In the aftermath of what the Bike Snob calls “Shitstorm 2012” (the doping scandal primarily revolving around Lance Armstrong), professional bike racing is being reevaluated.  Long-time team sponsor Rabobank has decided to stop sponsoring the sport entirely.

Several pundits are now chiming in, posturing as to what the future of professional road cycling will look like.  One of the most thought provoking articles I read actually suggests that doping should be allowed, or at least not prosecuted, by implementing a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

One of the arguments is that by entirely eliminating doping, the lack of super-human efforts will drive fanatical fans away from the sport:

Hardcore fans hooked on heroic, drug-fuelled performances may not care about the extent of doping, but may leave the sport when those heroic performances become fewer and further between.

I watched the 2012 Tour de France, and you know what I thought was heroic? On stage 10, there was an uphill finish where five breakaway riders partook in what commentator Paul Sherwen called

The slowest sprint I have seen in the Tour de France.

Co-commentator Phil Liggett said he has “never seen a sprint quite as slow as this” and used the anecdote of The Tortoise and the Hare to describe how the slowly the riders were attacking each other as individuals ran out of steam:

The only thing that would have made that finish better was if there were some sound bytes of  the loquacious (and outspoken doping opponent) Jens Voigt telling his legs to shut up.

Splitting the Field

The Conversation article suggests having two categories of racers in the same race: one with zero-tolerance for drugs, and one where they simply don’t test.

Apparently in the Australian bodybuilding scene, they’ve already adapted to the widespread drug use in their sport by creating a separate “natural” competition for drug-free athletes.

The Conversation op-ed, coins the other half – the potentially drug-enhanced group “excellence,” which I feel gives the athletes more credit than they deserve.  Emphasis on potentially because it assumes that clean riders might like to compete in this class as well – but I think after finishing mid-pack (or more realistically at the end of the pack) they probably won’t find their competitive level fulfilling.

If you’re going to split the field in two, why not just split them into different leagues?  You can have what’s left of the clean racers, and then start a new, garish, WWE-style, entertainment-based cycling league funded by Vince McMahon – shown Sundays on NBC (and Versus). <Insert XFL Joke Here>

It’s too bad Mario Cipollini was never convicted of doping, he’s just the macho-womanizer this new league could use as a spokesman to jump-start the ratings:

2 thoughts on “Cycling: Doping and Heroics

  1. Pingback: Omertà is out, Paniagua is in « Business Unusual

  2. Pingback: How to watch the Tour de France « Business Unusual

Leave a Reply