Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lance -- Again

Two articles on Lance in today's NY Times. The first is a rather painful-to-read summary of the doping agency report concluding Lance was the ringleader of a sophisticated -- and forceful -- doping program surrounding his two TdF teams. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not, but it's depressing, and I lean toward true.

The second is a discussion of his luke-warm reception in triathlon. I've discussed that here before. The article includes interviews with a handful of pro triathletes and coaches who support his exclusion from sanctioned events. Statements in those interviews contain a certain subtextual discomfort with the painful fact that a top cyclist, even when he's far too old to race on his bike, is better than a top triathlete in his prime. Of course, it's easy to clothe any such complaint in worries about triathlon's remaining a clean sport.

Just had this thought as I stood here: assume Lance is/was a doper. Is his success in triathlon problematic because he is/was dirty, or is it problematic because of his high profile regardless of doping? It seems that to the extent triathlon is a "clean" sport (which is debatable anyway -- Ironman titles have been stripped before) it is primarily a function of triathlon's low profile rather than a function of triathletes' inherent morality. Introduce mass public appeal and the sponsorship dollars that come with it and you bring about overwhelming incentives to cheat. (Having written that, it seems more obvious than profound.)

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