Whose side are you on? The puncher or the punched? What if we said you could choose both?
Miguel Ángel López certainly caused a commotion on Saturday when he took a few well-aimed swings at a spectator who inadvertently impeded him on the final climb of this year’s Giro d’Italia. Alternatively, an idiot finally got what he deserved when he got in the way of the race.
The UCI then made things worse by ignoring their own regulations and letting López off the hook. Or, the jury allowed reason, sanity and righteousness to prevail when they decided against imposing a sanction on the Colombian for what they correctly judged a “human reaction”.
Centrism is very unfashionable these days, and the room for nuance in our discourse is shoe box sized at best. But is it possible that neither of these positions is the correct one? That a just verdict may in fact resemble a combination of both? Might both parties even deserve some sympathy?
For it seems fair to assume that rider and fan were caught up in the excitement, stress and heat of the moment.
You can argue, if you like, that the spectator started it when he decided to run alongside the riders but 999 times out of 1000, it’s an action results in no harm done to the race. We’re not condoning or encouraging behaviour of that kind, but there’s a very small part of us that thinks it adds to the televisual spectacle as well. It’s impossible to imagine that this individual would have intended to knock off López, either.
Was the reaction of the Astana rider understandable? Of course it was. Can we imagine ourselves behaving similarly in even remotely similar circumstances? Absolutely.
Both individuals, we suspect, would go back in time and undo their respective actions if they could. Superman has already apologised. Nobody seems to have found the (reportedly Slovenian) fan who he swatted to extract a quote but it seems likely that he might be feeling somewhat remorseful (not to mention sore) as well. Surely there’s a fluffy little “reunion”-style story to be told there one day?
No-one wants to see someone kicked out of a race but the letter of the law states that “acts of violence” by a rider “towards any other person [than a fellow rider]” will lead to “elimination and a 200[Swiss franc] fine”. There’s nothing currently in the rulebook that provides exception for provocation.
Even if you think there should be. Just as the Tour is the Tour, the law is the law. It can only be deemed fair – indeed it can only function – if it is applied without fear or favour. Fat chance with the UCI, you might (reasonably) think, but we can hope.