Thursday, July 26, 2007

Le Tour De Fra

(h/t for the image)
(ed. note: Thor Hushovd has not been accused of doping)

Question: How many men does it take to carry all the dope in Keith Richards' body?

Answer: The Tour De France.

No one knows for certain whether Lance Armstrong doped up, whether it was steroids, human growth hormones, or the old Finnish standby, blood doping. All we can say for certain is he never tested positive under UCI standards. We can, of course, infer whatever the hell we want, including the fact that Armstrong, an avowed patriot and Republican, skipped the road cycling events in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, possibly because the Olympic testing standards are far more rigorous.

We do know that many of Armstrong's top competitors over the past decade were doping, from Erik Zabel to Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, right down to Floyd Landis, the presumptive 2006 Tour De France winner, who was stripped of that title after his urine samples tested positive for large amounts of testosterone, indicative of steroid use.

In point of fact, doping has been around almost as long as the Tour has. You'd think this would be a clue, right?

Apparently not. The 1998 Tour was declared the Tour of Shame, but I suspect this years will wrest that title on points: in this week alone, three riders and two teams have been forced to withdraw from the Tour (call it Cofidis interruptus, and one more rider, the leader, Michael Rassmussen, was taken off the Tour by his team, Rabobank, because of the possibility that he might have been doped heading into the Tour.

What all this comes down to, in terms of the race, is the Discovery Channel Team, Lance Armstrong's team, will hold the first place today, and likely win the race overall on Sunday, making the Armstrong-created team (first sponsored by the US Postal Service) the Tour winner for nine straight years, even if Landis had his "win" pulled.

Steroids have been a big story this year, what I like to call a non-story story. Think about it: what larger issue does steroid use speak to in the world? Cheating? I suppose, but there are billions of people on this planet who cheat in someway, and many are not successful for it.

I hold what appears to be an unpopular view about this particular form of cheating: so what?

The way I see it, if some idiot thinks the fleeting glory and fame associated with holding this title or that record (yes, Barry, I'm talking about you) is worth sacrificing his health for, then by all means, go for it. In the end, all you'll do is cheapen the record to such a degree that no one will remember the record at all much less who held it, but for decades, you'll remember how stupid it was to stick a needle in your body and infest your bloodstream with invading chemicals and who knows what else?

Sports organizations-- leagues, federations, even teams-- also should be held accountable for steroid use, and stop the sham of being the Captain Reynault, "shocked, shocked, I say!", of sport. YOU BEGGED THESE GUYS TO CHEAT! You created an atmosphere and a culture where athletes make enormous sums of money because YOU make enormous sums of money when they do well. Don't kid us! When Jason Giambi signed with the Yankees, they knew he was doping, but looked the other way because they believed it would end up with millions more in the bank, and a bunch of World Championships to show for it.

The biggest sham of all, though, is that governments, including the US Congress, feel a need to "investigate" steroids, putting a game on the same footing as finding housing for the victims of natural catastrophes or investigating the firing of eight federal attorneys.

In fact, in 2005 and 2006, doping in sports was a bigger story than Katrina, the disappearance of billions of dollars in Iraq, the corruptions of the president, possible voter fraud in Ohio, and the suspension of civil liberties under the Patriot Act, at least as far as Congress was concerned.

Why? What national interest is in imminent danger because Barry Bonds does drugs, or some football player does? Who dies, aside from the athlete? Who stands to be harmed? The fan? Can't he find some other entertainment to occupy his time? Where are our priorities????

The real sham behind governmental investigations is, often, it's government itself that's created the environment that permits the owner to make billions of dollars off a sports franchise that looks the other way when one of its athletes cheats in order to set a record which earns the owner money who kicks it back to the politician who passed the bill that gave all that money to the owner in the first place.

A pox on all their houses! If you really want to see a change here, then make it so money stops being so important in a game, so players won't choose to ingest drugs so owners won't get high off their earnings so governments and politicians won't take bribes and kickbacks from successful-but-greedy teams.