LES J. PARKINSON
In last week’s notes I wrote about being ready for the off, at the time of writing I was working on the basis that by the first week in April most would be under way. However, as we all know that was not the case with coronavirus disrupting everything. The problem is, when are we going to start racing, I know it was initially announced for the last week in April, but I think that is far from what is going to happen.
I was also talking to Steve at the BHW about racing and we were saying that with the better weather we are experiencing in September the racing could be put back and start in late April. There is better weather later in the year because of the climate changes. Whereas in April we have those cold easterly winds that are no use to anyone. The problem is the average age in the sport is rather high and as we get older, we do feel the cold more. And we are less likely to want to stand in front of a pigeon loft waiting for birds from a training toss when we know they should not have been sent in the first place. As I went on to say to Steve, the decisions are made in November and December when fanciers are keen to get back into racing. If the delays continue, we cannot race from across the channel the clubs should start to make plans so that the old and young birds can be raced together, one thing is for sure the transporters would be full.
If we get little or no racing, then it is going to be interesting to see what fanciers do with their pigeons. If the opportunity is there the pigeons still need training, especially the young birds. How many fanciers will feel motivated to do anything if there is no racing available. However, if the pigeons are left on their perches how many fanciers will select the right pigeons to retain for the following season. This is always a hard thing to do because we all have a preference, a case of I like that one because it looks good. Or the breeding is spot on so needs to be retained. Yet in both those cases we all know that we are very often wrong, that shows up by the end of the season. If they are raced or at least trained, we all have something to work on. However, a few short training tosses do not select the distance pigeons. These are the times when we must be good stock people. Able to select out pigeons for both racing and training. This is not the best of times for the pigeon keepers, yes, we do still have pigeon fanciers who are quite happy to send their birds whether they win or lose and are happy to do so. There is also the possibility that those who think they can select through just seeing the birds in the loft or exercising around home can come unstuck. The following season could see heavy losses as with all pigeon fanciers. A hard time is in store if fanciers do not get any racing this year, as I have said I see no reason why there cannot be any racing, it’s not as if there are dozens of members in local clubs.
Undermining the Sport
I think certain points about the sport need making from time to time to keep fanciers aware of what is or can be going on, this is one such article. Over 20yrs ago I wrote an article with cheating in mind, has that changed today, or is there still a line that some follow because there is a financial benefit to those who can cheat and cheat successfully. Here’s what I wrote all those years ago.
I was talking to a fancier some months ago about a problem within the sport and the thought came up to address the problem and see what reaction we get. This is not directed at anyone but has been brought about via the letters page and notes made over a period. Over the last few months, I have asked the question "What percentage of people within the sport do you think are cheating". For obvious reasons I am not going to put names to comments passed but rest assured that if it is in these notes the comment has been passed. That question has brought a few raised eyebrows and responses that I never really expected, and the general feeling is that there are about 10% of competitors in pigeon racing who CHEAT. When we use the word CHEAT, we are referring to anything that is done within the sport that in any other sport would incur a strong penalty. For many years’ clocks were believed to be a source of cheating and probably still are today because we still use antiquated clocks in the UK. The major problem is that there are still many good Toulet puncturing clocks about that keep good time and are genuinely used by fanciers within the sport. But with one of these clocks there is still a doubt in the minds of many fanciers and the only way that is going to change is to drastically reduce the time allowed either fast or slow. I would assume that if fanciers had the choice, they would use the latest clocks on the market because as time goes by more up to date equipment is always going to be an improvement on the old. You will always hear rumours about one clock or another that can be manipulated within the sport, it’s more a case of some are easier than others to those who are so minded. I like the new electronic clocking systems because they would help those within the sport who are not so fortunate either health wise or in fact have any kind of disability. Those are the fanciers who we should be thinking of and should be helped as much as possible even if financed by the Blackpool Show, all they have to do is prove that they are a worthy cause. We have given away for far too long; it is now time to look after our own and I believe that this new clocking system would be a great help to many. Going back to the Toulet puncture clocks, remember my notes from a couple of weeks ago when I reported in an article the story from a Sandbach a fancier. He was telling me what they used to do when he was a lad, if they did that then imagine what can be done today.
