While widely accepted, and being no hard and fast rules or sanctions against it, mountaineers are divided on the subject of using supplemental oxygen in their summit bids. It’s also widely accepted that I’m no mountaineer. Still I wonder, had I cheated in a way? Absolutely not. I was not trying to set a speed record on the local 14’er Quandary Peak, but simply trying to ease a day on the bike path to Frisco and a hike up to the Colorado Trail. There are no rules in recreational cycling and hiking. In more or less terms, nobody gives a hoot. However in pro cycling we do, give hoots that is.
“Don’t be naïve Joe,” I can hear you say. Everyone was doping. Get over it. “People suck and they cheat,” a reader posted on our Facebook page. I know. I know. I know. With taxes, the stock market and their spouses it happens everyday. We all get screwed sometime or another. However, I do feel cheated and I’m entitled to feel that way. For (insert name of hero you can believe in here)’s sake, the accomplishments of the greatest American cycling team, the results of every race I saw them compete, the fame gained by the coaches and management, every dollar earned directly or indirectly because of that success is all ill-gotten.
You motherfuckers have a LOT of work to do to pay your debt back to all of us.
The root of my feeling lies in the fact that doping is not a one race thing. To me, it’s preposterous to think, and as far as I can tell, physically impossible for a rider to stop doping and continue to masquerade as a clean athlete. Doping is a tattoo, permanent. Even if for a short period of time, the muscles built, the cardiovascular system developed, the knowledge gained at the top of the sport will always be with these riders till the day they die. The phrase “former doper” is a joke. Once a doper, always a doper.
|Nooo! Him too?|
However, I do somewhat sympathize with the riders…somewhat. I’m sure you noticed a hint of victimization in the USADA report. Many riders allege management more or less said it was dope or go home. It reeks of coercion. Yet a Barry, Hincapie and the others made the decision. They were 10-12 years younger than now, hungry to go big time, pressured and perhaps a bit narrow minded to realize that there were more options than doping or going home.
In mountaineering you’re judged by your peers, be it bottled oxygen or team support, on what type of assistance you used to get to the top and back down. Maybe that’s what divides us from the those that doped. From the USADA document, most riders seem to hint that they felt there was no other way to the top of the mountain. We the fans feel otherwise, until now having to assume we were witnessing a monumental accomplishment.
|I Booked a Plane Ticket and Got Up Early for This?|
Doping is against the rules in cycling. Cycling is not anything goes like fighting cancer. It’s not kill or be killed. You practice, you eat right, you persevere, you find a mentor, you play by the rules, you lose, until one day…you win, and it’s glorious. As a fan, I cheer for the guy dangling off the back in danger of getting dropped as much as the one goosing the pace at the front.
|Floyd Landis and I (I'm the Fat One)|
However, doping makes all of that lying, stealing and cheating. So don’t tell me that it’s okay for any of these cyclists, managers, coaches, doctors to continue in the sport, to continue their endorsements, to put on rides, to start or consult other teams, to show up at local mountain bike races and triathlons, endorse products, and create foundations based on the very color of the ill gotten glory. It’s not. All their perceived success in cycling is tainted by doping. They gave up that chance the moment they went down the wrong path.
I’m not a strong enough voice to sway cycling one way or the other. I’m not qualified to come up with a fool proof way to insure pro cycling is clean nor have the authority to change its direction. I am however qualified to not attend events tainted by the presence of a doper. I can impress on our local racers about what it really means to cheat and that there are other options. Like Adam Myerson, I am qualified to question those at the highest level of the sport, raise an eyebrow when things don’t look right and be vocal about it. For now, I can choose to remain a fan of the sport, but not the individual. I can choose which bike to buy and which knee warmers I wear.