Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lance Armstrong and Doping

The following was written by me after reading a second of his books in late 2012:

"We have been talking about this for more than a decade. People sometimes ask me what I think about it. I am after all one of the guys winning road races and cycling up hill in Dubuque faster than anyone else. So what do I think? Did Lance cheat? In short, he tested clean, there is your answer.

In long, what is cheating? Is using an altitude tent cheating? Is taking vitamin supplements cheating? Is using caffeine cheating? (Most top endurance people do use it, myself included.) Is getting a blood transfusion of your own blood cheating? Is it cheating to use such a small amount of a drug that you still test negative for it?

I do have five reasons why Lance was able to win seven tours when no one else has.
  1. People who go through near death experiences make major life changes. Once a person faces death the amount of tolerable suffering or commitment that person will take on is far greater than most people.
  2. Before he had cancer he won the world championships. It's a big deal. It means he was already a really good rider.
  3. It was just about the only thing that he trained for during those seven years. Most people don't have the commitment to train for an entire year for one event. Most participate in a dozen or more events every year. That extra specific focus could mean a minute or two over the course of three weeks.
  4. After winning once a person knows what it takes to win. The second time typically does not involve a 5% increase in fitness.  In other words, when you become the winner the winner becomes mortal.
  5. He had amazing teams breaking wind for him through thousands of miles. When you see how strong his domestiques were it makes it fractionally easier to win the tour. "
Now we know, Lance cheated. I wanted to believe he was clean. I wanted to think that a strong person could rise to the challenge of winning a great competition time and again. Alas, he cheated like most of the other people in the race we now know. It's frustrating. I was never a big Lance fan because of his arrogance and complete rejection of the unseen, yet I still wanted him to be clean. After Tiger Woods disgrace and whoever was dog fighting or having sex with underage women in mainstream sports, I wanted someone "popular" to be a positive role model. It was believable, a guy with enough baggage to be believable. He was always human.

Now his arrogance is on another level. He sued people, and even won, when they said he doped! They told the truth and he convinced everyone that the truth was a lie! How can someone do that?

This is one more example of fallible humans. I find it depressing. Ryan Hall and Galen Rupp if you guys ever cheat I will be awfully mad. I don't even know what I would do.

In the October 2011 Des Moines Half Marathon, where I set my 1:11 PR, the winner, I believe, was caught a few months later for using banned substances. I was 17th in that race, and I would have preferred getting 16th. It's that close, a guy that I was feet away from on the starting line won the race and cheated. I am slow, I work awfully hard. Every bit of time I can take off my time I celebrate. The competition is mostly with myself, but there is some external competition and I don't use EPO, steroids, or blood dope how am I suppose to compete? Seriously. EPO has been show to give up to a 13% advantage, that's over strait 19 minutes off of my marathon time. Back in the 1970s blood doping gave an average of 2.5% improvement. Even 2.5% is about four minutes faster. With numbers like that I wish races did more testing.

It's tempting you know? Here I am slaving away at 5 AM in the cold, on icy streets, slogging through workouts with a bunch of college kids, doing long runs mostly alone in the rain. A few hundred dollars of medical supplies and a couple hours of reading and YouTube videos on giving myself an IV, and since I would use my own blood I could drop time by the minute instead of the second. I won't dope or use EPO. At least while I am still trying to accomplish something. Later in life (40s or 50s) I could see myself volunteering for a study or experimenting, but not when there is actually any chance of setting a lifetime PR at an Olympic event. In the back of my mind is running down several famous runners past their prime in a prestigious marathon due to years of perfect training. I can't finish before anyone in a race I care about knowing I cheated.

It's a moral attitude. I don't cheat and I don't have $100 million. Lance cheated and is worth in the neighborhood of $100 million. Welcome to the world, it is not fair.

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