Manolo Saiz is plotting his comeback to professional cycling, according to Cyclingnews.com, and is supposedly organizing a top-level team for 2012. While Twitter and the forums are abuzz with outraged cycling fans who claim the Spaniard should somehow be refused the chance to return to the sport, I say "Venga."
There is so little money in cycling relative to the truly professional sports like the NFL, MLB and NBA - and so much instability and unpredictability - that it's incredibly short-sighted to reject Saiz based on his alleged-involvement in doping via Operación Puerto (remember, he was never convicted of anything - we must be accurate in describing the historical record). If he can secure the backing to fund a team that will employ 20-plus riders and at least that many staff, if not double, then he should be welcomed with open arms and a stern warning - or at least a reminder. Doping has been criminalized in Spain now, so Saiz wouldn't be able to escape sanction were he proved to be involved in systematic doping at the level of the team. And his riders would be controlled by the Biopassport, which adds a layer of dissuasion.
I support clean-cycling, no doubt, but at the same time, I support the right of the riders to earn a living. And unlike Formula 1, professional cycling simply cannot have too many (ProContinental) teams. If the squad offers a stable paycheck to both rider and staff alike, then in the absence of an active sanction or ban enforceable by the UCI, Manolo Saiz should be welcomed back to cycling and the positive economic impact of his efforts should be acknowledged, even while he is warned not to get up to any funny business.