About face!

I have largely left off any comments here on my blog regarding doping in general and doping in cycling specifically (though there is at least one exception), but feel compelled to comment based on the USADA report (I am not going to provide a litany of links, but if you are curious, this one should get you want you need: http://rant-your-head-off.com/WordPress/?p=3354). I have been a strong critic of the USADA and WADA (the international version of the US Anti-Doping Agency) ever since closely following the Landis case. Even when Landis admitted to doping my lack of faith in the system was unchallenged because I had very closely followed the science and it was (is) crystal clear to me that Landis’ ‘conviction’ was entirely politically motivated and had _nothing_ to do with science or doping. Quite a few cases that I have looked into since then seemed very clear to me to be witch hunts to aggrandize the agency and seemed to be intent on destroying the careers of some excellent athletes. I also was very convinced that the dogged pursuit of Armstrong was also politically motivated, I believed Armstrong when he says he is one of the most tested athletes in professional sports and has never tested positive.

However, all that has changed now (at least with respect to Armstrong), and I feel the need to chow down on a bit of crow because of it. While I haven’t read any of the report, I have read reports by other people I trust to accurately report on the report and it seems quite unambiguously damning to me. Armstrong is a bald faced liar, cheat and bully and has gamed the system (in cycling, certainly; I got to believe life in general now) to his great advantage. Of course, if ‘everyone’ dopes then not doping puts you at a serious disadvantage, at least psychologically, but I believe that the vast majority of doping ‘enhancement’ is due to nothing more than the placebo effect so it is entirely possible (even likely in my mind) that Armstrong could have achieved the exact same results clean. While I don’t expect my attitude to change dramatically regarding the so-called science of the anti doping industry and I have no more trust or love for the personalities involved, in this case it really seems that they made the right call and are taking down a ‘monster’ (of course, this is all about sports, no one died or even lost much money, hence the quotes around the term monster). Lance is certainly as much of a dick and asshole as any other personality involved and I expect my crow-eating experience will be followed by a few big namers soon (_particularly_ Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin).

This doesn’t change any of my comments or attitudes in my earlier post, just my attitude about Armstrong and his lyin, cheatin and stealin. The big problem is all this endless negative press regarding cycling obfuscates the fact that baseball and football are _at least_ as dirty now as cycling was at its worst, yet somehow I doubt anyone actually cares about it. Cycling would have been much better off if it never joined WADA/USADA, like baseball and football; the doping could have continued without all these spotlights on it.

Now that I think on it, perhaps there is a bit of something to the enhancement of the drugs if one considers recovery rather than on-road performance. Lots (and lots!) of top level cyclists these last couple of years (probably the cleanest period of cycling ever) have had serious troubles competing and many observers have commented on the lack of power evidenced in the mountains. Maybe the drugs in those tiny amounts were just enough to accelerate the recovery to the point where the athletes could get closer to their pre-race level even in the third week of a 3,000 mile race. That, undoubtedly, would have to be considered ‘performance enhancing’, so maybe there is some ‘there’ there after all. Of course, the thing to do is actually measure the effect in a scientific manner in a double-blind study, as I recommended, but somehow I doubt the anti-doping agencies really want to know, them being right about Armstrong notwithstanding.

Author: Tfoui

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