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An Unnatural Pursuit

The Tour de France is supposed to be the greatest test of human endurance. A race that covers a total distance of approximately 3 200 kilometres over 21 days with 2 rest days does not sound like any sort of test – that sounds like a form of superhuman punishment.

It would therefore make sense that any of the super-humans competing in the Tour would need some form of pharmaceutical supplement to help get them through the gruelling exercise of finishing the race. The most high-profile of these super-humans  Lance Armstrong, has recently been in the headlines for his alleged systematic use of drugs that allegedly enabled him to win an unprecedented seven Tours in a row. The “Reasoned Decision” by the USADA is what led to a recent decision by the International Cycling Union (UCI) to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour titles.

With Lance Armstrong, there has been much suspicion and many accusations over the years, but the man himself has stated repeatedly that he has never failed over 200 drug tests. The evidence provided by the USADA in their report is circumstantial in parts, but there is too much corroboration of witness testimony and other evidence such as e-mails and bank transfers for Armstrong

Depending on your viewpoint, most people seem to fall into the black or white category when it comes to Armstrong and the doping scandal that has engulfed him.

Black – “Armstrong is a liar, a cheat, a bully and a creep for deceiving us all for so long. He deserves to be stripped of all his titles”.

White – “Armstrong is a human being. He overcame cancer and established a charitable foundation. He can’t be that bad. Just leave the past in the past and let him keep his titles”.

I think that Armstrong falls somewhere in the grey category – the evidence (as circumstantial as some of it appears to be) is too overwhelming for him to be innocent of doping. However, as much as one takes drugs it still requires an extraordinary level of athletic skill to achieve what he achieved and I give him credit for that. Based on the stats showing the level of doping in cycling (and in the Tour in particular) , it certainly appears that the majority of Armstrong’s competitors were doped up at the time. Armstrong is a human being and I think he did what he felt he had in order to win. The fact remains, however, that the entire sport of cycling is tainted and what happens next to the sport is more important than what happens to Armstrong as an individual.

In their blog post “Stop Persecuting Armstrong: Time For A Doping Amnesty in Cycling” Julian Savulescu and Bennett Foddy illustrate how widespread doping is (and has been) in the Tour de France.

“According to Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s book Le Tour: A History of the Tour de France,  doping is a part of the spirit of Le Tour. Since it began in 1903,riders have invariably used performance-enhancing substances in an attempt to get through the gruelling 21 day test of human endurance. They have taken alcohol, caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines, steroids, growth hormone, EPO and blood doping. Fausto Coppi, who won the golden jersey in 1949 and 1952, summed it up when he was asked whether he ever used amphetamines, or ‘La Bomba’, and replied, “Only when absolutely necessary.”  When asked how often that was, he said, “Most of the time.

The 1967 Tour saw English rider Simpson collapse and die during the competition with amphetamines in his pocket. And since then, out of the 21 podium finishers in the Tour de France for the period 1999-2005, 20 have been directly linked to doping. For the longer period 1996-2010, it is 36 out of 45.

Bradley Wiggins, the winner of the 2012 Tour de France and Olympic road time trial gold medallist, was asked whether or not he has any sympathy for Armstrong and he replied: “‘Not really, no,’ said Wiggins. ‘My main concern is that I’m the winner of the Tour de France having to pick up the pieces for other people.”

Let us hope for his sake that these are not words that will come to haunt him in future years, because that would not be dope.


About Ticha Pfupajena

I'm beginning to get the sense that my career as a professional footballer may not happen. As a result, I'll try write about football and sports instead....


20 thoughts on “An Unnatural Pursuit

  1. So now all it takes is for enough people to point a finger at you for you to be presumed guilty? The same people who admit to being doped up to their eye brows.

    This has been the biggest witch hunt in sporting history in my opinion. People looking to make a name for themselves off the sweat of a great athlete.

    Lets see the same standard of evidence that is used in every other case, the scientific evidence, the blood work!

    I’m not saying he never doped. The fact is he was involved in a sport with a doping culture. It was a given, almost expected. Much like bodybuilding or strong man competitors. The sports governing body had a system, a method for catching dopers and he made himself available to that process. They didn’t, couldn’t it wouldn’t catch him. If he is guilty then they are equally as guilty.

    What ever the outcome Lance Armstrong has done more for cycling and for humanity than most. Lance Armstrong is ‘cycling’! Doped or not he defines athleticism, courage, sacrifice.

    Posted by MauriceG | 24/10/2012, 09:48
    • Agree that the USADA and UCI are equally guilty. They are equally to blame.

      However, although he was never caught I think that the reasonable man test points to guilt. Not in a court of law, perhaps, but to me he is guilty. Too many okes telling the same story.

      Posted by Ticha Pfupajena | 24/10/2012, 10:40
      • “A reasonable man test”… what about “an ambitious man” test? How many times you watch Maury and the chick say “he’s definitely the baby daddy, that baby look just like him Maury and I haven’t slept with no one else…”…. minutes later: “Results are in….. he’s NOT the baby daddy!”… an ambitious woman!

        The stakes are so high, the punishment so severe that the proof MUST be irrefutable in a Court of Law, else its just malicious scandal.

        You must get caught to be punished for a crime! And they must be able to prove your guilt.

        All your friends are crooks, so you must be a crook?

        Posted by MauriceG | 24/10/2012, 10:51
    • Not often I agree with Girniv on sporting matters ( bar rugby) but this is one of them. You have rules to detect cheating. If those fail to catch it improve the rules. What they have done is just a massive witch hunt in which guilty parties were cut deals for their testimony. Why did they go to all these great lengths. Surely they must do it for the rest of the Tour winners (like the guy above who just admitted to doping). Accept it was a doping sport and then clean it up going forward. No one can say with 100% certainty he doped. So why use other methods and balance of probability when you had a prescibed way of finding out if he doped.

