Professional cycling needs to get its act together, and that’s no joke.
Written by: Susan Lacke
This just in: There are some professional cyclists who use illegal drugs.
In related news: The sun is hot. And water is wet.
Anyone who’s truly shocked has likely been living under a rock. Doping is to professional cycling as peanut butter is to jelly, salt is to pepper, and beer is to humor columnist. When one is present, you can bet the other one in the vicinity. They just seem to go together.
Here’s the thing, though: In the above list, doping and cycling are the only combination that shouldn’t go together. In fact, there are even rules that say so…yet the two can’t seem to be pried apart.
Don’t get me wrong: Professional cyclists have it hard. Just the thought of racing up mountains day after day makes me tired. Heck, sometimes I wake up in the morning, look at my bike, and the mere effort exhausts me enough that I need to go back to bed for a few hours.
Yes, cycling is hard. But that doesn’t justify the use of doping strategies to make it easier.
Maybe I’m naive for saying this, but racing up the mountains every day is a job. I can do my job without the use of illegal drugs. Hamilton, Hincapie, Contador, Armstrong…what’s their deal? If a person can’t hack it in their job, they either need to work harder or find a different job. Doping in cycling because it’s difficult is like me saying it’s okay for me to cut-and-paste a few pages from “War and Peace,” publish it as original work, and take all the credit, because gosh, this writing thing is so TOUGH.
Professional cycling currently has the same drug policy as most workplaces, including mine: There is a list of substances allowed to be used on the job, and a list of banned substances. It’s such a simple policy, yet cycling seems to have a problem enforcing it. If Alberto Contador tests positive for an illegal substance, he gets to blame it on a drugged hamburger. Tyler Hamilton used a story about his “unborn twin,” an elaborate tale belonging in a Lifetime movie starring Anne Heche – not an elite sport.
Give me a freakin’ break. If my handlers found out I was coming to work with an illegal drug in my system, I’d be fired before I could say “Anne Heche.”
There are some who justify cheating by saying it isn’t a big deal because “everyone’s doing it.” I tried that same logic when I got caught cheating on my math exam in junior high. It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now. Just because “everyone’s doing it,” doesn’t mean it’s okay. Cheating is cheating.
It’s not just cycling. Cheating has been making the rounds in a lot of sports. Runners, triathletes, baseball players, football players, and even gymnasts have tainted their reputations with the use of illegal drugs. None of these sports, however, have become the butt of the joke quite like cycling has.
A friend of mine recently remarked that cycling is on its way to becoming the World Wrestling Federation of endurance sports: A group of egotistical jerks, genitalia shrunken by drug use, performing an elaborate ballet in skintight costumes. The Tour de France, the Super Bowl of cycling, has already earned a nickname that reflects this: Le Tour de Farce.
This reputation reflects poorly on the hundreds of thousands of cyclists who congregate in coffee shop parking lots every weekend before “Wheels Down” at 6 AM. It insults the legions of cyclists who bust their humps training while following the rules – only to serve as peloton fluff (or worse, get dropped) while the doped athletes take the podium spots. It puts an asterisk by something that’s supposed to be a magnificent accomplishment. It takes a truly beautiful sport and makes it something shameful.
Professional cycling needs to get its act together.
And that’s no joke.