Eyes Wide Open

Today I read one of the saddest statements I’ve ever seen with respect to the Tour de France:

“It’s almost impossible to be at the front of the pack these days without doping,” the Montreal lawyer said.

[ the lawyer being World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound]

Where will it end? And what in the world does this mean (from the same article):

Race director Christian Prudhomme said the case showed that cycling’s drug-testing system doesn’t work.

“It’s an absolute failure of the system,” he said. “It is a system which does not defend the biggest race in the world. This is a system which can’t last.”

What is a failure of the system? Is he really suggesting that we should turn a blind eye toward doping so the show can go on? Doesn’t sound like much of a solution to me but perhaps I have the wrong interpretation and he really meant something else.

Hat’s off to Moreni for not engaging in a lot of lies and whining. If you get caught cheating please take it like an athlete. Accept the results and step aside.

Shame on him for trying to get away with doping, though. What are these guys thinking? Detection seems inevitable. I guess it all goes back to the sad statement of the day. And what a sad statement it is.

Oh how I long for the days when athletes had as much integrity as they had ambition and where the winners really were winners because they had the raw talent and the passion and the drive. Of course that pretty much pre-dates performance enhancing drugs. Those days are long gone and the last thing we need is the public shrugging their shoulders and saying doping is okay or that the result is more important than the process or that sports is just entertainment so so what? You hear that more with baseball and football but bear with me.

Athletes, like it or not , are role models. Children admire athletes and aspire to grow up to be just like them. Do we want our kids growing up to be brave enough to ingest chemicals that can harm them but that make them preternaturally strong so they can win? I’m pretty sure we don’t. And do we want our athletically inclined girls growing up aspiring to be Playboy models? I don’t think so.

Sports isn’t just sports any more. It is a cash flow engine and that cash comes right out of our pockets. I’ve never been a pro nor do I play one on TV but I’ve got to believe that the passion that puts a fire in the belly of an age group athlete is soon altered when you go pro. And for boys in high school looking to become pros in any of the big 3 sports the lures that have nothing to do with a passion for sports are already there putting stars in their eyes – the money, the fancy houses and cars, the babes.

In addition to the money there is the desire to win and the hero worship that goes with that. Athletes are by definition competitive people and if you can out compete the next guy or gal by taking EPO or getting a transfusion or using steroids the temptation to resist that has to come from the proper reward/punishment structure. Getting caught cheating has to hurt not only financially but morally and spiritually as well. That’s the part that is missing.

It is up to us to fix this problem because no one who is getting rich off the status quo is going to willingly shoot their cash cow. We need to voice our opinions. We need to demand tougher penalties for doping. We need to protest events by not buying tickets. We have to stop subscribing to magazines that turn a blind eye toward this behavior and that put hero worship ahead of laudable behavior both on and off the course. We have to demand news coverage that holds athletes who engage in criminal activity accountable for their lack of moral fiber .

If getting caught doping made you a giant loser in the public eye then maybe the risk/reward equation would favor rectitude over attitude, sweat over swagger and honesty over hubris. As it is bad behavior gets you good press and cheating costs you a few bucks and a couple of years. People forget and you move on and you are soon back in the game. As long as you win you are a hero.

Do you suppose that’s what Christian Prudhomme meant when he said we have a failed system? Do you suppose when he said “defend” he meant “protect”? I certainly hope so.

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16 Responses to Eyes Wide Open

  1. And did you hear? Now Rasmussen is out! his own team booted him out of suspicion!

    Oh, the drama.

  2. jeanne says:

    it’s very sad. the system worked, the athlete failed. it’s very very sad.

  3. david says:

    It is a travesty to the sport. It has no credibility. I don’t imagine many children look up to pro riders. I suspect it’s more us adults who are attracted to the bike. And we are surely disappointed. It makes you wonder about the others in the transition area, n’est ce pas?

  4. Juls says:

    sad. very sad.

  5. Alex says:

    The real problem is, doping in the sport can be like speeding on the interstate – enforcement is out there, and if you do it enough, someday you’ll probably get caught, but if you’re lucky it won’t be today. The risk of getting caught on any particular day isn’t great enough, and because of that, athletes are willing to roll the dice. They hope that they won’t get chosen for random testing, or the labs will mess up the sample if they do get tested. As I understand it, the guys on the podium are the only ones that get tested every time they cross the line, and the rest are just subject to random testing. I was subject to random testing by the NCAA, which I know is a completely different body than governs professional cycling, but in the four years I competed in D1 college athletics (which only ended last year) I was only tested ONCE. Sure, Vino won the stage, so he got tested and busted, but what about all of those middle-packers that might need a little help on a particular day? Chances are, they may roll the dice, and it might pay off. It’s gotten to the point where there needs to be an ultimate reality to getting caught – you do it, you get busted, 100% of the time, no matter who you are. Otherwise the culture of doping will continue.