      Posted by Tafarell | 24/10/2012, 14:50
  2. There is enough corroborating witness testimony (an overwhelming amount actually) to reasonably conclude that he is indeed a cheat. I think to deny that would be to bury one’s head in the sand. Hopefully criminal charges will be brought.

    Posted by Miggs | 24/10/2012, 12:57
  3. “Collaborating witness testimony” is not the standard used to catch dopers. There is a testing program so that wrong doing can be proved. You two are gossip-mongers!

    Criminal charges? On what grounds,? He said, she said?

    Posted by MauriceG | 24/10/2012, 13:32
    • The standards didn’t work because of a failure by the authorities (which I also feel should be bigger story) and the fact that many cyclists (incl Armstrong) actively evaded detection. The authorities paid to test were either in on it (paid to look the other way) or were extremely incompetent.

      But Caurime you must admit that the testimony is oot chum…

      Posted by Ticha Pfupajena | 24/10/2012, 13:39
  4. No the testimony is NOT too much!

    Everyone knows that cyclists dope, fact! Remember Contador? For years the world watched that guy destroy all competition and everyone knew he was too good to be clean. It was only a couple of years later he got caught for doping. The fact is, he got caught! Lance NEVER got caught.

    I want to see evidence, anything… bloods, urine, a video, ….just give me something, anything other than ex-team mates who themselves are dopers (questionable character witnesses lol). Not because I don’t think he doped but because I think this is unjust.

    Posted by MauriceG | 24/10/2012, 13:54
    • He is guilty… We all know that… The fact that he got caught is good in a way becasue it will discourage younger athetes from doping… At the highest level though, it has been going on for decades and will never stop… People need to pull their nieve heads out of there arses and accept that nobody will ever win the tour without using drugs… When you make peace with this reality you will enjoy the sport for what it is and not feel betrayed when these phenomenal athletes get bust for doping.

      Posted by Rak | 24/10/2012, 14:36
  5. If there was a way to like here I would have liked ALL of Maurice’s statements. There is a good reason why the US Attorney General (AG) turned down this case. It was not going to hold up in court. NEVER! Too much of the circumstantial evidence was from people with a vested interest in the doping, who had actually been caught (why wasn’t Armstrong caught if he was doing the same things as them, damn even Contador, Armstrong’s biggest rival was caught) and could cut a deal. That is surely not a reliable witness. There are many guys on the same team who claim they didn’t dope and they were never told to dope nor did they see any doping. Why didn’t any of the guys not caught come forward? That would leave more questions than answers. Secondly they have more advanced testing techniques and “know” the methods of doping used. Surely they still have the samples and can test them to show he was doping. The problem with this whole case is that it wasn’t even fair. Armstrong didn’t even defend himself. They had a lower burden of proof than a court of law. The real reason why they don’t want it in court is it will mirror the John Terry situation where he got off in the courts but was banned by the ruling organization who determined the judge and jury and acted as the prosecutor. For me, they should take this to court and if they win I will acknowledge that they have overwhelming evidence. They however need to convince the AG that this case warrants prosecution. When have you ever seen an AG turn down a slam dunk high profile case????

    Posted by Tafarell | 24/10/2012, 15:05
  6. Athletes wont be discouraged from doping, its not going to happen! Where is the evidence to support this? Doping is part of sport and always will be. People need to get over it.

    Tafarell, we should agree more often. We are the only people here debating this rationally not emotively. – “You have rules to detect cheating. If those fail to catch it improve the rules.”

    Posted by MauriceG | 24/10/2012, 16:08
    • so your argument has moved from ‘there’s no evidence that he was doping’ -to – ‘it doesn’t matter if he was doping, get over it.’ Pretzel logic.

      Posted by Miggs | 24/10/2012, 16:35
      • My argument has not moved anywhere… I’ve seen no evidence that he was doping (other than here say), I wouldn’t be surprised if he was doping(which I said earlier) and there is a system in place for catching dopers and was never caught….

        But by all means manipulate my argument to suite your “kangaroo court” logic.

        If you are going to paraphrase me then get it right: ‘Doping is part of sport and always will be. People need to get over it.’ – is my response to Rak’s belief that it will deter future dopers. Its my opinion and I care not what you think of it. mugabe logic!

        Posted by MauriceG | 24/10/2012, 16:54
      • No Migs. They are applying the OJ defence – there is insufficient evidence to prove it in a court of law….

        Posted by Ticha Pfupajena | 24/10/2012, 16:54
  7. Why don’t we just trial everyone in KANGAROO COURT? Would save a lot of tax dollars

    Posted by MauriceG | 24/10/2012, 16:56
  8. I need some EPO now, you ouens are tiring me out!

    Posted by MauriceG | 24/10/2012, 17:03
  9. lol …anyways… it will be interesting to see what Lance does next. Will he appeal or just hopeit all goes away quickly? Sue for slander? I doubt it. Perhaps he will confess and prostrate himself before the public. After all, the Road to Redemption is paved in gold. A book deal here, an Oprah appearance there…

    Posted by Miggs | 24/10/2012, 17:28
  10. Well lets face facts head on right here. How many normal people can go 21 days with only 2 days sleep? Yeas you guessed right, none. The sport was designed for cheaters so all participants that can go the distance are cheaters. Don’t forget that when you deny the body sufficient sleep, you accrue a sleep deficit and at some point you will simply collapse.

    Posted by Kule | 27/10/2012, 15:16

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