Tuesday, September 4, 2012

In the interests of fair sports

I've thought about this subject off and on over recent years, and with the current 'Lance' situation, it's an even more post-worthy topic.

A big part of why Travis Tygart/ USADA  went after Lance is they felt he had an unfair advantage over his competitors due to his (alleged) doping. I say alleged because I've never personally been shown the EVIDENCE (of which it would appear to be a lot). I am privy to the plethora of 'stuff' that makes it's way to the internet and/or the news channels, and/or magazines. However, I am loathe to "convict" because I have no way of determining which of this information is true and which is not. I realize that almost EVERYONE has an agenda of some sort. I do, you do, pretty much EVERYBODY does. And just because someone gives an interview or writes a book doesn't mean all the info provided is on the up and up.

For instance, I'll give you this link to an article from Outside Magazine (thanks Greg).

Outside Magazine article about life with Lance

It's a very damning article by a seemingly reputable person. However after reading this article (grab yourself a cold one...it's like 11 pages!), I can't say 100% that this person doesn't have an agenda of his own (ie: he's PISSED at Lance and wants to hurt him). IF all the info is true, I can't blame him...I'd be QUITE pissed too. However, this is one person's "story" and as I said..how do I KNOW it's true? Answer: I don't. There's just now way I can. However, I guess the most damming of all is the number of people stepping forward with 'evidence' (I don't call it evidence unless the person SAW something IN PERSON....having someone say that someone else told them they saw something isn't the same thing).

ANYWAY....this is all just a diversion from the original intent of today's post. I had a nice long ride on Saturday with Greg, Steve and Paul (we climbed a nice HC hill down in Santa Barbara: Gibraltar Rd, and logged 70 miles and almost 7000' of climbing)...so I had a nice long time during the 7 mile climb to ponder fairness in sports, and what that really means to me.

Doping in sports does indeed create unfairness. Those who dope have an advantage over those who don't. But even in this black and white distinction (dopers/non-dopers) there are degrees. Those who dope with EPO/CERA, HGH and Testesterone have an advantage over those who can only get/afford EPO, or Testosterone, or HGH. So even among dopers there is a disparity.

And the biggest problem (which everyone must admit is true, as it's the basis for the current dilemma in sports): how to tell the dopers from the non-dopers? IF Lance and team are guilty of everything that they are accused of, then the anti-doping system is a total waste of money. I've heard over and over that Lance won his 7 TDF's during the dirtiest time in cycling history. This may or may not be true...IF it is, then as I said, the ENTIRE anti-doping system should be replaced with something else...because what they currently have isn't working very well. And as for those getting caught: every now and then catching ONE cheat among an entire peleton of cheaters, well..how would that person feel? TICKED OFF, that's how. IF everybody really is doping and he gets caught, well...that's just not fair. So...my conclusion: the system we currently have isn't fair.

And so, now you are probably wondering, "gee Matt..how can we fix this?" Well, you're in luck, because during I have a plan!

First off, I must address the fact that there are MANY MANY levels of unfairness in sports. But I'll stick with cycling for now....the rest will have to wait until after I've fixed PRO cycling. So. As I was saying, multitudes of unfairness exists in the current system. Doping. Equipment. Clothing. Training. Food. Lodging. I'll tackle all these for starters.

I've already discussed the problems with different levels of doping causing unfairness. The same can be said with the equipment. If one guy gets a better bike than another, then he has an unfair advantage. Same with cycling clothes. There are now special suits that reduce the power required to do the same speed by about 30 watts. THIS is entirely unfair. Then we have the varying levels/intensities of training. Why should one guy get better coaching/harder/longer workouts than another? THIS is unfair. How on earth can the couch-potato-cyclist be expected to compete on a level playing field with the super-motivated work-out-a-holics? HE CAN'T and this is patently unfair! Then there's food. If one guy has a special cook and is getting better food than another, UNFAIR!! TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY UNFAIR! And what about lodging...maybe one guy gets a sleep-number bed and the next guy is on a stinking cot in the hallway, or even worse, in a sleeping bag on the floor! NOT FAIR by any means!

But thankfully I've got the answers to rectify all this unfairness. And it's quite easy, and will save TONS of money for ALL the teams, and all the sponsors, and will give us the fans unequivocally fair cycling! (at least until we have genetic manipulation of the human body making one person a genetically better athlete than another...which I will address in a future post about using only Robots for all sports).

