Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A chat with Graham Watson

From Bob Gosford's The Northern Myth

TNM: What does cycling need more of now - more law or a better sense of ethics among the riders?

GW: I would think it needs more clarity in the law and the rules - and the ethics - they will come together. They won’t come without each other.

The laws, you know, they are pretty ambiguous and all over the place - they are not yet controlled by Governments - it is more controlled by the UCI [Union Cycliste Internationale] and they don’t have to powers they need.

The laws should be made world-wide and very clear - the ethics will fit into that. You can’t have one without the other.

TNM: Are there any particular issues that stand out?

GW: As a photographer I don’t really study the ins and out of it. I got tired of all the politics since 2005, when the drugs issue really started being highlighted by the media. In a perfect world all the sports would be getting a closer examination, and I think that is starting to happen now.

TNM: Speaking of other sports, in cricket for example, top cricketers can have cortisone injections and all manner of other medical treatments while they are playing a match, and nobody blinks an eye. But in cycling, and in other sports there seems to be a different set of rules that apply.

GW: It’s not just the rules but also a different set of opinions as well. I think that it goes back all the way to the death of Tommy Simpson [an English pro-cyclist who died on the Mont Ventoux stage of the Tour de France in 1967] , and I think that from then on cycling became the most scrutinised sport and (in many people’s minds) will be forever associated with drugs. And it has never lost that image.

And, because where there is money involved, and where there is money there is corruption, and there is a profit to be made. But, cycling will forever be associated with the death of Tommy Simpson, because there were drugs and a bit of alcohol involved. And we’ve never shaken that image off.

I ride a bike for two hours every other day…whenever I ride a bike for four or five hours I’m buggered for two or three days and I’m in my early fifties. But even allowing for half of my age I don’t know how they do it. I can’t say that it is too extreme but if you take the extremity away from cycling…then there is no more sport. But it is the sort of sport where you are always going to have people looking for…not just the edge but just to be able to ride the next day. I don’t know the answers.

There are people in the marketing side of the sport who say that “We should never let it come out in the public”, because other sports hide their indiscretions. They are trying to protect the business side of the sport, which is what cycling is, a business. The only way to go is to clean up the sport as much as we possibly can, and to be the example to other sports to show that we are doing the best possible.

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