Ride the Puddles

Response to Reader: Doping Witch Hunts

Posted by bikezilla on February 11, 2011

After reading Riccardo Riccò, Floyd Landis, and Auto-Tranfusions, The Biking Chick, aka Leiann Samuell asked via Twitter:

“What about steroid use / doping use in other sport? Is it just out there in cycling? Have other sports ended it?”


“Are we going to see a cycling witch hunt a la the MLB?”

As I’ve said before, the subject of doping is a non-cycling cycling story. I generally avoid it, so I’m no expert. When you go outside of cycling I know even less.

I’m not gonna touch the “cycling vs every other sport” thing.

But MLB and the related “witch hunt”? That’s some sweet shiite.

That witch hunt was necessary and just maybe something similar is needed in cycling.

MLB had no desire to eliminate or even curb doping. Doping was berry berry good to baseball.

Baseball was a dying sport. Doping added excitement that was impossible to introduce in any other way.

Dude, a 50 year old, untouchable home run record was broken, rebroken, rerebroken, then Hank Aaron’s record fell. All to dopers, all because of doping.

MLB neeeeeeeeeeeeded doping in a big, big way and doping totally delivered the goods, bringing fans back by the bandwagon load.

So MLB pretended to hate doping while being complicit in it.

Complicit? Like, um, UCI?

Does cycling need doping like MLB did?

Is it more exciting to see an impossible, yet emotional and inspirational ascent up a savage mountain face?

On one hand, sure. But on the other hand, cycling fans are more savvy to doping, more adept at recognizing that a truly unbelievable performance is just that, truly unbelievable.

For instance, during the ’10 Vuelta, Ezequiel Mosquera’s performance.

His riding, his climbing, his performance, my God, magnificent.

But after his Stage 17 time trial performance, where he improved (if I remember correctly) 40 or so places over his average TT finish of 63rd to 20th (and conveniently enough, took over 2nd place in the GC), I and others quietly wondered if he could have doped.

I was more crushed over finding out that Mosquera had doped than that Alberto Contador had, but both really hurt. A lot of other fans, people who passionately love the sport, felt just as hurt and let down.

MLB, it’s management, team owners and players, escalated their lies and cover-ups until trying to end doping the nice way, the calm way, the reasonable way, was a stupidly fruitless endeavor.

They forced the course of events to run the “witch hunt” route. It became the only sane and sensible course of action.

MLB represented one extreme. The Witch Hunters represented the other.

UCI and guys like Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel are pushing cycling in the same direction.

They’ll keep treating fans and media as if we’re all too stupid to figure out what’s what, until finally someone with some kind of serious power shouts, “ENOUGH!” and the witch hunt is on.

Was MLB any cleaner after it’s witch hunt? I can only say that, with the exception of Barry Bonds, it seems so.

The witch hunt seemed to force MLB to outgrow its dope induced sensationalism far sooner than any other motivation would have.

MLB needed one extreme to blast full speed into another.

Does cycling need the same?


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