Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tour de France doping

I have not wanted to believe that so many cyclists on the Tour de France were doping, but this piece has me pretty close to convinced. Freelancer Nathaniel Vinton argues that the crises over the doping ring in Spain and Floyd Landis "have only fragmented the sport's authorities, and cycling's culture of cheating seems more entrenched than ever."

The main form of doping seems to be blood-doping -- injecting with enough extra blood to increase oxygen capacity but not enough to show up on a test, and Vinton thinks the peloton members -- the pack of riders at the center, who collude to rein in mavericks, etc. -- are down with it.

If Vinton is right and most of the good cyclists do it, the fans and sponsors tolerate it, knowing it's happening, maybe the way to go is just to make it legal? Again, these are adults who presumably have the right to take whatever risks they want with their own bodies. The rules about what's legitimate performance enhancement -- presumably vitamins, nutrients, rigorous training -- and illegitimate -- blood doping, other drugs -- are pretty arbitrary anyway. There's an ugly puritanical streak to all this rule-making, keeping it "clean" (or pure), and desire to catch people cheating.

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