Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The EPO Noose is Tightenting

In Chicago, where politics is a contact sport, we are used to seeing scandal circle around the target of public suspicion. Sometimes, like with our recently-sentenced-to-prison former governor Ryan, the circle tightens until it ensnares the biggest fish. Sometimes, scandal remains in the air and never lands directly on the most interesting target. That seems to be the case with Mayor Daley who has not been directly implicated in any wrong doing but seems to be in charge of a lot of people who have. There have, for example, been recent public scandals involving the city's hired truck program and the hiring of building inspectors. At the same time, the city is a better place to live and work than it has been in years (maybe ever).

Yesterday and today (registration required), The New York Times ran articles that imply through attributed and unattributed sources that EPO doping was a fact of life in the 1999 U.S. Postal Service cycling team that brought Lance Armstrong to the first of his Tour de France wins. The clear implication of these articles is that doping was and likely is part of the culture of professional cycling. That means the scandal is circling Lance Armstrong where, we must keep in mind, it may never land. Meanwhile, the Floyd Landis defense continues with new attacks on the reliability of the testing procedures.

This comes right after I had the pleasure of hearing a talk by a Sports Illustrated reporter on steroid use in baseball. The initial reaction to all this is that doping of any kind is cheating. But, a case can be made that steroid use is not too different from good equipment and nutrition, both of which provide a competitive edge. So does coaching; and really good coaches are only available to elite athletes. Maybe that is not fair to everyone else. Maybe the medically supervised use of performance enhancing drugs should be treated just like better equipment and training--just another way of pushing to athletic extremes. The counter argument is that performance enhancing drugs send a particularly bad message to kids who might feel the desire or pressure to use them. Kid, who are unlikely to have quality professional medical supervision, might do lots of damage to themselves. This is a fairly compelling argument.

But, and maybe this is because I am a lawyer, isn't the best argument simply that the rules are designed to promote fair competition. If big league baseball said all players must wear ankle weights, then anyone not using ankle weights would be a cheater. By not following the rules, the doped athletes are cheating. Cheaters who win lose their titles. End of story.

Lastly, and completely unrelated, why did people feel compelled to out the professionals behind the LonelyGirl15 phenomenon? You only needed to watch a few episodes to know that Bree was not making these well-produced videos without professional help.

1 comment:

Jim Dickeson said...

The latest on doping in athletics involves a sort of oxygen deprivation tent. As we know, atheletes that live a work out at high elevations, where oxygen is in short supply, condition their cardio-vascular system such that their performance at more typical elevations is enhanced. Many atheletes have decided to live at high elevations and commute down to practices and competitions.

Now there is available a tent inside of which an atmosphere of reduced oxygen is maintained. Erected inside their homes, atheletes can sleep and spend a good amount of their waking hours inside of this tent. When they come out to play, in normal atmospheric oxygen, they perform better.

The counter argument is made that this is no different than performance enhancing drugs, and should not be allowed. OK, then I suppose that living at high elevations should not be allowed. I guess all of those atheletes in the Colorado Rockies will now have to relocate to Kansas.

Where do we draw the line on forms of performance enhancement?