Even though I don’t report on doping anymore last night’s 60 Minutes piece is too much to pass up commenting on. The show got me to click the doping label on my blog to see what I’ve written in the past and how accurately I was conjecturing. By recent accounts it seems as though I was doing okay. Anyone interested in doping in sports, particularly cycling (not that it’s so different elsewhere), might want to give it a perusal. Today I’m adding one more tidbit on my personal doping history for your entertainment.
To me, and most of my friends, the only thing astonishing on 60 Minutes last night was that it was actually playing on 60 Minutes. Tyler, nor anyone else, said anything we didn’t know (or at least thought we knew). When Tyler said “I’d bet my life” that every other team was doping it was nothing different than what I’d heard from many other racers over the years, except that it was on the record.
Velonews added a different perspective with Neal Rogers’ article:
Scott Mercier: Former Postal rider says Hamilton’s charges ring true
Mercier’s account is level headed and hard to discount. Riding for Postal in ’97 he was offered a doping regimen. When he couldn’t complete the training he was given without it he took the other path and resigned from the sport.
Mercier packed the drugs with him and said he contemplated using them but ultimately decided against it. He attempted the training program anyhow but found himself unable to recover and instead left the sport and moved to Hawaii. In the years that followed, he said he “assumed that anyone that had stayed on as a professional was using some sort of performance-enhancing drug.”
“In the off-season races, or the shoulder season, the big races in America, or anywhere other than Europe, you could compete with some guys, but in Europe you just couldn’t,” he said. “I’m not sure that I really viewed the doping as cheating; it’s just that I could not live with the hypocrisy and lying associated with it.”
On a personal note this was the same decision I made in college. I doubt that I had Mercier’s talent, and always stated my choice was lack of commitment because I didn’t see my upside as worthy of the risk. Doping, back then, was not the controversial topic it is today. If you were serious that’s what you did. The rest of my thought process was identical. I knew similar athletes to myself who doped and were better, so I assumed the guys with extraordinary talent were doing the same. It was not a value judgment as much as a rational observation.
My friends always seemed confused as to why I didn’t dope since I’d almost habitually test my body’s limits with very little regard for its welfare. I’d experiment with diets to the point of starvation, hydration til I’d go into electrolyte shock, and exercise until I couldn’t get out of (or make it in to) bed. But, to me at least, doping was less interesting because we knew that it would work. And if it was already known then there was little to be gained from the experience. Winning, and maybe money, I suppose, if you’re into such things, but winning by knowingly cheating has always rung hollow, which leads to my final anecdote.
My friend Phil and I were discussing something once about training and volume and challenges, likely a birthday challenge, when someone at the table, upon hearing that all of our numbers weren’t witnessed, said “what’s to stop you guys from just making stuff up?” Phil and I looked at each other, shrugged, and said we’d lose face.
Looking up colloquial definitions of losing face I see it referenced as losing public respect, which is something I find as mixed up as our society is in general these days. Our interpretation is different. Losing face was only about a self reflection. As long as you were attempting the right thing you could not be totally wrong. If you were deceitful, no matter the outcome, you had lost face to yourself. One of us added, “and then we’d have to commit suicide.”
Which brings me back to The Grand Boucle of deceit. As Tyler tried to point out last night, Lance was only doing what everyone else was doing or, at least, everyone else who had a physiological chance of winning the Tour de France was doing. Does that make him so wrong? And, ultimately, no matter how this turns out in public, he’s eventually going to have to reconcile that one with himself because it’s the only self that matters.