Monday, May 23, 2011

tyler, george, lance and doping

Last night, Tyler Hamilton came clean on "60 minutes".

Great. Truly, if it helps to ease his conscience -- it won't undo the damage to his legacy -- I'm glad for him.
But seriously, all this truth-telling after the fact does nothing to clean up doping in cycling or any other sport.
The fact remains that, in order to be "competitive", athletes must resort to cheating by using performance-enhancing substances. It has been this way for years -- in some sports, for decades.

Sweetie, who is relatively new to following bicycle racing, has been watching the Giro (indeed, she's seen more of it than I have) with interest and asked me what I thought about all this "coming clean". Do you think all these guys are doping? She asked me.

We were watching Alberto Contador roll almost effortlessly to another time bonus on another ridiculously mountainous stage of the Giro, his third climbing stage in as many days. And just he'd done in the previous two mountain stages, he looked fresh as a daisy at the end of a 5-climb, 200km stage -- while other riders cracked and bonked and were clearly cooked. I invited Sweetie to consider how fresh Contador has looked at the end of every stage he's done well in, day after day. How does anyone, I asked, look that good day after day while other guys are practically dying up there? The man who won the stage, after smiling wanly for the cameras, looked like he wanted to roll right into the bushes and hurl for 20 minutes. Contador looked like he'd just been out on a 35-mile charity ride. If he's not doping, I told Sweetie, then no one else is, either. And I'm sorry, but I just don't believe that anymore.

Tyler Hamilton's admissions of guilt, the handwringing and everything else, while it may provide him some measure of release, does next to nothing to clean up cycling. George Hincapie's testimony about how he and Lance Armstrong helped each other use EPO during their time as teammates at US Postal or Discovery doesn't make a difference. Not when Armstrong donates $125,000 to the [non-profit] UCI (the international governing body of bicycle racing) to fund "anti-doping" work, and manages to avoid testing positive for drugs every single time. Even if Lance is caught, he will have enough money to live on for a long time. He'll be fine.


So I admit that my interest in the Giro is waning a bit. It's tough to watch these guys and get hung up on whether or not they're doping. At the elite, professional level of the sport, nearly all of them are. They have to, in order to hang with the peloton and to keep their careers intact. And I just don't really care much anymore. I am turning my attention to my own racing, which begins soon and which I know won't see drug scandals and big money and other things that turn young mens' heads. It'll just be about racing hard, doing one's best, and enjoying that ice-cold beer with friends afterwards. That's racing. Come watch, and be amazed for real.

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