Should The Tour De France Be Cancelled?

Is winning at any cost truly worth the risks involved?  Does losing with honour matter less than the desired result?  Is there just too much pressure to cheat and not nearly enough to play fair?  Most importantly, does deliberate rulebreaking tarnish a sport beyond repair?

These aren’t original questions.  They’ve been posed a million times before.  But as long as athletes continue to get caught breaking the rules of the game, they’ll continue to be asked.

Here’s another one:  should The Tour De France be cancelled?

The most famous race in cycling saw its profile raised considerably during Lance Armstrong’s era.  How could it not when the testicular cancer survivor won the damn thing seven times in a row?  I remember Toronto Sun columnist Peter Worthington once making the case at the time that because of this unprecedented accomplishment Armstrong was possibly the greatest athlete in history.  It didn’t sound so absurd back then.

But knowing what we now know about Armstrong’s chronic dependence on blood and hormone doping, it is.  Quite frankly, we should’ve been immediately skeptical of his first victory, let alone the six that followed.

I mean, honestly, the man is only producing 50% testosterone.  (He’s down to one testicle after a near-fatal battle with cancer in the 90s.)  That’s a huge disadvantage right off the bat.  (As far as we know, no one else he raced against went through a similiarly terrible ordeal.)  I don’t care how strong and dedicated an athlete you are, it’s highly unlikely you can survive and thrive in 21 days of cycling (with rest periods, of course) through some 2000 miles of French terrain and come out the overall winner cleanly just once.  Forget about seven.  Look, I’m no doctor of sports medicine but there’s just no way.

And now, thanks to a recent, voluminous report from the USADA (over 200 pages), the American regulatory body that oversees doping matters involving its athletes, we have proof of that doubt.  Armstrong and many of his teammates were deeply committed to winning The Tour De France by blatantly circumventing the rules of fair play and ultimately, the process of drug testing.  Attaining victory without honour never gave them pause.

Before the report’s release, many have long weighed in this year about this matter, most coming to the inevitable conclusion that Armstrong has a lot of explaining to do.  Unfortunately and incredulously, he’s long denied doing anything remotely unethical.  Even worse, he ruthlessly bullies those who have spoke out against him (including not-so-innocent but understandably guilt-ridden teammates and associates) going so far as to publicly trash their, in some cases, already soiled reputations and suing them in civil court. 

But Armstrong isn’t the only culprit nor are his teammates.  According to this Guardian commentary, the vast majority of Tour De France winners in the last 45 years “have been tarnished or implicated by doping”.  So, here’s the big question.  How do you prevent cheaters from dominating this race when they are almost always well ahead of the latest anti-doping procedures put in place?

The answer is easy.  You really can’t.  Before the full extent of the Armstrong matter was revealed, other than those more tuned into the culture of cycling than the rest of us, who among us had ever heard of blood doping?  What about adding testosterone to your system in between stages?  Maybe I’m just not that clever of a human being but other than training like the dickens, eating the appropriate foods and getting the requisite amount of sleep before these kinds of races, what else would be needed to win?

You’d be correct in saying I’m hopelessly naive.  It’s a lifelong problem.  But when you’re guaranteed a 5 million dollar bonus for winning the Tour De France, maybe you wouldn’t think twice to do whatever it takes to win it, even if that means sacrificing your senses of honesty, integrity and overall decency.  Like I said, honour wasn’t a concern for Armstrong and company.

For almost everybody on Armstrong’s old cycling team, they couldn’t pretend all was kosher any longer.  That’s why the USADA has pages and pages of their sworn testimony exposing what they call “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”. 

But The One-Ball Wonder is another story.  He has yet to admit to any chicanery.  One wonders if he ever will.  He’s just that stubborn.  Or, as this stinging Guardian editorial notes, “more like a psychopath” and “a coward”.

He’s already lost his athletic reputation and professional career, and all his Tour De France championships.  All that’s left is his Nike endorsement (guess cheaters really move the merch) and his anti-cancer organization, Live Strong.  (Will it be renamed Live Wrong?)

But of course, Armstrong isn’t the only culprit.  Cycling is filled with competitors just like him, only not nearly as successful and wealthy.  Which brings me back to that question:  should The Tour De France be cancelled? 

Here’s a couple of follow-ups:  if cleaning up the sport is next to impossible, if not outright impossible, why bother to continue having this race every year?  If the legitimacy of victory can’t be taken at face value nor can the cheats be caught in real time, what’s the point of carrying on?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, October 13, 2012
11:32 p.m.

UPDATE:  Now he doesn’t even have his Nike endorsement.  The shoe company just announced it won’t be supporting him financially any longer.  Three other companies have also ended their commercial partnerships with the embattled cyclist.  Armstrong has also resigned his position as chairman of his Live Strong anti-cancer charity.  According to CNN, though, he’ll continue to work with the organization, mostly as a fundraiser.  Yeah, that’ll work.  What’s the point of quitting if you’re not actually quitting?  And who would personally give money to a fraud?  (By the way, just to be clear, Live Strong is and always has been a legit charity so feel free to donate to them directly.  Armstrong should just get out of the way already.  He’s the fraud I’m referring to, not Live Strong.)

Recently, Lewis Black commented on the scandal during a segment of The Daily Show where he noted that Armstrong not only had testicular cancer but also cancer in his lungs, abdomen and brain which makes all his cycling accomplishments even more preposterous.  A clip of a 2005 CNN report was played during his commentary which noted Armstrong’s supposedly impressive lung capacity that made him something of a superman compared to everybody else.  Is it any wonder he got away with this bullshit for so long?  Bring back healthy skepticism.  We miss it dearly.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
7:12 p.m.

CORRECTION & UPDATE 2:  Armstrong hasn’t lost his Olympic Bronze medal as I erroneously noted in paragraph 14.  That portion has now been deleted.  That being said, however, he may end up losing it after all according to this.  Furthermore, according to the recent documentary, The World According To Lance Armstrong (which aired recently on CBC News Network and CNN), the reason the disgraced cyclist developed cancer in the first place is precisely because he had been using five different performance enhancing drugs which he freely admitted to his doctor in the presence of three other witnesses.  In other words, Armstrong had been juicing his entire professional career.  It has literally taken the anti-doping authorities 20 years to nab him.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, November 1, 2012
4:47 p.m.

UPDATE 3:  As of last week, he’s no longer part of LiveStrong’s Board of Directors.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, November 12, 2012
10:20 p.m.

UPDATE 4:  And now he will be stripped of that Olympic Bronze according to this.  In Part One of her exclusive interview with Armstrong, Oprah Winfrey was able to accomplish what no one has ever been able to do before.  She got the disgraced cyclist to finally admit on the record that he was in fact a drug cheat during his racing career.  Unfortunately, he’s still disputing certain accusations against him as well as severely downplaying and conveniently forgetting his leadership role running his cycling teams.  (Tyler Hamilton went much further in The Secret Race.)  While it’s a good thing he’s finally starting to admit to some shenanigans he has to cop to everything.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, January 17, 2013
11:11 p.m.

Published in: on October 13, 2012 at 11:32 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. […] literary aim at Daniel Tosh, Bill Maher, Rhianna, Two And A Half Men star Angus T. Jones and even world class cheater Lance Armstrong.  Like President Obama, Jones and Armstrong got their own respective playlists.  (Regarding the […]

  2. […] stubborn defense of the abusive, highly litigious, then-heavily endorsed cyclist Lance Armstrong, who later confessed to drug cheating on Oprah’s Next […]

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