Doping will undoubtedly make you a faster cyclist, no argument there. What doping won’t do though is make you win the Tour de France 7 times in a row. A higher hematocrit doesn’t instill in someone a maniacal drive to not just succeed but dominate. HGH doesn’t help you climb back from the edge of near certain death and come back to the sport you love to not just compete but win. Corticosteroids don’t lift you off the tarmac on Luz Ardiden and propel you to victory. All those things will make you faster, they don’t make you win. Cycling is not some magical sport where as soon as a red blood cell agitating needle touches your vein you’re vaulted into the ranks of legends. Cycling is like every other sport in existence, there are amateurs and professionals. The professionals are so much better than the amateurs that it is literally impossible for us to understand the scope of their competitive level. All of the pharmaceuticals in the world aren’t going to turn me into a professional bike racer let alone a multiple Tour champion. There is a reason there are so few dominant athletes across the sporting spectrum. They all share a insatiable ferocity that equates losing with failure. It is not enough to just win, they must destroy. Jordan, Federer, Woods, Schumacher and Merckx (who tested positive let’s remember) all athletes who relished the opportunity to exhibit the superiority of their talent. The list of sporting legends is short because becoming one is so damn impossible. Doping doesn’t make champions otherwise I would have been on the cover of Wheaties boxes years ago.
Lance not only did something which has never been done in cycling but he also was the reason so many of you probably even know what the sport is right now. And rather than fading into mild obscurity only to emerge selling half decent bikes with his name emblazoned across the down tube like so many other past champions he funneled his fame and efforts into a cause that affects nearly each and every one of us at some level. Does doping change the fact that he beat cancer? Does doping change the fact that he decided he wouldn’t die? Does cancer give a shit if he doped? And before you talk about how his inspiration was fueled by deception lets just remember that World War II was ended by an lifelong alcoholic and a rampant philanderer. They did know a thing or two about great quotes though.
So while it seems that so many of you are so happy with this decision and relieved that we can finally move forward I sit here (in a Hermes scarf and Dolce slippers of course) sad. Sad for the sport and sad for a great champion. Because this embarrassing USADA charade masked in “unbiased fairness” has done nothing to clean up cycling. It has sullied it further. It’s the frothing at the mouth, pitchfork wielding mob who upon finally burning down the subject of their ire are left standing around a smoldering pile of smoke and ashes that lies on the front steps of their own house. Nothing will change because of this and if so many of you are so happy to see this outcome then I suggest you quit watching professional cycling altogether. It’s not cleaner now than it was, the sport will always have cheats and the science will always be one step ahead of the piss cups. This is a black eye for cycling, let’s just hope there’s enough ice to stop the swelling.
[I’m rereading Laurence Gonzales’ incredible collection of books about the systems related to accidents and the mental mechanisms that apply to survival. Well worth (re)reading. He finds an eerie uniformity in the way people survive seemingly impossible circumstances. Decades and sometimes centuries apart, separated by culture, geography, race, language, and tradition, the most successful survivors–those who practice what he calls “deep survival”–go through the same patterns of thought and behavior, the same transformation and spiritual discovery, in the course of keeping themselves alive. Not only that but it doesn’t seem to matter whether they are surviving being lost in the wilderness or battling cancer, whether they’re struggling through divorce or facing a business catastrophe–the strategies remain the same. LG writes: “Survival should be thought of as a journey, a vision quest of the sort that Native Americans have had as a rite of passage for thousands of years. Once you’re past the precipitating event–you’re cast away at sea or told you have cancer–you have been enrolled in one of the oldest schools in history.” And so with any life altering event you trigger survival mechanisms. And as with all things extreme and not some do, some don’t. Everyone who does has something to teach. Possibly too, those who don’t Or at least their stories. Years ago, fascinated by the history and often tragic stories that take place in the White Mountains of New Hampshire (where I’ve enjoyed so much outdoors time) it was interesting to go back and look at some of these stories from Gonzales’ standpoint. And also from my own and what I’ve learned about surviving. So whether or not you care about what Lance did or didn’t do to win, he’s a survivor. And taking a look at his story as relates to the stuff in LG’s books makes that very clear. Don’t assume that this is the last chapter. He’s more than just a badass bike racer. And if in these recent times you’ve survived being bounced out of job and have landed on your feet… If you were in a car wreck that have left scars on you… If you made it away from an abusive spouse and are now in the arms of someone who loves you… you have something to teach and share. Please do so.]