Wednesday, October 24, 2012

slow motion train wreck...

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I've stayed silent but riveted through the entire slow motion train wreck that the cycling world has been involved in since last Monday's USADA bombshell. Unless you've been living under a rock on another planet in a solar system other than ours, I'm sure you have not only heard about Lance Armstrong being stripped of all his results from 1998 on (including all his Tour de France results). This means that Greg Lemond is back to being the only American to ever win the Tour de France.

My thoughts are less about Armstrong now that the stories and evidence have been slowly coming out. I'm more bummed about the notion that the apogee of American participation in the European peloton, an invasion trajectory that began with a few riders in the '80's and gained momentum with the 7-Eleven team, Lemond, and Andy Hampsten, was all smoke and mirrors. The dominance of Motorola which begat US Postal which begat Discovery and spun off a host of American contenders on teams like Telekom, Phonak, CSC, Gerolsteiner and myriad other Pro Tour teams now falls under the asterisk of doping. Save your "everyone was doing it so it was a level playing field" argument, I'm not interested nor buying that circular logic. What started as upstart Americans beating the Europeans at their own game by doing things differently became the greatest organized systematic doping effort that sports has ever seen. In fact, what we watched seems less like a sporting event and more like professional wrestling - where favorites were chosen and results were all but predetermined in the pursuit of generating commercial revenue from an American public hungry for the ultimate resurrection story of the modern era.

For a while, I have thought that the last thing I would want my son to aspire to be was a professional cyclist. It isn't hubris to think he could follow that path given the genes he has most likely received from his mother, a former professional mountain bike racer who retired as drugs were really taking hold in the cycling world. I see him ride with abandon, race the kid's races with a seriousness that leaves plenty of room for fun and I hope that he always holds on to that spirit of joy that cycling helps us all find. In the end, there isn't a Santa Claus or an Easter Bunny or mythical heroes on bikes, there are just people with all the faults and foibles that come with being human. I still thrill at the effort and the triumph of sheer will over the sinew and flesh that holds us back; the grimaces and masks of pain that we all show the world when we push ourselves beyond our limits. For a chosen few, this mean achieving greatness, be it in mud, over cobblestones, flying tucked in wind cheating positions, or careening elbow to elbow at 60km/h towards an arbitrary line painted on pavement. But for the rest of us, we still can feel the elation of knowing that we did our best with what we have, and to me, that is drug enough.
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