Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dope, Dopes & Dopers

Sometimes you start a blog - oh, say in the shower, or on the bike, or while having a pint with your girlfriend (her's is usually anything other than a pint), or when the new issue of CycleSport magazine arrives and Lance isn't anywhere on the cover in name or likeness (gotta be a mistake at the printer's). Then sometimes you have this blogopiphany just before you open another's blog and see it's a viral blogopiphany, they too are going down the same circuitous route of "WFT? - I can't believe what I just read?"

Well thank you Joe Lindsey (Boulder Report) for your befuddled-bewilderment at the most recent round of anti-doping WTF. From Joe's blog (but do go read it all), "First, they only re-tested 17 samples. Second, they didn’t find anything. Third and most interestingly, they didn’t expect to. “It was not our goal to find anything,” said AFLD head Jean-Pierre Bordry, to German press agency DPA (via CyclingNews), adding (via AFP/VeloNews) that they just wanted the “security of the truth” in knowing they’d not missed any positives. But they didn’t expect to find any. But ran the tests anyway. Gotcha."

Then said Bordry. "I am astonished that there were no positive doping tests at this year's race."

Okay, stop! I don't have a Phd in anything grammatical or pharmaceutical. But WTF? Bordry, where are you going with this?

For a moment let's skip all the alphabet soup labeling - CERA, AFLD, EPO, UCI, WADA, LA, WTF, eLaMiNOP, or whatever. Something that needs a little light shown on it is, if the cops quit catching robbers because robbers quit robbing (ya, right, I know) do we no longer need cops and therefore without cops we will get robbers robbing again which means we need cops to... well, get my point, sorta? It's about catching dopers, you dopes.

What is Bordry babbling on about? So, “It was not our goal to find anything,” HELLO? If you don't, you don't have a job! And neither do the dozens of other members of the labcoated beaker-brotherhood. As my friend from India would say, "Give me a break mon."

Now in a related (hang in there, I promise it is) Part II:
In all this we also lose track of the fact that this is entertainment... wait, it's Entertainment, with a capital E. Since when do any of these 20/30-something year olds - virtually none with an education beyond the bike - save lives, prevent wars, right social ills, create great art, even teach bike safety to a local grade school? (Ok, one concession: Major Taylor was chipping away at the color barrier when he raced.) They do what they do for themselves and for us as Entertainment. Like NASCAR (sorry, more alphabet soup) we even like the crashes - fess up, we've all seen a few youtube bike disasters.

As Entertainment it is entertaining - let's enjoy it.

C'mon, this years TdF was Entertainment because of the soap-Astana-opera - we enjoyed it - it was real egos crashing into one another, not just bikes - we all can't wait for Prudhomme's route announcement Oct 14th so we can talk about Season 2 of As the Tour Turns.

The thing is it has always been Entertainment - they created races to sell stuff; to sell newspapers, sell beer, sell bicycles, hell, maybe even sell dope.

One of my "favorite" doping stories is from the early 1920's when riders in the Tour de France use to smear cocaine-flake-impregnated cold cream on their legs to ward of the cold and pain while crossing the lofty Cols Director Henri Desgrange had cooked up to make the race 'truly manly'.

From a Wikipedia entry:

In 1924 the journalist Albert Londres followed the Tour de France for the French newspaper, Le Petit Parisien. At Coutances he heard that the previous year's winner, Henri Pélissier, his brother Francis and a third rider, Maurice Ville, had resigned from the competition after an argument with the organiser, Henri Desgrange. Henri explained the problem - whether or not he had the right to take off a jersey - and went on to talk of drugs, reported in Londres' race diary, in which he invented the phrase Les Forçats de la Route (The Convicts of the Road):

"You have no idea what the Tour de France is," Henri said. "It's a Calvary. Worse than that, because the road to the Cross has only 14 stations and ours has 15. We suffer from the start to the end. You want to know how we keep going? Here..." He pulled a phial from his bag. "That's cocaine, for our eyes. This is chloroform, for our gums."
"This," Ville said, emptying his shoulder bag "is liniment to put warmth back into our knees."
"And pills. Do you want to see pills? Have a look, here are the pills." Each pulled out three boxes.
"The truth is," Francis said, "that we keep going on dynamite."

Henri spoke of being as white as shrouds once the dirt of the day had been washed off, then of their bodies being drained by diarrhoea, before continuing:

"At night, in our rooms, we can't sleep. We twitch and dance and jig about as though we were doing St Vitus's Dance..."
"There's less flesh on our bodies than on a skeleton," Francis said.

The acceptance of drug-taking in the Tour de France was so complete by 1930, when the race changed to national teams that were to be paid for by the organizers, that the rule book distributed to riders by the organizer, Henri Desgrange, reminded them that drugs were not among items with which they would be provided.

There are others - from caffeine suppositories to hidden pee bags. Indeed, the history of modern doping virtually launched itself with the cycling craze of the 1890s - that's 1890's, as in over a hundred years ago, 10 years before they dreamed up the Tour - and the six-day races, or Madisons, (yes, they actually raced virtually non-stop for six days! Hell, I'd need drugs too for that) that lasted from Monday morning to Saturday night (no racing on the Sabbath, c'mon, this a dignified sport of Pius gentlemen). Extra caffeine, peppermint, cocaine and strychnine were added to the riders’ black coffee. Liqueurs, like whiskey and brandy, lifted the spirits of the tea drinkers. And one of the best - nitroglycerin - to ease breathing after sprints. This was Entertainment.

Of course there are always those on a crusade - Irish cycling journalist David Walsh, and John Hoberman, professor and chair at the University of Texas at Austin, self-proclaimed doping historian and author - their attacks are relentless against dope, Lance, and all before him. But guys, that's the point, there is an endless line before him.... So? Don't you get it? It's Entertainment!

German journalist and physician Hans Halter once said. "No dope, no hope. The Tour, in fact, is only possible because — not despite the fact — there is doping. For 60 years this was allowed. For the past 30 years it has been officially prohibited." That doesn't ruin it.
As Entertainment it still is entertaining - let's enjoy it.

So everyone in cycling, please spare us the WTF denials, proclamations and moments of shock and pained distress when ever you catch or get caught - you'll never win an Oscar for them. In a world of REAL problems all you are doing is protecting your silly little jobs - period. If for two seconds you think any of your bullshit matters, might I suggest you hop on a plane, fly to Sumatra and tell the woman who just lost her house and two children to a tsunami - then listen to her story, she will show you genuine shock and pain.

Related: Dope - a good read on the subject can be found in the pages of A Dog in a Hat or check out the DVD The Six-Day Bicycle Races.

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