Drugs are obviously the biggest form of cheating; I have heard the term used that they are "Gaining an advantage". No matter how you look at it using a banned substance is heating no matter what the competition. The RPRA have tried to resolve the issue through random testing but because of costs involved it has failed to make a significant impact on the sport. Years ago, there were many substances used on the Continent but because of the easy access they are now in the UK but stopping the use of such drugs is near impossible. The eye drops were a favourite at one time and the more watchful fancier could no doubt see it in the pigeons on marking night. The eye drops are good for one eye cold but then because of the content were found to improve the performance of the pigeons racing capabilities and control the moult in young birds. Many fanciers have been accused of using such illegal substances but thinking and proving are two different issues when it comes to banning someone from the sport. If an athlete is caught using them then they are banned from competition but the people who produce these drugs are getting ahead of the game. For the games that are presently in progress in Australia competitors are being randomly tested for the new drugs that have been previously unable to be detected. Unconfirmed reports are that there were 7.5% caught on the Continent during last season, I have asked a few questions that may lead to the facts for a future article. One thing you can be sure of in Australia someone somewhere will be using something in the hope that they do not get caught because the rewards are very high indeed. Whether we like it or not drugs are a part of sport and they will never be stopped unless everyone who won a prize of no matter what was tested.
Can we beat drugs, I believe we can by sheer hard work but when it comes to a hobby there are only a limited amount who are prepared to put enough work in to reach their goal.
One response I got when I asked the question that I totally agree with is that there are about 10% who can successfully use drugs with the racing pigeon but there are a lot more who have tried and failed. The use of drugs will in the long term have an adverse effect on the pigeons that will be the downfall of a loft and are not worth anyone dabbling into if they are genuine fanciers. In the questionnaire that I now put out I have added the question "If random drugs tests were carried out on your pigeons, would it reveal any substance, illegal or otherwise". I am awaiting the response from fanciers. I obviously would not expect anyone to admit to it but I would like to know if there would be a substance which does not necessarily mean drugs.
We have recently seen the case in Ireland where one of the most respected fanciers in the sport stepped over the line, not with drugs I might add. When temptation is there some people will never be able to resist taking advantage and I am not saying it with all clubs but where there are a few members only temptation is always going to be there. This raises the question of the smaller clubs, there are some good small clubs but on the other hand there are those where there have been many suspect performances over the years. Some of those suspected are no doubt genuine but there will always be a doubt. Any cheating in any club is always down to the rest of the members because they are the ones who put the temptation there in the first place. Over the years fanciers who have put up good performances with good pigeons have quietly had the finger pointed at them but are genuine, that will never stop. So, what do we do to try to avert any temptation in the smaller clubs, one way would be to put a starter point of members attending marking and clock nights? Then at the season if that point was not consistently met the club be refused RPRA membership for the following year. Standards would have to be raised which would effectively raise the standard of competition within the clubs. No matter what the size of the club you can always get someone trying to cheat but you must remember that the greater the competing membership the lesser the chance of something happening. We know that there should be so many fanciers there for marking etc but from the stories we hear that does not always happen that is an area that desperately needs addressing for the better of the sport. Where there are large amounts of money involved there is always going to be doubt in the minds of those who stick to the straight and narrow and race pigeons because they are genuine fanciers. There are still many fanciers about who are quite happy to go along at their own pace sending the pigeons every week for their own personal enjoyment. Those are the fanciers who keep the sport going because not everyone is always going to be a winner, no matter what the competition is. Why not let me have your thoughts on the subject and we can give a few thoughts out to the rest of the readers. There will not be any names used regarding info received and published.
Have things changed since I wrote that article, to be honest I don’t know enough to comment even though I am aware that there has been cheating via the clocking in system. But with the ETS I don’t think that is the case, unless someone is given a free run on their own or at least with one other in tow to mark own birds.