Drugs, Shame and the Tour de France: Ulrich, Basso, Landis, Armstrong (?)
Posted by Sports Snob on August 2, 2006
I love sports. The matching of wits, skills of individual men and women, of teams, of man-machine combinations is a joy to behold. True, the old world ideals may not be upheld every time but sport is the one stage where there is a true display of skills and emotion: that moment of sublime genius, the struggling hero, the ability to galvanize a team of tired men to perform at their very best, the compliments from an opponent, the loss of temper and the head-butting!
This stage is getting tarnished more and more by greedy and ambitious men and women. While there is enormous pressure on them to perform, from the media, the fans and every stakeholder, it is important for these people to realize that they a responsibility and that is to ensure that the reputation of their team and sport aren’t tarnished by their actions.
I have had difficulty explaining to people that not all matches are fixed – following the infamous Hansie Cronje affair. But, there was always this feeling: What if I’m wrong?
Tour de France: Hall of Shame
The biggest cycling event of the calendar had major blows this year. Cycling has been mired in drug controversies for a long period of time and this year saw some of the major stars being suspended: Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Oscar Sevilla.
These stinkers were followed by a fairly uneventful Tour de France till the final stages of the race. Floyd Landis a former team-mate of Lance Armstrong, rode an extremely strong stage 17 to reduce his deficit by seven and a half minutes in a single stage of solo raid mountain racing, the likes of which “haven’t been seen since the days of Eddie Merckx”. After a performance that will be talked about for years, Landis tested positive. The Tour de France Champion flunked a drug test!!! There were abnormal levels of testosterone in his blood sample. The sample B results are yet to come out but the results aren’t likely to be any different and hence the defence already building around the high levels of testosterone produced by “my own organism”.
The following is a latest news report:
“Tests performed on the cyclist Floyd Landis’s initial urine sample showed that some of the testosterone in his body had come from an external source and was not produced by his system, according to a person at the International Cycling Union with knowledge of the results….
…there could be many explanations for Landis’s high ratio, including a naturally high testosterone to epitestosterone level, bacterial contamination, alcohol consumption the night before the test or contamination of the specimen during testing. He could not say why synthetic testosterone might have been in Landis’s system. He said both tests could have been inaccurate.”
The Tour de France’s image and the reputation of cycling are at stake. What can be done to avert a catastrophe?
Lance Armstrong: Triumph of the spirit or the scam?
Statement – October 8, 1996 “I would like to thank everyone for coming and for calling in to hear what I have to say today. I have some news regarding my health to share with you. On Wednesday, October 2nd, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Prior to seeing my doctor last week, I had been experiencing swelling and pain in one of my testicles and had coughed up some blood. On Thursday, October 3rd, I underwent surgery at St. David’s Hospital here in Austin to have the malignant testicle removed and the surgery was successful. A CT-Scan was also performed the same day. The CT-Scan revealed that my condition has spread into my lungs and abdomen. In terms of degrees of the disease, my condition is considered to be advanced and, thus, yesterday I began my first day of chemotherapy treatment.”
From there to being a seven time winner of the hardest race in the world. It is the biggest triumph of human spirit on the sporting stage in recent times, maybe even of all times. But there have been questions over the propriety of Lance Armstrong. Drug allegations flew thick and fast. He has denied every one of them and is willing to go to the courts to clear his name. This is one instance, where I am afraid to ask for the truth. I don’t want to know. I would like to believe that those seven victories showed me what the human spirit is capable of achieving. It’s a story I want to believe in. It gives hope to people. For the sake of humanity, I plead the investigators and the rumor mongers: Let us forget the Armstrong thing, the world needs the story, it needs a hero, a victor, a champion. Let it not be blown into a Million little pieces … again
Let us get on with the games and the action coz sports are much better enjoyed on the field than off it.
Update – 5/8/06
Floyd Landis’s second drug test confirmed inappropriate levels of testosterone in his body setting him up to be the first champion of the Tour De France to be stripped of his title for a doping offense.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency now has a month to investigate and decide whether to impose a sanction, usually a two-year ban for a first offense. Landis could then appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.