The Cyclist You Didn’t Hear About This Week

Simon Hattenstone applauds the career of gold medalist Nicole Cooke, who retired from cycling this week at the age of 29:

[Cooke] has always said it as she has seen it, and never more so than in her retirement speech, in which she pulled what was left of the rug out from under her beloved sport. Slowly and methodically, she exposed every aspect of corruption in professional cycling, from doping to gross gender inequality. It took 20 minutes to deliver, and was greeted by journalists with stunned silence, then sustained applause. …

On her first Tour de France, she shared a house with other cyclists. When she opened the fridge she discovered it was full of medicines, which she promptly chucked out. Were the other women annoyed with her? She laughs, and says no they just pretended to be appalled and said they knew nothing about them. “A couple of weeks later, my team stopped paying the wages for me and my team mate, who had also said no. We were the only two riders who didn’t get our wages for the rest of the year.”

Her thoughts on Lance Armstrong:

He’s a criminal. He has stolen people’s livelihoods. There must be thousands of clean athletes scrabbling around on the bottom end of the employment structure because that’s all that’s possible, and he’s taken away their career… Of course, Lance Armstrong should go to jail. At the moment his punishment is not in line with the crimes he has committed. For the sport to genuinely clean itself up, the punishment has to be severe so not one would even think of doping.

Jane Martinson argues that Cooke deserves another medal “for turning the spotlight on the injustice and inequality” in cycling:

Like nearly all women’s sports in the UK, cycling suffers from a chicken-and-egg situation: a relative lack of prestige results in a lack of media coverage, sponsorship or support. The Commission on the Future of Women’s sport revealed that 0.5% of sponsorship in this country went to elite women’s sports in an 18-month period of 2010-11 compared with 61% for men.

But what Cooke has done is provide inside knowledge of how these overall figures hide deeper injustices in the way women are treated. Among the shocking things she discusses is that the sport’s governing body, the UCI Road Commission, has stated that a minimum wage is required for all male professionals, but not women. How on earth are they allowed to get away with such blatant discrimination?

By the way, a reader “boiled down the Armstrong interview” so you don’t have to watch it:

I did wrong.

But it was quite awhile ago.

And it’s not as much wrong as people think.

And I stopped on this particular date:  please note date in connection with the statute of limitations for perjury since even though I can afford to pay buckets of money as a consequence of civil suits, I’m far too pretty to go to prison.

And anyway, I wasn’t in charge.

And I have no excuse.  Except that I kinda do.  Did you know I had cancer and have only one ball?

And I’m truly, truly sorry.

Anyway, can’t we all just move on now?  Glad I got this off my chest.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity, Oprah.