Posted by: canthold | July 26, 2007

De-Tour Part II

I checked out Trust But Verify today to find quotes from journalists calling for the Tour de France to be cancelled. It seems that the doping scandal has made a lot of fans quite jaded. I don’t blame them, to some degree, but I disagree about halting the race.

This scandal reminds me a bit of the 1980 Olympic boycott by the US, over the Afghanistan invasion by the Soviets. The Olympics were supposed to be free of politics, a way for athletes to come together from around the world to compete – regardless of wars and ideological differences between countries.

The Tour brings together the most elite cyclists from all over the world in a similar manner. To punish the innocent because of the guilty – the American athletes that summer paid for the crimes of Soviet aggression – is a misplacement of values. The clean cyclists should not have to pay for the misdeeds of the cheaters.

I’m completely against doping.  (Duh.) I believe in a code of honor and fair competition. These fundamental values need to be re-instilled into our society if future generations are to rise above the transgressions of the current generation. This means teaching our children that winning is less important than playing a good game. It means that doing our best – whatever that is – should have value. Winning is not everything.

I am not a fool to think that winning isn’t where the big money is in sports. It is. Winners win big. It’s not just the title and trophy anymore it’s the lifestyle and multiple houses and endorsements for the even bigger payday.

We, as fans, need to send a message to the club owners and sponsors that we will not tolerate bad behavior. The owners need to stop employing the athletes who can’t live up to the role model status they are given with their fame. I think that Astana and Confidis were right to pull their teams. I think that Rabobank was right to fire its employee for misleading them. (As lying on a resume should have consequences, too.) Criminal activity by celebrities should carry tough penalties because they are the people to whom society looks to set examples and our entertainment should not be above the law.

I think that whatever the outcome of Floyd Landis’ arbitration hearing, the sport needs to learn from all that transpired within and surrounding the proceedings. They need to tighten up their drug testing procedures. They need to tighten up their policies. They need to get their act together so that they’re not running around during the competition trying to settle things that happened with ample time before. (In the case of Rasmussen, they could have kept him from competing, rather than stopping him in the middle of his race.)

And they should just keep up some of their procedures. Sure it’s scandalous that two major riders and their teams have just been dumped from the race, but that’s because they were caught in the middle of the race – even though they knew that they’d have tests throughout.

I think this problem needs to be solved. It needs to be tackled from many different angles and enforced on a continuous basis. But for the athletes that haven’t tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, lets give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re actually clean. Let’s let them race.

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