Doping and the End of an Era

Remember, cheating as a kid, or that little white lie, or the half-truth or just leaving something out? We all have done it and will do it again unless you’re a saint and if you are and are reading this blog, please do introduce yourself – I’d be honored to know you.  

But back to the rest of us; as the saying goes (bible I think): “he who is innocent cast the first stone”. I don’t want to throw the first stone, but as it is I’m a bit late anyway to the stoning of Lance Armstrong, but never the less let me throw my pebble too.

When we cheated as kids and where dumb enough to get caught we were told that we were only cheating ourselves.  And in first grade that might have been true.  But as soon as we get older the ramification of cheating starts to reach beyond ourselves and starts penetrating into our immediate surroundings. 

Case in point: let’s say there is cheating on a test for an entry exam to a coveted school – if you cheat and get in, then you have not only cheated yourself from ever knowing if you would have been smart enough to get in without cheating, but worse you took most likely a spot away from an academically more deserving kid.  To stay with the same analogy; let’s say many kids cheat – then even the ‘good’ kids have to cheat to get into the coveted school.  Now the coveted school makes the entry exam even harder because more kids pass the exam and they need to keep up their reputation for being academically rigorous. Before we know it we have a perfect storm.

Imagine you are a young rider – all in live you want to do is ride and be the best you can be and win a race or at least stages of a race.  You get accepted to a team, say the United States Postal Service Team.  You ride with other juniors and one day you get handed a brown bag. The brown bag means that the team considers you an up and coming talent and good enough to be further groomed. 

The brown bag contains illegal performance enhancing drugs. You are dammed if you do and damned if you don’t.   All your dreams have just come true and in the same instant they have been irrevocably destroyed.  If you drug yourself you can keep up with the rest if you don’t you are true to yourself but will soon be left behind – literally. 

At the same time across the Atlantic, the organizers of the Tour the France are making the three week tour even more grueling – the hills are steeper and longer, the climbs ever more taunting and technically difficult. And voila: a perfect storm. 

That’s one side of athletic cheating.  Then there’s another side. Taking away a podium spot from a deserving winner who will never get to stand in the middle on the highest of platform elevations and pump his fist, shed a tear while the national anthem plays and  then be inundated with media requests, not to speak of endorsement deals, sponsors and adoring fans.

Sadly in case of the Tour the France the “other” side of cheating is mute.  The seven consecutive tour titles Armstrong is being stripped of will not go to the second place holder for any of those years, as those riders have also been either indicted for, or are under suspicion of doping.  

To be clear, I dope weekends only: a poppy seed muffin and a double-shot latte at Bunbury’s Café in Piermont and neither comes in a brown bag.  But I still can’t keep up with anybody on the hills.