Posted by: Joe English | October 22, 2012

Commentary — Lance Armstrong was not the Problem

running-advice-bugI have a Lance Armstrong signed cycling jersey hanging on my wall and I’m not planning on taking it down any time soon. The story unfolding around him annoys me to no end and I’d like to tell you why today.

I just wrote about drug use in sports in my column last week. I took that opportunity to work through some of the technical reasons that I thought targeting the athletes after-the-fact for the problems of professional cycling in the early 2000s was a mistake. I’d like to be a little bit more blunt about it now.

First, the point of anti-doping controls are to keep the playing field fair between the athletes in the competition. But what happens when the entire field is juiced as it would appear to be the case in this time period? When everyone is using, when the culture of the entire sport is about using, then the playing field is already unfair and even more it becomes unfair to those that are trying to adhere to the rules. Is this a shity situation? Yes. Is this unethical and unfair? Yes. But when the entire sport turns a blind eye to what’s going on, you have a big ugly mess on your hands and lots of unfair choices.

Second, these races happened. The big moments, the drama, the stories. They all unfolded just as we saw them unfold. Remember when Lance Armstrong got his bike hooked on that kid’s bag and he fell down and then jumped back on the bike only to fall again onto his top tube and then continue racing up the side of a mountain? Yes, you probably do. And the fact that Lance Armstrong might have been using EPO didn’t allow him to continue riding when he crushed his ball on his bike in the middle of a climb in the Tour de France. We can’t now say that all of those incredible moments of racing and tactics and skill suddenly have been altered by what was going on throughout the sport.

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