And so...yes, I've been stalling. Here then is MY PLAN!

You see, I'm retired military, and the answer was just as simple as looking back to when I was 18 years old. What is the answer I am speaking of? FULL MILITARY CONDITIONS for ALL pro cyclists. It's the only way. None of this hotels and fancy restaurants and special cooks and such...that creates unfairness. ALL the aspiring cyclists who desire to be a pro will live under ONE roof. YEAR ROUND, for as long as they are a pro. OPEN BAY BARRACKS. It was good enough for me, and good enough for pretty much ALL the young military folk for their first year or so, so why not the pro cyclists? We volunteer to be in the military, and the cyclist volunteer to be a pro cyclist...so there you have it.

In this open bay barracks, each person gets a bunk and a locker. Both of which are subject to inspection at any moment. And I mean TOTAL and complete inspection, up to and including a complete tossing of 'your stuff'. Yes, I've had this happen to me, and I would imagine everybody who has done any time in the military has suffered the same. And we lived. SO...with this policy, every pro cyclist will get the same amount of sleep, in the same exact crappy bunk-beds with the same crappy chicken-feather pillows, with the same crappy and TOO DAMN SMALL gray wool blankets and the same not very soft at all crappy sheets.

For training, the entire plethora of pro cyclists will go out on the exact same training rides, weight-room workouts, etc etc. No disparity here....NOW we will be able to see when the cream rises to the top! Everybody will be issued their cycling kits, all EXACTLY the same, and I mean even the same colors. You see, if one guy gets a predominantly black kit and another guy gets predominantly white kit, on a hot sunny day the guy in black will be ROASTING. UNFAIR! UNFAIR! So there...same kit. And along with the kits, they will all ride the EXACT same bikes! (after a few years of this style we will be able to start weeding out the taller and shorter riders, and in just a decade or so every rider will be the same height/weight so they can all ride the same frame size, thus eliminating any unfairness due to heavier and less aerodynamic larger-size frames).

They will ALL eat at the same chow hall, getting the EXACT same CRAPPY food (powdered scrambled eggs come to mind here...ICK!) There will be reveille and taps every day, so that everybody gets the same amount of sleep.

There will be mandatory drug testing every day for every cyclist, and IF someone is ever caught they will be keel-hauled (I am a Navy guy after all). We'll have to work on what ship to use, and maybe it will be just a monthly trip around some bay or such, just long enough to run the unlucky DOPER(s) down the length of the keel. IF he lives, he's welcomed back into the fold free and clear. We'll hold no grudges in this new fair cycling of mine. Besides, I am betting IF anybody were to survive a keel-hauling, they would NEVER do whatever it was that got them keel-hauled in the first place ever again. Probably wouldn't even have to test that guy...he'd be the squeakiest-clean rider EVER for the rest of his life! And as a side benefit...after WATCHING someone be keel-hauled, I am betting the entire peleton would remain voluntarily squeaky clean out of plain fear.

Of course, using my new ALL's FAIR system the entire pro peleton will likely ride about the same speed/distance that I currently do...but hey...no system is perfect. You want fairness in cycling? Well, there's gonna be some compromises.

After a year or so of this system, there will likely be no more TV coverage as they will all SUCK so bad that nobody would pay a nickel to watch them, and then they will no longer be racing for money, but for simple room and board, (and the love of the sport). And thus, they won't be able to AFFORD any doping products anymore, and then the problem is well and truly solved.

And this will cost far less than the current doping system, due to the fact that this entire system will take place on older military bases which have tons of space for training, and buildings just aching to be used. And all the money saved can then be put into our Federal Congressional retirement plan, as they just don't get enough money after serving only a single term. you know, it's a hard job getting nothing done day after day and then somehow telling your constituents how great you did and that's why you should be re-elected (sorry...got kind'a political on you for a moment).

So. There you have it. You want cycling cleaned up? This will do the trick, I GUARANTEE it!

You're welcome!


