Header Random

Monday, 21 July 2008

Tough Times For Le Tour

Just noticed this article on Sports Illustrated. RIDER IN DRUG TEST SHOCK. It seems that they now regard it as news for a cyclist to be tested for drugs. How sad. I love the Tour De France. Genuinely. For drama there is little to equal it. By that I only refer to what happens on the roads. The drugs lark afterwards merely saddens me.

I'm also deeply annoyed by the coverage of the Tour, particularly by the American media. They're not interested that Frank Schleck is in yellow, more that he is being tested. They're not looking to talk about the race but in the race to catch the next cheat (with the notable exception of former rider Bobby Julich on ESPN).

This does not help cycling. As a sport, it is ridding itself of the scurge of drugs. It could ignore the problem of steroids like the NFL and MLB have done, but instead cheats are outed, champions are stripped of their crowns and teams who have transgressed the rules are no longer welcome back.

What always got to me was the coverage of Lance Armstrong. Europeans are cheats but he is a legend. The cancer survivor could do no wrong in the eyes of some. Nike ordained him a hero, his autobiography was lapped up by his fans and for a time, cycling was the sport to follow for three weeks every July. The smell of EPO may have tainted his wins in Europe, but on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Lance could do no wrong.

I'm not saying that Lance Armstrong took performance enhancing drugs. Let me make that clear...if only for legal reasons! I'm sure there are plenty of legitimate reasons for the sudden improvement in form that he expeienced post-cancer. I like this one, taken from his Wikipedia.

A recent article claims that the American legend's testicular cancer actually helped him during the Tour de France.[8] The article outlines that surgical removal of testicles (even one) re-positions the body's hormonal system, playing with the feedback system of normal testosterone production. Consequently, a cascade of events which allegedly favour or enhance endurance performance is proposed by the authors.

I'm sure.

Armstrong has never tested positive for drugs and is, officially, clean. That must be made clear. However, one other thing should also be pointed out. Last week, Manuel Beltran tested positive for EPO. This is the same Manuel Beltran who spent three years as a team-mate to Armstrong at U.S Postal/Discovery Channel, during the last three years of Lance's domination of Le Tour. Lance was also, at one stage or another, helped to his titles by Ivan Basso, Tyler Hamilton, Roberto Heras, Floyd Landis and Gianpaolo Mondini who have all tested positive or admitted to using performance enhancing drugs. This is not proof of systematic doping at the team, but if it were the team of a leading French/Italian/German/Spaniard as opposed to an American, then the US press would certainly take a different tone.

So please, continue to follow the tour. If you are not a fan of cycling then at least watch Wednesday's stage, finishing at the summit of the fearsome Alpe D'Huez. However, be mindful of coverage which is filtered through Lance-tinted glasses.


Post a Comment