Trickle Down theory is generally a term used to describe the belief that if high income earners are thrown a bucket load more dirty cash by way of pay increases, bonuses, tax relief and the like, then eventually, like rivulets of champagne and pearls of caviar flowing from the table to be greedily scoffed by street urchins lurking beneath, somehow some of this money will eventually filter through to all sections of society.
Yes, I know, but hey, some people still believe the earth is flat and others still (usually closely related to those who think the earth is flat) believe that the dinosaur bones that are scattered hither and tither across the globe are God’s idea of a crafty joke. Stick to the day job God, or try some knock-knock jokes to get started, massive bones hidden deep in ancient sediment to confuse us must have seemed hilarious after 3 bottles of Pinot Noir but, on sober reflection, you should have realized it’s not that much of a hoot.
Anyway, the term ‘trickle down’ came from a comedian, and no, his name isn’t Ronald Reagan, despite the fact that the former cowboy turned cowboy-President is the figure most closely associated with the theory. The comedian’s name was Will Rogers, who mocked President Herbert Hoover’s Depression-era recovery efforts, saying that "money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes it would trickle down to the needy.”
Some folk and indeed some governments still hold fast to the Trickle Down theory, which is interesting, and by ‘interesting ‘ I mean insane, as even the International Monetary Fund (which to the uninitiated is kind of like FIFA on a heady mix of steroids and crack cocaine) have confirmed that TDF theory is, in a word, bollocks.
Read all about it here, it’s a bit of a whopper, but it’s fascinating stuff. Basically five of the world’s top economists came to the conclusion that "Income distribution matters for growth. Specifically, if the income share of the top 20 percent increases, then GDP growth actually declined over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down.”
They then did not go on to add “and by the way, the earth is NOT flat and dinosaurs were indeed real, and that alone should be enough to let you wonder at both the incredible glory of life itself and the amazing confluence of factors and massively long odds that brought us humans to be on this messed up planet we live on, so there's a middle finger up to Creationism” but they really should have.
So, we’re agreed, Trickle Down with regards to economics does not work, but I have good news: it’s working a treat in cycling...
Seemingly Reaganite by heart, in the modern era of the sport we can thank former UCI president Hein Verbruggen and his sidekick Pat McQuaid along with a host of team managers, proper dodgy doctors of near-death, a bunch or race organisers, sponsors and journalists who were ‘just doing their job’ and the top riders themselves for starting the process that now sees doping rife - yes, rife - amongst amateur cyclists. It was this lot, you see, that allowed the riders to dope with impunity, that had a vision of the sport which required a star system where amazing and unbelievable feats had to be churned out over cobbles, bergs and in the high Alps and Pyrenees, one that demanded, no less, that its participants almost universally turned their bodies into very thin pin cushions.
There were some, bless them, that tried to do it clean, the dears, but they soon were dissuaded of that idea, having to either walk away from the sport they loved and, let’s not forget, were pretty damn good at to have got to where they did clean, or to acquiesce and join the rest in doing fair impressions of a human drugs cabinet, hurtling along on two wheels, clinking its way to glory, success and lots of cash.
This went on for years, with the odd blip in the master plan, like when the Festina staff member got stopped with enough EPO in his car to resurrect a Brontosaurus, and then with Operation Puuerto, then with Pantani and on up to Lance who was basically T-Rex on HGH, but it was, on reflection, pretty smooth sailing there for a good while. The guys that doped and got popped? No fear, they now manage, many of them, big, famous, top-tier teams, or they work as commentators or coaches, or own cycling stores and the odd hotel, or have hugely successful Gran Fraudos, sorry, Gran Fondos.
Lance, George and Levi chillin' post-race
But what happened, and why Trickle Down works so well in cycling, is that a whole generation and then some of amateur riders looked at these pros and thought “Well gee, if they are doing it and winning, why the flip can’t I do the same?”
So they did. They went to gyms and got steroids, went to doctors and got HGH, went online to Joe 'I Can Be The Change' Papp or some Chinese website and got EPO, picked up the package, went to the toilet back home, dropped their trousers and shot that tingly hot moneyshot of super dodgy EPO right into their arse cheeks. And then, WINNING, a fortnight later they SMASHED their buddies on the 100 mile club run and WHO’S THE SUCKER NOW, SUCKERS!
I am not exaggerating. This is happening, and what about when these guys get popped? They do like the pros, mumble a heart-not-felt apology and exit by the back door. But why are they taking this road in the first place? Because, you see, it really isn’t cheating at all. Just a short while back, Britain’s junior national time trial champion Gabriel Evans, an 18-year-old from London, was caught for EPO. He admitted taking the drug, good lad, as you should do when it's been found in your system and there really is nothing to admit. Then he explained why he decided to do it in the first place, saying it had become “normalised and justified” in his mind because he’d read about others regularly being caught, so therefore assumed there must be a truckload doing the same. Sound familiar? It should, because Lance Armstrong said the exact same thing.
And so, boom. Trickle Down. Alive and well. Another well known case was that of Oscar Tovar, the 32-year-old winner of the 2015 Gran Fondo New York. The GFNY is run by Uli Fluhme and his wife, and it is a series of races around the globe with a strict anti-doping policy: if you’ve ever been sanctioned for doping, you can ride the route but cannot race. It also has a strict testing policy too, one that caught Tovar for synthetic testosterone.
Flume explained why they have this testing in place and its basically because more and more amateurs are doping.
”It's important for us to do what we can to make our race fair,” said Flume, “of which doping controls are an integral part. Simply looking away and not testing the athletes is the worst decision that a race director can make because it forces everyone to take drugs to try to level the playing field.
“We continue our efforts to provide our athletes fair racing conditions through in- and out of competition doping controls, despite it being a substantial cost for GFNY. The ultimate goal is not to catch cheaters but to deter them from racing at all.”
We need more Uli Fluhmes, more people who are in positions that can make decisions that will help people who refuse to dope to stay in love with their sport.
If only those old school boys from the early 90s and on, the commissaires, the bureaucrats, the doctors, the managers and the pros too had had the same attitude, we might not be dealing with the effects of this very successful Trickle Down effect that we see coming to fruition so bountifully right now…