August 10, 2007
Doping
Posted by Gordon Smith

How low is the Tour de France? Discovery (nee US Postal) -- which has won eight of the past nine Tours de France -- can't find a sponsor and is disbanding. Alberto Contador, this year's Tour winner, is facing questions about doping. A couple of weeks ago, Iban Mayo was confirmed positive for EPO during the Tour, and Astana just suspended another of its top riders (Andrey Kashechkin). This is in addition to all of the doping casualties during the Tour itself. What a mess!

If our professional baseball, basketball, and football leagues took doping this seriously, would they fare any better? Sure, Barry Bonds, Shawn Merriman, and a few other professional players have been tainted by scandal, but these sports have managed (pretty well) to isolate the problems. My guess is that the owners are watching cycling and thinking, "That's a rock we would just as soon not turn over." Then again, they may not have any choice. At some point, it may become a credibility issue for the game, and they will be forced to clean house.

Or maybe not. Perhaps American sports fans are willing to continue looking the other way. (For a nice essay on this point, see Chuck Klosterman.) Not that Europeans are more righteous. Why did cycling became a target for such close anti-doping scrutiny? Could it have had anything to do with the desire to bring Lance Armstrong down off the pedestal? Here's my hypothesis: the anti-Lance investigations -- prompted in (large?) part by anti-Americanism -- generated enormous energy and momentum in the anti-doping crusade, and that crusade has swept up the cyclists who remained after Lance's exit.

American sports fans are not likely to launch a crusade against our own boys. We just want to see Superman in action.

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