. Granted, the dopers whose stories you focus on have to be ones who have Phoenix's for cousins and are working to rise-up out of the ash of their doping disgrace - and it sounds like at least one of the Szczepaniak boys sees the possibility of a new future. Poor Kacper is still shell-shocked - but what, are you surprised? People dope because they want an unfair advantage that will let them ride their bike faster than their competitors, and in doing so obtain so benefit otherwise inaccessible. Doping comes with a cost, some obvious, most hidden, and unfortunately, anti-doping education is not as sophisticated as it should be in order to help our young athletes make the best long-term choices.
I hope that the powers that be will consider the most effective ways of changing the peloton's mindset when it comes to doping - not just what is safest, simplest or closest to the model designed by the fella who came before you.