  1. Well, I read the article and have to say that it did sound to me like mostly sour grapes -- or hurt feelings over being his "friend" then being fired. And you know what I think about the likelihood that LA used PEDS.
    First the guy says he had a written agreement, then it was only an email, then he has no record of the email (comeon, a college educated man regards an email as a contract but doesn't bother to keep a copy? Really?)
    Tales of LA's relationships with his employees reminds me of a former boss of mine, the founder of the company. She had a tendency to want to make "friends" of her employees, but if they didn't meet her expectations or proved to not be quite what she wanted either as "friend" or employee, she would start to look for reasons -- start to build a case-- of why they needed to be fired-- even if they were performing their job adequately. Not being a person myself could be comfortable trying to be BFF with my boss, I always kept it on professional terms and I never fell into that scenario.
    The tale of "WADA/USADA" waiting at the gates, being turned away, but being tricked into thinking that LA was there is ridiculous. If they'd come for a test but were turned away, THAT would be a doping violation. On the other hand, to think that a close associate of LA "has no idea" of what USADA is? That is also beyond believability.
    I also had issues with the interview with Ashendon (on NYVelocity, linked from Rant). Although he knows what he is talking about certainly re the testing, he manages to toss in some "facts" that aren't really--like LA is so short (easy to look at team pictures and see that's not right) and that he had no strong results before 1998 (except, of course, winning stages of the TdF, the world championship, Fleche-Wallonie, 2nd at LBL, and decent placings at the 92 and 96 Olympics. Oh, he didn't finish the TdF in 93? many young pros don't, who go on to be accomplished racers) It's frustrating to me, who would like to have a clear understanding, to see such sloppiness, and it leaves me feeling that even though Ashenden may be absolutely right about the testing evidence, there is more to his speaking out than just wanting to clarify the testing evidence.

    As to your modest proposal, Matt, well, I think the Congress would do well to get behind it right smartly!


  2. Hey Rae...I was going to wait a few days and then post THIS tidbit (the OTHER side of the story to the interview I linked above damning Lance...this is their response):


    I'll be out of touch for the next few days, Greg (my brother) and I are headed up into the High Sierra's for a few days of backpacking. We drive up tomorrow (Thurs) and pack in Friday...then hike and fish for a few days, and pack out Monday. Who knows WHAT will have happened in the news by the time we get back to civilization!

    And one final bit: I've been UNABLE to watch the Vuelta since about stage 8...turns out I only had Universal Sports as a promo and they TOOK IT AWAY just as things were getting interesting! Such is life.

  3. Note: This comment is from Tim Joe, and I couldn't figure out why it didn't show up on the site...turns out I had duplicate posts, so I deleted one of them and I'm adding TJ's comment here. (Matt)

    The best food I ever had was AF basic training. I don't know about the chow line; I went straight to the salad bar (no line) and I remember it fondly to this day.

    How do you get to ride the road to Slick Six? That was part of my service/inspection route when I was with Space and Missile Test back in '75. Man, I would LOVE to ride that hill on my bicycle!

    The regimen that you describe sounds great, except that there would still be plenty of opportunity to dope as long as everyone was in on it and there was some kind of warning system in place. Sound familiar?

    That Outside story is just one of their attacks. I used to like that magazine. By the bottom of the first page that punk's story was clear as hell: Fell in favor, got to go to Disneyland, fell out of favor, did his worst to get his own Disneyland. I didn't read far enough to find out how the hell he ended up in New Zealand, but good for him. Stay there.

    Look at Lance and Look at Soupy Sales there and at a glance I can separate the Man from the Boy.


    1. TJ...you had GOOD food in Air Force Basic Training? Gosh..the Navy food was HORRID!

      As to riding on Vandenberg, I work out there, and also being retired Navy I can (and do) come on base pretty much any time I want and ride ride ride (I mt bike AND road ride out there). I'm assuming the road I ride to SLC-6 is newer than what was there in 75...we have a nice one all along the coast, it even goes all the way out to the boathouse. Then on Northbase we go all the way to Pt Sal (approx 42 miles of coastline on the base, I have access to most of it). It's pretty great road-riding as the roads are good and almost non-existent traffic. However...lets talk about Mr. WIND! it's a rare day when it's less than 10mph in the afternoon (when I get to ride). They say it makes you stronger. Whoever "they" are, I hate them!

  4. And the fog. I can't believe the boat house is still there. Memory lane. I always said 'Ol VAFB was some mighty prime real estate.