My guilty secret

I have a secret to admit. I still like Pro Tour cycle racing. I try to talk about my secret to friends who used to listen to me, and they all say that after Floyd Landis tested positive, they lost all faith and interest in the sport.

I have to admit, they have a major point. I mean, look at the facts. Operation Puerto proved two things:

  1. Many, if not all, major cycle racers are dirty, and probably have been for years.
  2. Although those major cycle racers have been tested over and over again before or after racing, none of them have ever tested positive for anything.

Therefore I have to think that the dopers are currently winning the constant war between dopers and testers and probably have some unbeatable masking method. Therefore, for Floyd Landis to test positive, especially for a drug that doesn’t really help that much on race day and is more useful for long term training, means to me one of two things:

  1. Something about Floyd’s monumental “bonk” the previous stage ruined his masking regime OR
  2. the irregularities in the test process are the result of a concerted effort by French cycling to sabotage non-French, especially American riders, and since they never managed to catch Lance they’ll settle for Floyd.

I really want to believe Floyd Landis. I really do. I think he is a great cyclist, and a great hero to those of us who try to keep living our lives through pain. But I wanted to believe in Ivan Basso as well, and he’s as guilty as sin.

But through all the uncertainty, all the cheating and accusations of cheating, I still watch. And I still enjoy it. There is no other sport that combines the extreme sustained athleticism, the team tactics, the agony and the ecstasy. And I’ll be watching Le Tour next month like I’ve watched every year on the edge of my seat.

If anybody cares, here’s what I think from watching the run-up:

  • I want Levi Leipheimer to win it but
  • Vinokourov will probably win it.

Leipheimer is a great cyclist, and it’s great to see him finally leading a great team, but Vino’s Astana team looked unbeatable at Dauphine-Libre. Two years ago, I blogged about how Vino and George Hincapie were vying to be the next team leaders. Since that time, Hincapie has looked less and less like a potential team leader and Vinokourov has just looked better and better.

4 thoughts on “My guilty secret”

  1. Let me ask you this: if everyone is doing it, is it really cheating?

    I wonder how exactly our current anti-performance enhancing drugs culture came about. Is it a result of the East German teams plus the Cold War? We need to find out why “we” don’t want athletes who “cheat”, where the lines around “cheating” are drawn, and maybe whether they should be drawn at all. Also, compare how baseball players and cyclists are being treated compared to football players who have been caught with steroids and other PEDs.

  2. Yeah, we had that discussion back in August 2006. Athletes are killing themselves, and not always because they want to.

    I think it would be better to level the playing field at a level that isn’t killing people. It’s just as exciting to watch riders riding at 42km/hr as it is to watch them riding at 46km/hr.

  3. I think it would be better to level the playing field at a level that isn’t killing people.

    Is there any evidence that current doping techniques are causing immediate health effects? When EPO first became popular, some number of athletes dropped dead because of overdosing but it has been awhile since I’ve heard of people dropping dead.

    Even if there are no short term effects, the long term effects of better performances through chemistry can be dire, witness the parade of East German athletes with serious health complications. But I don’t think any athlete considers the long term effects.

    It’s just as exciting to watch riders riding at 42km/hr as it is to watch them riding at 46km/hr.

    I think the pressure to win isn’t coming so much from the economic pressures (win races = more $$$) as from the athletes themselves. When you are at that level, you already proved you have an overdeveloped competitive urge. While economic benefits of winning are considerable, I think just winning is more important to them.

    As for Floyd, it wasn’t the increasingly transparent denials that put me off, or even the probable doping, it was the whole misbegotten LeMond affair (not that Greg LeMond is not wacky all on his own) that killed whatever sympathy I had for Landis.

  4. I hear ya Paul. Willing suspension of disbelief, that’s what I subscribe to. It’s still a great sport; it’s got speed, drama, danger and incredible displays of aerobic ability. Some will dope, some will not. I still love it too, Paul. I read three cycling mags a month and I’m in as deep as I used to be with aviation. I’m not gonna let some cheaters ruin the overall enjoyment I have for bicycles and racing.

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