The Steroid Problem: From the Tour de France to the Tour de Bonds

27 07 2007

by eldanimal

tour de france

Imagine opening day without Arod, Jeter, Ichiro or Pujols. Imagine a World Series where the biggest stars in it are David Eckstein, Shannon Stewart or Rod Barajas. Imagine these things and you get a sense of what the Tour de France is going through right now as every cycling star or future star has dropped out or been kicked out of the most prestigious event in the sport due to allegations of performance enhancing drugs.

This week, after a tour that began without perennial favorites Jan Ulrich and Ivan Basso due to their involvement with in a Spanish doping scandal, a tour leader and pre-race favorite were dropped from the race. On Tuesday, Alexandre Vinokourov, was kicked out of the competition after testing positive for blood doping. On Wednesday, race leader Michael Rasmussen, was abruptly was kicked off his Rabobank team for lying about his whereabouts during drug testing in June.

Since Lance Armstrong rode into Paris nearly two years ago, the sport and it’s governing body UCI have seen what was a cloud of suspicion grow into a storm of confessions, allegations and suspensions. 1996 winner Bjarne Riis, confessed he used EPO and other performance enhancers during that victory. 1997 winner, Jan Ullrich, retired prior to this years tour after being banned from last year’s race due to his involvement in a doping scandal. 1998 winner Marco Pantani, died of a cocaine overdose. Armstrong himself has faced allegations in a recent book.

In response to the rampant rumors, in 2006 the UCI took a hard stance banning several top riders on the eve of the Tour, then stripping 2006 champion Floyd Landis of the yellow jersey after testing positive for testosterone. The trend continued this year with Vinokourov and Rasmussen being abruptly removed from the Tour. In doing so the UCI sent a clear message that credibility is more important than promotion. The UCI director denied the sport being in crisis stating optimistically that this is a “difficult period but that is a period of change and I can see at the far end of that period the sport will come out of it a lot better and a lot stronger.” A message clearly lost on baseball and Bud Selig.

While cycling has chosen to attack its problem head on and risk integrity and sponsorship in the short term, baseball has chosen to chug on and ignore the past. Very soon, Bud Selig will be in the same stadium when Barry Bonds hits his 756th home run. Until then, Selig will follow Bonds from game to game like a groupie, the Tour de Bonds. Selig’s tour can be seen as an acceptance of an era of performance enhancing drugs. Selig can choose to hide behind due process and sealed grand jury testimonies unlike UCI which chose to suspend it’s most prolific riders for being involved with a doping lab prior to the sports main event. Selig, faced with the same situation cannot muster the courage to suspend Bonds prior to breaking baseball’s most hallowed record.

bonds

While baseball waits for a positive drug test to disqualify athletes, cycling aggressively seeks out cheaters by investigating doping rings, subjecting riders to a bevy of random testing, and not being afraid to suspend or ban a rider who becomes associated with known cheaters or where the mountain of circumstantial evidence is too much to bear. Yet it is cycling that is viewed as being dirty, as being a fraud because they choose to seek out those who cheat.

Ultimately, baseball will remain a more popular sport in America than cycling ever will. However, the way each sport chooses to deal with its performance enhancing drugs problems will determine the integrity of these sports in the future. Armstrong never tested positive, but after his record seven consecutive Tour victories they began to crack down. Will baseball do the same after Bonds hits 756?

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2 responses

27 07 2007
Frankie

Say good bye to the King of the mountain leader, Juan Mauricio Soler of Barloworld.

Too bad Lance Pharmstrong was allowed to dope and win for seven years. What a creep Nike endorsed Pharmstrong was. He lied to the Cancer Community in order to sell $300 sneakers.

Mr. LIVE WRONG! Cheat to win lecture:

Nike knows doping and dog fighting.

27 07 2007
Frankie

Lance & Nike know:

If you believe it, then it’s not a lie.

Clever, eh?

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