Tuesday, May 25, 2010
This blog used to cover doping in sports until I grew bored of discussing how the media handles it. Last week’s Floyd Landis announcement is too juicy so, for one day at least, TSD is back in the fray. For those of you who haven’t heard—wait, if you’re HERE you must have passed through a net portal so never mind. Anyway, Landis came clean and then some: pointing fingers at obvious targets, like LA and the US Postal Service team; less obvious, like Dave Zabriske and Michael Berry; to down right obsequient, tossing out conspiracy theories like a lycra-clad version of Deep Throat, stating the Texan paid off the UCI in order to cover up a positive drug test.
While Landis solidified his status as a loony—sort of the Jose Canseco of cycling—he really didn’t have a lot of reputation to tarnish at this point, meaning that he must have been trying to clear his own mind’s burden of deceit. He does, after all, come from Mennonite roots. He even alluded to this by stating, “My credibility is shot. I don’t expect anyone to believe me,” meaning that it’s probably not the money making ploy many suggest. And while the press has jumped on the loony angle it would do us well to remember that most of Canseco’s “mad ramblings” are turning out to be true.
Whether it's fact or fiction I don’t care. I don’t need to see LA get busted. I don’t need to see cycling spend anymore time getting dragged through the muck. I love the sport and think it's on the mend. It’s gotten slower, and given that: a) race routes have gotten easier; b) equipment has improved; c) training has improved it must be cleaner, though not necessarily clean. I do, however, find it fascinating for another reason; the logistics of it all.
I'm therefore presenting a way for Floyd to make some coin (you know,apart from rapping). What I’m really interested in is what Landis did, exactly, and how much it affected him. I think he should collaborate on a book, perhaps with Tyler Hamilton, David Millar, Joe Papp, and anyone else who lost big paydays due to doping, that details everything. I'll put my pre-order in right now.
If Landis wants to serve the public, as he claims is his agenda, it would greatly help to understand how the process works in detail. When people see how much hard work goes into doping it will dissuade a lot more doping than it promotes. Chronicling the sacrifices, the costs, and all its upsides and downsides will burst the magic bubble PEDs float around in. Landis won the Tour not because he doped but because he did an almost insane amount of hard work. Sure, the juice helped and is absolutely cheating, but it was just one of many components that must be maximized in order to win.
I’m not defending doping. I’d love to see it completely gone. But it’s always been around and the more open we are about it the better chance we have of fighting it. In my day athletes were doping all around me. I was curious but never quite in the club. I studied them and knew the downsides—-I witnessed many downsides, in fact. For me, I never felt my talent justified the risks. Doping doesn’t make athletes; it’s just another aid. If you’re not near the top naturally you’ll never get their through any amount of cheating. I never felt I was at that level. I knew many less talented athletes then me that doped and not one ever made the big time.
I’ve been called a lab rat but was never privy to much medical science. I experimented with “crazy” diets, supplement regimens, and training schedules. I never went chemical. The worst side effects I’ve experienced were headaches, sleepless nights, and soft tissue injuries. And while I’ve had some decent athletics accomplishments I know, for certain, that all the scientists at Amgen couldn’t have handed me the maillot jaune. I think that Landis could demystify doping, help the public understand the highest level of sport, humanize it, and, ultimately, learn to appreciate it more. It would also help us more easily target those who are cheating.
To leave you on a positive note, Tour Of California winner Mick Rogers dedicated his win to his Italian coach, anti-doping crusader Professor Aldo Sassi. Sassi is also the coach of both Cadel Evans and Ivan Basso, who led the Giro to the top of the most feared climb in all of cycling: Mount Zoncolon. Says Sassi,
"Cycling has improved a lot. Things have really cleaned up. If either Ivan or Cadel win the Giro, we'll have the proof that you can win without doping. I totally trust them and I'm certain they wouldn't do anything to hurt me…."
He then quantified Basso’s climb with this data, which shows how the more information we have on doping can help to curb it:
Basso climbed the 10.1km to the summit of Monte Zoncolan in a time of 40:45, one minute and 45 seconds slower than Gilberto Simoni in 2007. His average speed was 14.7km and he put out an average of 395 watts on the climb. The VAM (Velocità Ascensionale Media) or average climbing speed adjusted for the gradient, was calculated at 1777m/hour. Basso's power to weight ratio was 5.68km/h. In the past Sassi has said that any value over 6.2w/kg for a long effort on a major climb at the end of a stage race could be an indication of doping.