Should We Just Let the Tour de France Dopers Dope Away?

Now that virtually every cyclist in the Tour de France has been booted for doping, is it time to consider a radical rethinking of the doping issue?

Is it time, perhaps, to come up with a pre-approved list of performance-enhancing agents and procedures, require the riders to accept full responsibility for whatever long-term physical and emotional damage these agents and procedures may produce, and let everyone ride on a relatively even keel without having to ban the leader every third day?

If the cyclists are already doping, why should we worry about their health? If the sport is already so gravely compromised, why should we pretend it hasn’t been?

After all, doping in the Tour is nothing new. According to this MSNBC.com article, it was cycling that introduced the sports world to doping:

[T]he history of modern doping began with the cycling craze of the 1890s and the six-day races that lasted from Monday morning to Saturday night. Extra caffeine, peppermint, cocaine and strychnine were added to the riders’ black coffee. Brandy was added to tea. Cyclists were given nitroglycerine to ease breathing after sprints. This was a dangerous business, since these substances were doled out without medical supervision.

Are there parallels to be made between legalizing narcotics and allowing cyclists to use performance enhancers chosen from an approved list? I wonder what Gary Becker would have to say on the subject.

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  1. Chris S. says:

    Although I’m hardly an expert on the subject, a former colleague of mine was a competitive powerlifter. He explained that there were to major powerlifting circuits: one focused exclusively on the amount of weight lifted, with no drug testing; the other relied on rigorous testing (periodic testing to maintain membership, testing immediately prior to lifting to compete) to ensure drug-free lifting.

    Each circuit had its own adherents and fans.

    Might this be a workable model? Establish a “clean” league, and an “anything goes” league?

    Chris S.

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  2. Chris S. says:

    Although I’m hardly an expert on the subject, a former colleague of mine was a competitive powerlifter. He explained that there were to major powerlifting circuits: one focused exclusively on the amount of weight lifted, with no drug testing; the other relied on rigorous testing (periodic testing to maintain membership, testing immediately prior to lifting to compete) to ensure drug-free lifting.

    Each circuit had its own adherents and fans.

    Might this be a workable model? Establish a “clean” league, and an “anything goes” league?

    Chris S.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. amit says:

    That’s an idea that’s been floated many times. The problem is a professional sport needs sponsors to make money.

    Fans may like the spectaacle of doped up superhuman athletes, but mainstream sponsors won’t want to be a part of it.

    That is the case with wrestling (or ultimate fighting), which is why those sports rely on revenue from pay-per-view.

    I suppose cycling could go the same route and market itself as a freakshow.

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  4. amit says:

    That’s an idea that’s been floated many times. The problem is a professional sport needs sponsors to make money.

    Fans may like the spectaacle of doped up superhuman athletes, but mainstream sponsors won’t want to be a part of it.

    That is the case with wrestling (or ultimate fighting), which is why those sports rely on revenue from pay-per-view.

    I suppose cycling could go the same route and market itself as a freakshow.

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  5. schadenfreude says:

    I think it comes down to the role you believe sport plays in our society. If you view professional sports merely as entertainment, doping will not hurt the sport any more than breast implants have hurt the motion picture industry. But if you view sports as something more and the athletes as role models and you are going around wearing yellow bands with inspirational words on them, then the athletes had better be clean.

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  6. schadenfreude says:

    I think it comes down to the role you believe sport plays in our society. If you view professional sports merely as entertainment, doping will not hurt the sport any more than breast implants have hurt the motion picture industry. But if you view sports as something more and the athletes as role models and you are going around wearing yellow bands with inspirational words on them, then the athletes had better be clean.

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  7. wk633 says:

    I think an ‘accepted list’ is ridiculous. What they’re doing now is breaking the rules. What makes you think they won’t break new rules? The only ‘rule’ that you could introduce would be ‘anything goes’. I’m sure some segment of the population would keep watching, but it would suck for everyone (fans and racers) who want a clean sport.

    The really frustrating part for me is that the same scrutiny isn’t being applied to other sports. Some IOC members are talking about removing cycling from the Olympics. Wouldn’t that be irony if Barry Bonds were in an Olympics without cycling.

    Anyone who doesn’t think doping is rampant in any sport with money involved is fooling themselves.

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  8. wk633 says:

    I think an ‘accepted list’ is ridiculous. What they’re doing now is breaking the rules. What makes you think they won’t break new rules? The only ‘rule’ that you could introduce would be ‘anything goes’. I’m sure some segment of the population would keep watching, but it would suck for everyone (fans and racers) who want a clean sport.

    The really frustrating part for me is that the same scrutiny isn’t being applied to other sports. Some IOC members are talking about removing cycling from the Olympics. Wouldn’t that be irony if Barry Bonds were in an Olympics without cycling.

    Anyone who doesn’t think doping is rampant in any sport with money involved is fooling themselves.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0