Friday, February 17, 2012

I'll Run You Through.

One thing i have watched with interest, as the cult of cycling grows in melbourne and abroad, is the obsession over doping in professional cycling, both now and in the past. Since the Festina affair in 1998, widespread doping has been suspected and investigated a great deal in all facets of professional cycling. In the past ten years or so, it has become de rigeur to lambast the offending cyclists as cheats, frauds, bad role models, destroyers of the sport, etc. etc.

Which really upsets me. The current generation of average, typical cycling fans are people who discovered cycling maybe, say, three to four years ago. They ride a bit, maybe they race a bit. They watch the Tour avidly and, hell, maybe they even watch the Giro, cuddled up to a blanket, in the dead of night. They probably watch the Roobaix with their mates, and yell loudly at the tv when something happens.

And here's what gets me. These are the people, when some of the superstars of the peleton are exposed as having used performance enhancing drugs, are literally calling for these rider's blood, as having destroyed their sacred sport which they have followed for, like, at least 18 months.

It's the culture of, as Gene's socks say, "Doper's Suck". There is once chance, and once chance only. An allegation, with no shred of proof is enough now for an elite athlete's reputation to be in tatters, legions of Freds calling for his public execution, for daring to try and cheat the nobility of suffering.

I can't speak for the current peleton, but it's clear that up until a few years ago, everyone in the professional cycling circuit was using performance enhancing drugs. If you wanted to win, to beat others, that's what you had to do. No doubt a lot of racers still do it. Maybe all of them do.

And that's the other thing. Do we really believe that these people enjoy it? Do we think that these people enjoy having to take a substance to make it possible for the years of their legitimate hard work to be worth anything? It's not as if i could take EPO and suddenly win the Vuelta. I would still suck. I just might suck a bit less. All of these athletes have doped because everyone else is doping and, to have a level playing field, or a chance, you gotta do the dirty too.

This isn't some few sly bastards taking advantage of suckers, this is a systematic part of training and racing, in order to achieve what the whole damn thing is about: namely winning.

And yet these people who wouldn't know Indurain from Anquetil, talk about Pantani as being a filthy cheat, a fraud, or Ullrich as having been a secondary rider. Just quietly, these riders were some of the best the world has ever seen They both doped. It doesn't remove a shred of the legitimacy of their wins, their integrity, or their way of racing. In some ways, its incredibly depressing. Imagining a bunch of skinny dudes taking stupid risks in lonely team buses, just so they can even compete at the level necessary to do the thing they love.

So to the collective witch hunters i say this: reckon it was a coincidence that Stuart O'Grady started shaving his entire body a few months before he won Paris Roobaix? No, of course it wasn't. He wanted to make sure that he didn't have any hair samples. Does it make him a dick? No, it makes him human: as someone who wanted to be competitive in a field of people who were do doubt taking the same risks to get an edge. Would we abandon him collectively if it ever came out that he was taking something? Probably.

As some famous cyclists once said: you don't win the tour on mineral water. Or something like that. Cycling, and more specifically, the grand tours, are gargantuan endeavours for the human body and the human mind. We take all sorts of advantages that are allowed, like better bikes, better nutrition, better science, better budget, so we can race better. But take an illegal performance enhancer, and suddenly you're a monster.

But maybe, just maybe, all you're trying to do is do the thing you always loved to do as best you can. Hell, if that means competing with people who are taking shortcuts, you'll fucking well take the same shortcuts. Shit, it's only fair.


Please excuse fucking Creed. It's great footage though. Mute, and play this instead:



4 comments:

  1. Spot. On. The. Money.

    Especially this: "Do we think that these people enjoy having to take a substance to make it possible for the years of their legitimate hard work to be worth anything?"

    Also: what sort of sick bastard dreams up a 3 week cycling race then gets angry when people start taking drugs to complete it?

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  2. while i agree james, i still like my socks

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  3. this is no reflection on your socks gene, they just came to mind!

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  4. the culture of doping sucks, not the riders that were forced (by their team as would happen, or via the points you made).

    as they say in the classics 'don't hate the player, hate the game' and in this case its bigger than any one rider/player.

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