  6. Alex says:

    Sorry, one thing I have to argue with. Personally, I think Amanda Beard probably saw posing for playboy as a way of empowering herself. I don’t necessarily agree with her, but if she feels strongly that way, I support her in that decision. Similarly, I support Daniel Radcliffe’s decision to play a role in Equus in the nude. Both are role models for today’s youth, but I don’t think their decisions are making today’s youth necessarily want to pose for Playboy or take controversial roles in theater. Rather, they are teaching that it is ok to follow one’s own path and make decisions that you feel are right for you. If I had children, I would want them to be able to think and make decisions for themselves rather than just follow what everyone else wants them to be. I also applaud them for taking a step away from the idea that nudity is an intrinsically bad thing. I feel like we live in a society that is so ashamed of our bodies that it is harmful. When I was younger, I remember feeling like I had to stay clothed at all times, even in the locker room, because if someone saw you naked it was bad. It even effects the kind of swim suits boys wear on competitive swim teams. “Jammers” have been all the rage since they came out because it meant boys didn’t have to show as much skin. Isn’t all that just a little silly? I’m definitely conservative when it comes to my body, but I refuse to be ashamed of it. Neither Beard nor Radcliffe can be accused of being ashamed of their bodies.

    Ok, sorry, I’m off the soapbox. Otherwise, I think you’re spot on. Great post!

  7. Alex,

    Thanks for the education on doping. It just seems like to try to get away with it AND be a front runner is absurd. It’s so unlikely you won’t get caught. Now, with many of the frontrunners getting busted I almost hate to see what happens with the ones that fill the void – particularly after what you said. *sudder* It seems even more likely that there will be more busts.

    Also, I have nothing against nudity or art or freedom of choice. Playboy, however, is about positioning women as sex objects. It isn’t art and there is nothing empowering about posing in the nude so that every wanker in the world can jack off while looking at pictures of you. That’s pretty much what the nudity in Playboy is about. It isn’t like she posed for high end art photos – they are just run of the mill nudie shots.

    Hef is not about empowering women. He is about using them.

  8. Alex says:

    I definitely agree with you about Playboy. I hope I didn’t seem like I was trying to trample on your opinion on the subject. I respect that it is a complex topic, and while I don’t condemn her for her choice, I do agree that the institution of pornography for pornography’s sake is very degrading. My only argument about it concerning Beard is that it could be empowering to her if that is how she wanted to be seen and the medium she chooses. Overall, however, it is certainly not empowering to women in a global sense. I should have made that distinction, I apologize.

    Thank you for your comment on my blog. I’ll have to look into that!

  9. Mal James says:

    If the sport stops trying to eliminate cheats then the sport is doomed, the bigger question of course brings into play an american hero (sic) Was rasmussen in Italy with Dr Ferrari and those links with Dr F go to the heart of an American cycling legend
    The evidence just gets stronger , nobody wants it to be true but DOPERS must be outed no matter who they are

  10. momo says:

    i don’t have much to add except to say that i think its very sad that doping is so prevalent and that those in question feel its the only way they have a chance at winning. makes you want to question all those athletes breaking past records, doesn’t it?

    but keep it coming, mom, i love these discussions, i always feel i learn so much!

  11. IronJenny says:

    I love these discussion, too, P! Just my opinion, but I agree about Playboy – that’s not art… them’s just newdie-shots. Are people who attend theatre the same demographic that buys Playboy? Hmmm. Maybe naaaaawwtt. I’ve never noticed anyone jacking off in theatre seats during any nude scene either!
    But isn’t that what Playboy’s FOR? After Bob got his vasectomy and his doc needed to determine if it worked, he went into a little room filled with soggy-paged Playboys and a stack of Dixie cups. Interestingly there were no artistic plays offered… 😉 But the Playboys did the trick!

  12. Phoenix says:

    Iron Jenny – you got me laughin’ girl. “interestingly enough there were no artistic plays offered…” SNORT!

    The doping thing mystifies me. Its not athleticism any more. Its just competition for the sake of winning, no matter what you have to do.

    I don’t see them as role models. You people are my role models – all you real athletes sweating and bleeding and crossing the line and DNFing and all of it. That’s athleticism. Ok. I’m done.

  13. Bigun says:

    We live in a world of Enron’s and WorldComs, Clinton and sensationalized (containing partial, if any, truth) media – I believe our society’s concept of Morality when it comes to Cheating (or lieing or stealing) is simply broken. For every one that gets caught, there are dozens who don’t and get away with the prizes at stake. It’s too bad. As the stakes get higher, the internal justifications and rationalizing gets easier and easier for many people in all walks of life – Politics, corporate world, and yes, Sports. Unfortunately, I think this lack of morality is ingrained in our culture; to fix it now will take generations…I just don’t see a grass roots effort that even acknowledges the problem. Discussions like these are refreshing!

  14. fe-lady says:

    I think all the cyclists should dope/take drugs…whatever. Then the playing field will be level again….

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