Monday, June 6, 2011

Doping in Cycling

You could just tell from the title that this would be a cheery welcome back to the blog, right?  I will try to not go on too much of a diatribe, but a couple of things seem interesting and noteworthy in the sea of words written on this topic recently.  

First, Lance Armstrong.  Yes, you have to acknowledge that he has not failed any drug tests.  If I don't, I would expect a hit squad of lawyers to begin attacking my credibility (of which I admittedly have little).  That aside, a couple of thoughts.  At some point don't you have to have something to say other than "he's a liar" or "he's changed his story"?  The whole thing about doping is 1) you aren't supposed to do it, which means that you HAVE to lie about doing it before you get caught - otherwise it defeats the purpose, right?; and 2) after you get caught and want to come clean, that NECESSARILY means that the story is changed.  Does that make the person a liar, yes, because they violated the rules and usually said they weren't, but does that mean the person has NO credibility.  No, it doesn't.  Character assassination is now an accepted part of any PR battle, but at some point the process wears thin when it is repeatedly so predictable.  

Next up, Alberto Contador.  Oh boy Alberto.  

If you watch any competitive sport at the top level - and I mean ANY - ping pong, track, swimming, skiing, you name it - the top level competitors are very close.  Sometime incredibly close.  I think, in fact, that when you are measuring World Cup Skiing or Olympic Swimming in 1/1000's of a second, isn't it pretty much pointless?  I would say that it is except that it is impressive that some athletes manage to be that couple of thousandths of a second better repeatedly.  I don't know how you do that, but it does prove that the level of competition is very very close.  So, contrast that with the Giro d'Italia.  Contador was the strongest guy, BY FAR, every single day.  He literally rode away from every guy every day.  Doesn't that strike you as suspicious?  Particularly from a guy who is currently in the process of being prosecuted for a performance enhancing drug use?  

So, point one - I didn't enjoy watching the race because it was hard to not dwell on the possibility, nea likelihood, that Contador was enjoying the benefit of pharmaceutical help to his race.

Point two - How can Steve Schlonger and Todd Gugugulski not SAY ANYTHING about the possibility of PED's in Contador's riding.  Not a comment, not a hint, not a joke, not a mention whatsoever about the concept.  Now that is a crock of shit.  Seriously.

Similarly, did anyone think it was odd when three guys on the RadioShack team rode away from the entire peloton on the Mt. Baldy stage?  A heretofore unknown guy literally paced two teammates while every single international level rider fell behind.  Impressive, no?  Umm.  Anyone remember the picture of three Mapei riders crossing the Paris-Roubaiux finish together.  Something fishy then, something fishy now.  Speaking of which, is Schleck going to not only keep up but hand Horner his ass in one month at the TdF?  Could be for a lot of very valid reasons - at almost 40 Horner can't stay at or get back to peak fitness for TdF; that Schleck had an undisclosed injury or illness; that Schleck will gain a lot of fitness in training and racing in the meantime - but is it also possible that Schleck (who paid thousands of Euros to the Operation Puerto doc for "training plans" only) might have a bit of an extra "kick" by the time the TdF comes around?  I have no idea, but I hate that the sport I love causes me to be so cynical about it.

Lastly, on my uplifting doping diatribe, I think that Gerard Vroomen, one of the founders of Cervelo, deserves a lot of credit for his recent comments about this issue recently.  Here is a link to a story about the blogs: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/vroomen-on-doping-the-media-basso-and-schleck.  Here is a link to his actual blog: http://gerard.cc/.  The dude does have an unusually large cranium, but I like what is coming out of it.

Next up, more doping discussion.

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