Yesterday I tweeted (in Dutch): Don’t panic. Clean cycling exists: it’s called women’s cycling. Boy, did I get slagged off for that. Had I gone insane? Was I that stupid? That naive? And I was obviously a liar, because all cyclists dope, including women. And no, nobody was going to believe me if I said otherwise.
Of course male sports journo’s on twitter were quick to come up with the names of the handfull of women who were caught doping. As if something like five caught individuals over, say the last decade, could ever be compared to the structural and organized use of doping in men’s cycling. But no, this doping scandal, they told me, concerns the whole cycling community. It should hurt us women as much as it hurts our male colleagues. And if I thought otherwise, I clearly didn’t have a passion for the sport, someone even dared to tell me.
Yes, this doping scandal makes me extremely sad – as the follower, viewer and fan I also am. But as a female cyclist, it mainly makes me very angry. Angry that now when the news is negative, all of a sudden people see us as ‘real’ cyclists. Normally we are just silly girls riding a bike. Sweeties who train hard and want to be athletes – but who aren’t to be taken seriously at all.
Because that’s how these same journo’s react when I write about women’s cycling on twitter. Women’s cycling? O please, they reply. That’s just a hobby. And we definitely shouldn’t call it professional; being a pro is a whole different ball game. Men’s cycling, that’s the real deal. Us women won’t ever come anywhere close to something like that.
It almost makes you wish our sport will be considered inferior for years to come, because it’s the best remedy against doping use. As long as women get this little attention, big sponsors don’t want to invest and as a consequence we don’t earn enough to make a decent living. The only performance enhancing drug we can afford is a cup of coffee.
Unfortunately the shit happening in men’s cycling does affect us women. Big time. No one believes me when I say most female cyclists are clean. It bugs me enormously that the ones who normally go around proclaiming women’s cycling isn’t a real sport, now act as if we are one of the guys. So it’s not surprising that, as a consequence, the public thinks the women’s peloton is as bad as the men’s.
Because hey, who is a sports fan going to believe? A journalist who claims women also dope? Or a female cyclist who says otherwise? After the way I got told off on twitter yesterday, I know who they will believe. It doesn’t matter what I say. I am a cyclist, so I am a liar. Thanks very much, gentlemen.
Translation help: @ponckster