4/10/01 Old News is New News?  This piece was written back in 1998, about the drug scandals at the time.  Funny how little things have changed!

Since writing this I've changed my tune somewhat and no longer feel quite so sympathetic to the plight of the riders.  Just because you're a professional athlete doesn't absolve you of personal responsibility, and it's very doubtful that the riders involved had no idea what they were getting into when they signed up with a particular team.  Neverthless, I don't think things will change until we attack these problems from the top-down...and certainly get rid of such ridiculous euphemisms as "We're not trying to enhance their performance, but rather these (measures) are to enable their proper recovery."

One more note of absurdity...presently, the UCI and IOC go to far more trouble trying to define what a legal and illegal bike is than they do for drug use.  They do so much to try and ensure that it's the athlete, and not the equipment, that wins the race...equipment that any team could go out and buy and risks no harm to the athlete, vs drugs that are illegally bought on the black market and pose serious health dangers to the riders.  Go figure. 8/4/98  --Mike--

1998 Tour de France drug scandal (07/28/98)

Will Bobby Julich and Marco Pantani's exceptional efforts go to waste as the race is killed off by the French police's raids on team hotels, looking for banned performance-boosting drugs? [note: It's funny that I chose to use Pantani's efforts as something worthy that was tarnished by those taking EPO etc...when, in June of 1999, it was Pantani who was thrown out of the Giro d'Italia for suspected EPO use!]

The irony here is that some of us, with very strong anti-drug sentiments, are finding ourselves on the side of the athletes in this one.  After all, what exactly are the motives of the French authorities here?  I thought France had kicked out the Gestapo at the end of WWII. 

We're not talking about drugs that people are going to take for fun...this is more akin to the way professional football in the US used to (hopefully used to!) pump athletes full of steroids and pain killers...and while it certainly seemed like a bad thing, you didn't find (or expect!) local police forces to virtually shut down a football team.

How many have played longer than they should have, only to live the rest of their lives severely crippled?  How many career-ending injuries have occurred because an athlete was so pumped full of pain-killers and steroids that they had no idea their body was tearing itself apart?  How many times have we wondered how an athlete managed to suddenly play so far beyond their ability, and not know whether it's from their own inner strength or something administered via syringe?  Clearly, this is a wrong thing.   But does it call for action against the athletes by civilian authorities, or is it best handled by the governing sports body under the harsh scrutiny of an informed public?

Even the most extreme examples of the past never found people calling upon the police to raid hotel rooms and training camps.  Look at the eastern-bloc "female" athletes of the 60s-80s...the ones so pumped full of testosterone that you would wonder which bathroom they'd enter.  Yes, you wanted them exposed and banned from competition, but arrested?

It's a very sad state of affairs.  One that could ultimately kill off cycling's greatest yearly event, and certainly make the public wonder if we're really watching athletes or a bunch of drug-taking psychos.  One really must wonder just what the motivation of the French authorities are, and curiously, this is something I have yet to hear pondered.  There must be a reason for all this.

--Mike--

Last updated 05/06/05

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