Frankly, I’m not especially interested in pro-level cycling. In the real world, you have to consider details like flat tires and chain life and can’t toss your bike at someone to have the bar tape re-done. You can’t have a follow-car trailing you with spare bits and pieces or switch bikes as needed. And it takes something that is a beautiful participatory activity that is both transportation and recreation and turns it into a spectator sport for people getting fat watching on TV. It also means that people tend to want to buy whatever bike the tour de france riders are riding instead of a more rational and comfortable and sturdy bike.
And this doesn’t even include the whole repeated incidents of doping. Because it is a sport of superheroes and marketing, if the top-level teams decide that they don’t want to play hard that day because they don’t like having their radios taken away or doping controls, they can just decide to have a boring day and suddenly nobody wants to watch because there’s not any attacks or exciting action. Just people riding across the screen.
The real story of Lance Armstrong might come out in the coming years. There’s a lot of ways the story doesn’t quite line up… but it’s not like they caught the dude pulling a used syringe out of his arm or anything. I’ve heard a lot of really persuasive arguments in either direction. Big thing is that a lot of athletes pass just as many test as Lance did and still get caught doping… or eventually decide that they ought to confess.
Now, Lance has parlayed his success on the bike into a big famous media personality thing. Complete with the LiveStrong foundation (and there are concerns about how good of a charity it actually is) and pile of people who have read his books and heard his story and become inspired by it. Not that I think that a person’s charity excuses their crimes. And, frankly, if you are going to get inspired by what amounts to a fictional story, full of axterixes and daggers pointing to EPO, you might as well make a new fictional story from whole cloth.
But it did bother me to read that people have been caught with banned substances in their urine for bike races of the level where the winner gets a nice pair of socks.
The underlying problem is that in some years, all top 8 finishers of the Tour de France have been caught in doping scandals. Either Lance didn’t dope and he’s such a mutant that he’s able to out-do all those racers (or, as has happened in the past, for example some of the drugs that Eddie Merckx was caught using aren’t on the list because they don’t actually help) or he had to dope in order to keep up.. and it’s frankly pretty lame to think that he was ‘forced’ to do it.
The parties involved simply don’t see it in their best interest to have a truly pure and un-doped sport. Frankly, I don’t think that most of the world of sports is that interested in purity, just ratings.
Me? I think I’ll idolize rock stars instead of sports stars. At least then when they get caught with a pile of drugs, it won’t come as quite the unpleasant surprise.