So, it looks like Eric Zabel, the German sprinter, admitted to doping back in 1996. As a result, he’s being prevented from racing in the World Road Race championships this year.
While I’m a fierce believer that the current regime of testing is bearing fruit, and that the zero tolerance on folks popping positive now is the way to go, I think that for the sake of getting pro cycling back on solid ground there should be an amnesty program offered for folks who confess to having doped in the past.
While Zabel’s admission brings into question his past accomplishments, it also makes his third in this year’s Tour de France green jersey (Sprinters) competition that much more impressive, as he accomplished it without dope. Folks like Zabel and David Millar, who have raced both dirty and clean, should be used as ambassadors for clean sport.
There is a small issue of fairness – Millar served a two year suspension, whereas Zabel will likely not have to pay for his cheating (he’s in his 30’s, has good palmares, and if suspended has incentive to retire) – but that’s water under the bridge. As much as we’d like, it’s impossible to ever correctly repay past wrong. So, yes, Zabel did cheat, but did so under a different set of ethics than are in place today. As long as he’s clean today, and committed to remaining clean, and helping others to remain clean, he should be allowed to ride.