Blog - Cycling Things

He Rides a Bicycle, People!

It haunts us still. Spend a few days in the Great Republic and you see the stories in all the newspapers. Sportscasters on radio and TV probe and parse and plumb the depths of the scandal and all its implications, not only for this generation but for generations yet unborn  unto the ages.

Last Sunday's New York Times had an in-depth report on Page One, turning inside  to hundreds of more anguished paragraphs.

Fly back from the City of Brotherly Love and it's all over our hometown media.
Lance Armstrong and the Great Doping Scandal of 2012.

It turns out that Lance Armstrong did all kinds of things to his body that helped him to  win bicycle races.

The man rides a bicycle. For a living, that's what the man does. He rides a bicycle.

A Martian might be shocked if he (it?) read a New York Times story that said Lance Armstrong, brain surgeon, or Lance Armstrong, bomb disposal expert, or Lance Armstrong, ace diamond cutter, was taking drugs.

That would or could be serious. 

But  no, this Lance Armstrong rides a bicycle for a living. And takes bicycle-riding-enhancing drugs.

And we the media, the sporting fraternity, the New York Times, sports journalists on every network are shocked to the very pith of our being.

Not to mention the hundreds of millions of bicycle racing fans.

We seem to be losing perspective here, people. We have moved into an era where the frivolous is taken seriously and the really serious stuff is stored away in the Amnesia Warehouse.

Let's look at this drug thing. And bicycle riding as a sport.

Bicycle riding is a sport like rock, paper, scissors is a sport. It's like synchronized diving or beach volleyball is a sport.

Which is to say it's not.

It's at most a pastime. It's for weekend warriors in this country who get all duded up with Italian bike gear and flash sunglasses and ride like crazy down to Starbucks.

So Lance Armstrong is a professional athlete in a sport that's not really a sport and he is caught taking drugs.

Hold the back page.

It is fair to suggest, is it not, that professional athletes who do not juice, are as rare as those Shakers who do not reproduce and are therefore on the way out.

Blood doping and other performance enhancing practices have become common in every sport - baseball, football, hockey, basketball and non-sports such as bicycle racing.

On Monday, the non-sport's governing body, Back Pedaling International, revoked Armstrong's wins, saying with Orwellian logic, they never happened. 

It's as if he never existed. He has been unpersoned.

Did I mention the scandal was about riding bicycles?

The fact that a world famous, highly paid athlete takes performance enhancing drugs is no longer news. All the testing in the world is not going to deter athletes from using drugs when the stakes are so high.

Do the math. A little needle here, a few games suspensions versus a contract that pays  eleven or twelve million a year.

Pass the syringe.

We have to realize we live in a different sports universe, one where the best pharmacist, not necessarily the best athelete, wins.

As for the role model argument, it too is long gone.

For me, reality raised its head when I was about 10 and discovered that Ty Cobb was the meanest man who ever lived.

- Michael Enright, The Sunday EditionCBC Radio 1, October 28, 2012


Armstrong squanders last shot at sympathy

The sticky point I could never get around with Lance Armstrong was this: in a dirty, dirty sport, where everyone cheats with performance enhancing drugs, how could he not only win races but beat everyone else out there like a drum?

I mean, Ben Johnson doped. But he didn't whip his opponents by 15 metres, never quite like Armstrong whipped his.p

Armstrong was Superman, and a cancer survivor to boot.

Sorry, just not possible.

After Wednesday's USADA detailed report used 26 different witnesses to carefully show all the ways in which Armstrong systematically cheated came out, we're now left with another even stickier point.

Could 100 per cent of this report be false and concocted in truly Stalin-esque style?

Could the conspiracy against Armstrong be that deep and pervasive, involve that emany people, and be complete and utter fiction down to the last detail in a spectacular attempt to nail an international cyclist?

Because here's the problem. Let's say among all the cheaters and liars involved in this tawdry sport, that some fibbed and some exaggerated. Wouldn't shock me.

Let's say only 60 per cent of the report is absolute truth.

That still makes Armstrong a liar and a cheat. Forget any and all good he may have done by raising funds for cancer. That has nothing to do with whether he cheated.

Hell, let's say for the sake of argument 30 per cent of the USADA findings are fact.

That still looks awful for the man who said he never, ever did ANYTHING against the rules.

See where I'm going here?

This would have to be one of the great conspiracies in the history of modern-man, one that would go to the core of government, for Armstrong to be telling the truth now, and it would have to be 100 per cent lies and fiction. But it's not, and he's not.

He never has. And now he never can. Can you imagine a mea culpa from Armstrong now? While Mark McGwire or Roger Clemens could have arguably won many supporters by coming absolutely clean on their baseball activities a long time ago, the same isn't the case for Armstrong now. He'd lose all those who refuse to see him as guilty, and nobody would come to his side in sympathy. A quarter-century after Seoul Johnson is a somewhat sympathetic character. Armstrong can never be.

So this is probably where this ends. A hero unmasked. Logic finally addressed. He did cheat to be that much better than the rest of a dirty sport. And they finally nailed him.

Damien Cox, Toronto Star, October 12, 2012

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