Destroy, Erase, Improve
Mark Twight weighs in on doping
First off, in the interest of clarity, I love watching individuals
push themselves beyond their own self-imposed limits, and past limits
established by consensus thinking. I love crushing myself that I may
eventually improve. I am afraid of and enjoy everything attending that
process. What I cannot condone is the shortcuts taken to achieve what
appears to be a similar result. A result that is instead transparent
and indefensible. I hate cheating and cheaters.
Whether destroying myself to recreate me or fighting an
“establishment” that would prevent me from evolution and growth, the
idea of starting over is strong. My climbing career was built on the
ashes of having burned ideas down and reshaped them from their
remaining, raw elements. It seems that – whether it is realistic or
not – professional cycling is due for such a fire.
Because I am new and I want to cure my ignorance I read stuff about
cycling on the internet. A while ago I stumbled across a blog written
in response to Floyd Landis’ slash-and-burn confession. I recognized
the author’s name as that of a rider I photographed at the 1997 CX
Nationals when I covered the event for Men’s Journal. I searched back
through files (of actual slide film) to put the name together with the
face of Adam Myerson. He is no less dedicated, flamboyant or
opinionated now than he was 13 years ago – meaning he is a true
His thesis regarding doping and the current culture of professional
cycling is simple: destroy, then recreate.
His point of view may not be shared by everyone but I agree that the
hypocrisy of the system is disgusting. Operation Puerto was stalled
then shut down. Why? One rumor suggested it was because pro soccer
players were involved and we can’t have the world’s preeminent sport
be dirty now can we? Pro sports in the US, the big ones, suffer from
their own (few) scandals and when one or two 3rd
stringers get popped they are held as examples of how the checks and
balances work. Anti-doping hypocrisy is further evident in the
persecution of non-mainstream athletes and sports (cycling, Nordic
skiing, etc) while WADA and the public volunteer a blind eye to the
mainstream sports that make money and power, politics and careers.
WADA and the other policing agencies revel in the headway they make
against doping in the minor sports that are blips on the radar of the
spending public while ignoring PED practices in the major sports.
I’ve no beef with doping if it simply levels the field. And if doping
activity is open and declared. That said I feel sorry for the
so-damn-close-I-can-taste-it racer who said ‘no’ to drugs but
continued trying to race in Europe anyway. Because eventually the
negative feedback loop would become an intolerable, soul-crushing
weight. And force one to question the nature of man, or whether the
species should be allowed to survive â€¦ OK, maybe not that bad but
If the race organizers insist upon making the grand tours so hard,
i.e. the last three days of this year’s Giro, a racer might be excused
for using every possible means to survive. Tifosi demand for
escalating grand tour difficulty is the equivalent of baseball fans’
demand for more home runs or the soccer fans’ desire to see 2×45
minutes of non-stop lung-searing intervals. If race organizers want to
provide fans a spectacle equivalent to Bonds blasting them out of the
park then they should expect riders to do whatever it takes to compete
within that context. You want it? You got it. Here’s the new price:
the players must use drugs to appease you.
As it stands today (IMO) fans want to witness racing without limits,
and race organizers are willing to provide it. Anti-doping agencies
are selective in both practices and enforcement. Governing bodies are
more interested in grabbing and retaining power than in wise
governance. Ethical arguments against this culture and behavior demand
change but incremental and disorganized efforts are ineffective. So
perhaps Floyd Landis is right: the whole thing must be destroyed. And
after a great big bonfire the riders, race organizers, administration,
and governing bodies must all work together to rebuild it.
On the other hand, when Floyd — or any caught-and-become-repentant
doper — was on the road making money by winning while under the
influence doping was personally acceptable and he could live with
himself. A midlife crisis of conscience isn’t a good enough reason to
drag your friends into the muck you landed in after the fall.
I don’t want to see the sport I love destroyed but I would gladly toss
a Mason jar of gasoline from my place in the cheap seats if it’s the
only way to keep that sport alive.
Adam Myerson’s original post about Floyd:
Just so you know. The free glasses with the Giro helmet deal at Realcyclist.com. Well the glasses are not cheapo’s they are tossing in a FREE pair of Giro Filters, retail is over $200!