Just Say…..

Is doping the ruination of professional cycling? Some people seem to think so, and are taking it to the streets like so many latter-day Nancy Reagans.


At least it’s not “Just Say No” or “Get Doped on Life.”

The parallels between doping prohibitions and other kinds of prohibitions are unmistakable. Doping bans certainly are just as effective as alcohol and drug prohibitions have been, and the primary beneficiaries are those who violate the bans. Doping is big business, and making it scarce through bans makes it more lucrative.

Athletes have a powerful, rational desire to improve their performance using all methods available, and one can’t help but wonder if lifting bans on “illicit” performance enhancement wouldn’t be a better way to deal with the problem. What, after all, is the problem with doping? That it can cause harm to the dopers? That it makes for an uneven playing field? That the resulting performances aren’t real?

Wouldn’t each of these problems be addressed, each in its own way, if athletes could dope openly?

Flame away.


dude, that’s so fly!  Seriously I need one.

All right, let’s think about this.  Some are really into the technology of biking, so isn’t doping just another technology?  Can’t this be thought of as another way to lighten the load or generate another km/hr?

Perhaps the rule should be if you die from complications of doping, you get your name slagged for the rest of all time and the next non-doping contestant gets your jersey.

Or perhaps dual TdFs, one for “enhanced” athletes and one for real ones.

Doping has been part of the Tour for a long time. In the very beginning it was alcohol and ether to numb the pain. In the 1967 the first rider died from use of amphetamines. Sport is never fair. The playing field is never level. Some riders have stronger legs not by training but by genetic disposition.  Of course riders have to be protected from themselves by prohibiting dangerous practices (blood doping?) but EPO does not make a bad rider good. It makes a good rider a little better. On doping the performances are still real to me.. I know few people think like that.

If I wanted to watch chemically-enhanced athletes perform, I might as well watch old episodes of battle-bots. The Tour is impressive because it shows what people (men) can do through training and passion. I’m drawn to it because of the amazing performances that these athletes pull off, and if I have to wonder if its their efforts or their doping that is the cause of it all, watching it is less sweet for me.

As David Millar confessed last year, EPO and other drugs allow athletes to train harder and aren’t a magic pill to allow you to sit on the couch all day then drop eveyone on the climb. The athletes are working harder than ever and if you look at Rasmoo’s performance, he was a transformed rider; especially with Cantador and Levi riding themselves into the ground and he didn’t crack. Everyone was questioning that, and like [Lemond said this week](http://www.tdfblog.com/2007/07/walsh-contador-.html), the peloton is riding faster than ever . . .

Where I’m at on this, is that I don’t believe anyone and any drug finding isn’t going to surprise me, but the lab is still suspect, it’s political, and chaotic with leaks, and agendas.

Interestingly is that the testosterone is turning up again, while the Landis defense was that no one used testosterone and we just had a tour rider admit it.

If doping is openly permitted, where does that leave those who want to compete without abusing themselves. Where does that leave the sport in 10 years when people like myself will do everything possible to dissuade my children from any interest in professional cycling? It’s a stupidly short-sighted solution to the problem.

Agreed Fritz and just imagine the utter chaos if Zelig stopped protecting the baseball franchise . . . or for reference, football allows felons with guns to play. Stateside we get Bonds and Costas bickering, but he makes top of the hour news with another home run.

During yesterday’s coverage, I think Johan’s comments about the event itself are true or Lemond’s comments that the racers are actors on a bigger stage and next year another set of characters will emerge. If anything, the tour’s work to cleanse itself is working as unpleasant as that is.

Jessica: You’re already watching chemically enhanced performances. The difference is, if doping was brought into the light, you wouldn’t be deluded about it and could choose for yourself whether a particular competition is interesting, knowing how the competitors have doped.

Note that competitors, sponsors, teams, professional cycling bodies, and broadcasters all have a vested interest in keeping doping illegal—because you might lose interest if you knew how many of the performances are “fake.”

Fritz: Where is the sport today? Who wants to watch a sport in which any winner is automatically under suspicion by virtue of winning?

On the other hand, open up doping, and the doping technologists can start competing for safety and effectiveness, instead of competing for undetectability.

In 10 years, the field might once again be flat—with everyone having equal access to the same technology, success will fall to the competitor who has the will-power, dedication training, and ability, instead of the competitor who has the the best doctors and lawyers.

Jason - very true, which is why I’m so disgusted with this. It’s disappointing to learn that what makes me enjoy cycling is a sham. Performance-enhanced athletes are a turn off, and if I had known that everyone was doping then I wouldn’t have watched the Tour at all. I’d rather have doping eliminated entirely.

One other very practical issue is that right now businesses don’t much want to support dopers.  If you do get sweeping societal changes and people view doping as no big deal, then that’s one thing, but in the meantime, dopers are going to kill professional cycling. 

And I’m not some staunch opponent of doping.  I’m opposed to it for health and business reasons, but in my estimation taking an approved pain killer (like aspirin) is doping in the sense it is an artificial means to improve one’s ability to perform. 

Where do you draw the line?  Hell, the stitches in Vino’s knees were artificial means to improve performance, too. 

All this said, the idiots who dope are going to put an end to cycling just as it starts to become ever so slightly popular in the US.  People like Schumacher and Kohl ought to be put in a catapult and slung over the Alps.


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