Unfortunately I wasn’t surprised when I woke this morning to see that VitalMTB had posted news containing allegations of cheating in the Whistler round of the Enduro World Series. Heck, I have had several off-the-record conversations with Enduro World Series competitors and it’s apparently rife.
What does surprise me though is the seemingly lack of will from the Enduro World Series, the media that closely follows the racing, and the athletes who compete, to either say or do anything appropriate about it.
Of course I cannot confirm any allegations, and I am not pointing a finger at any single rider, but the sheer potential of cheating is so disappointing and worthy of public debate.
The series thus far has been riddled with underground murmurs and rumours about cheating since the first event in Italy. Hiding food (to allow for a lighter backpack), bike swapping, riding liaison stages without helmets, cutting the courses, illegal practise, outside assistance… the allegations go on. It was only a few weeks ago I watched Cedric Gracia, livid at the time, expressing his anger at all the cheating at Enduro racing. My hat goes off to him – at least he speaks out.
Of course there will always be the argument of “bending the rules” but even that can be enforced by establishing the right culture of good sportsmanship. Culture, and the power of its combined peer pressure, sometimes has more power than any policing or enforcement can ever have.
To me it all represents a potential failure for the inaugural season of what is supposed to be the future of our sport. Enduro is a battle of rider vs terrain and gets back to the roots of our sport, with a sense of fun thrown in. I love the concept of Enduro racing and the thought of people cheating is beyond belief.
A cheat is a cheat. We all throw our hands in the air in disgust and anger when someone gets busted for drugs. Why not apply the same enthusiasm to punish and shame the “non-drug” cheats. After all, a cheat is a cheat not matter what. The seconds gained from a pre-race shot of EPO is no different from the seconds and minutes gained from cutting the course.
I personally feel that if the organisers don’t get serious about both policing and enforcing the rules, and the true spirit of the sport, then we, the fans, will lose interest very quickly and the end of Enduro will happen well before we had had enough time to enjoy it.
My challenge to the organisers of the Enduro World Series, the media, and the athletes is to make a bigger effort to catch the cheats, test the allegations and their actions using the appropriate mechanisms, and if found guilty, apply the same penalties as you would a drug cheat. Stop any potential for cheating to rot the core of the sport.
A cheat is a cheat and if you let to happen at the top echelons of the sport what hope is there for Enduro racing at the grass roots level?
I love Enduro, at least when I know it’s honest.