Team Sky’s Alex Dowsett, the reigning British national time trial champion who narrowly missed out a place on the longlist for the Great Britain Olympic squad earlier this month, has called for drugs cheats to be banned for life. However, the 23-year-old from Essex insisted that his comments were aimed at those committing such offences now, and not riders such as David Millar whose two-year ban came at a time when doping was perceived as rife in the peloton.
"I think it sends the wrong message out," said Dowsett in an interview with the Essex Chronicle, prior to Sunday’s national road race championships in which he finished second behind Team Sky colleague Ian Stannard.
"Things were very different in cycling a few years ago, in Millar and before's era,” he added. “So, I think those guys shouldn't be dealt with as harshly as we should be now. Now there is no excuse."I'm clean, I'm tested. I have to tell UK Sport where I am, where I sleep at night and where I am and they do turn up knocking at my door at all hours,” he went on. "I don't see why people should be let off. I mean a two-year ban is quite a light punishment.
"A couple of years for a cyclist whose career goes up to 35 or 36 that's not a great deal of time."
Dowsett’s comments follow the decision earlier this year of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to rule the British Olympic Association's lifetime ban for convicted dopers as invalid and unenforceable, due to its incompatibility with the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC), to which the BOA is a signatory.
Millar, who had previously been subject to that ban, is now free to compete at London 2012 and has been selected on the long list, and provided that the Scot, who broke his collarbone earlier this year, proves his fitness in the Tour de France appears to be a certainty to figure in the squad of five men for the Olympic road race, of whom two – Bradley Wiggins and Millar himself, most likely – will also figure in the time trial.
According to the Essex Chronicle, Team Sky and British Cycling race coach told Dowsett that he ninth on a list of 12 potential competitors – although by implication, that also means there are three riders ahead of him in the reckoning who are on the long list but will miss the final cut.
"Anyone in my position would understand maybe how I feel,” revealed Dowsett, but that's life. I have got nothing against Dave personally at all but I just think the rule being changed sends the wrong message out to kids.
"It's something that all sports are trying to deal with heavily and I thought that the consequence of cheating was that it stayed with you for life, rather than a two-year ban," he added.
In the past, the UCI has said that it would support four-year rather than two-year bans, and the World Anti-Doping Agency, which had challenged the BOA’s lifetime ban, has said it would welcome discussions about increasing current bans within the framework of the WADC.
Lifetime bans, however, are widely viewed as being open to challenge under human rights law since they would in effect prevent an athlete from carrying out their chosen profession, while the clear message from the CAS descision is that any divergence from the provisions of the WADC cannot be enforced, and that change has to be brought about through the provisions of the code itself.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.