Re: Lance Armstrong
Here's my thing: it's really easy to sit on the sidelines and fault athletes for taking substances. Yet look at it from their perspective. They're constantly being handed nutritional supplements and given pills and needles, by their coaches/managers/nutritionists/team doctors. Then they get told this one's good, but this one's bad because it's way too effective. Then they get told every day that they better do everything in their power to win or the guy/team is going to win and someone else is going to take their spot. You want to win? You want to be the best? You want to look yourself in the mirror and say you did everything you could? Now tell me you'd say no to thing that could be the difference in winning for your team, for your family, for your country, that thing that's being offered to you by a doctor.
EPO is bad, but you can sleep in an oxygen tent at night. Blood doping is bad, but training at high altitude is good. Testosterone supplements are bad even though we now sell them on TV. Go ahead, sort out where the line is, aside from the finish line.
And then factor in sport of cycling, where your ride posture and pedalling motion is computer analyzed, the bike design borders on rocket science, and every day is planned out in excruciating detail right down to the time when you are going to take a crap (that's a not joke). In between stages of a major tour, riders have a veritable NASCAR pit crew working on them, fine tuning them for the next day. Nothing is left to chance. Every advantage (no matter how minute) is exploited. Every rider is taken apart, reassembled, programmed and quantified. These guys are equal part machine and human, and it's not terribly surprising they'd do whatever's necessary to make the machine perform.
Seriously, ride up a mountain sometime. Feel the kick of a 9% grade. Try to keep yourself upright and moving forward on a switchback. Get in the saddle, put your head down and ride flat out for an hour. What these guys do is preposterously hard.
I'd like to see the sport raced clean, but let's be honest that in some cases we're drawing arbitrary lines about the notion of using every ounce of science at your disposal except these things over there.
Armstrong likely won a level playing field. People may not like it when he lists doping alongside pumping your tires and filling your water bottles, but that was how they were racing. The truth is what he did in surviving cancer and winning the TDF seven times is still an amazing triumph, one of the greatest sporting accomplishments ever. What he's done to help cancer victims and promote healthier living (arguably you can trace the current biking boom to Armstrong) has had immense impact.
His sin is he's yet another example of the world being more complex than the simple narrative we so fervently desire. He competed hard. He did some great things outside of his sport. He inspired millions.
And he was riddled with personal flaws and made enormous mistakes along the way.
Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong
I'm witchcrafting everybody.