Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Performance Enhancement

So a second team was expelled from the Tour de France today because one of its riders tested positive for artificial testosterone.

Earlier this week Alexander Vinokourov, one of the strongest contenders on the tour, got bounced when he tested positive for foreign blood in his system. This is an indication that he was engaging in blood packing, a practice where an athlete tops off his normal blood levels with a little extra, you know for the added oomph only surplus hemoglobin can provide.

A third rider, Michael Rasmussen, is under suspicion because he dodged some drug tests earlier this year.

The scandal in France is unfolding at the same time that Barry Bonds creeps inexorably towards breaking the home run record.

And at this point I go out on a limb and say something largely unprovable. Every major athlete who has played, run, swam, ridden or thrown in the last decade probably has used some kind of banned performance enhancement. To pretend otherwise is childish.

And who do you blame for this? Blame yourselves. Blame yourselves and the business men who make money off sports. You want to see baseball players smash balls to atoms every night. You want to watch football players crush each other into bloody pulps. You buy the tickets and the t-shirts and the cable TV packages that let you watch every home and away game. You're getting what you pay for. It's your fault.

The ballplayers and the riders are nearly as innocent as the bread-thief in a Victor Hugo novel. Each of them faces a choice: use performance enhancing drugs and earn millions and millions of dollars a year or don't use the drugs and go work at a Home Depot stacking two-by-fours. What would you do?

So far as I know, George Steinbrenner loses no money if one of his players tests postive for banned substances. Vodofone and the Discovery Channel do not face a fine if the riders on their Tour de France team piss dirty or fail a blood test. But if a Yankees player fails to perform at the league standard, he gets fired in a hot second. The same goes for riders on the tour.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Bravo. I think there may be a corporate social responsibility campaign in all of this. I like it.