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Play up! Play up! And Play the Game!

The Colosseum being closed, and bear-baiters being out of business I watched some of the Lance Armstrong interview last night. Some train-wreck interest, certainly, but really….

Over at Reason Ron Bailey, uh, injects some sense of proportion into the whole tawdry affair:

So what? Well, the only reasonable objection is that it violated the rules; but other than that, why would any spectator care? Is the thrill of witnsessing a hard-fought competition thus somehow diminished? If enhancements undermine the competition, why not require cyclists to ride the same sort of bikes that were used in the first Tour de France in 1903? Surely the use of optimized light-weight bikes today is an enhancement?

Speaking of the 1903 Tour de France, “doping” was then an acceptable part of the race. At various points, cyclists evidently used ether, strychnine, and amphetamines to gain an edge…

Strychnine? Now that’s trying.

Bailey continues:

 Some people will argue that athletes must be protected against the temptataion to use enhancements because they could harm their health. However, athletes already take all kinds of health-harming risks just to play their games. Why shouldn’t adults be able to make up their own minds about the risk/reward calculus of using biological enhancements? The best way that policymakers and sports officials can reduce the harm to athletes that might result from using enhancements would be to bring their use out of the shadows and let it be done with the benefit of medical oversight and good research.

And then he adds this:

Why not solve the future problem of gene doping and the current problem of steroid use in professional sports by creating two kinds of sports leagues? One would be free of genetic and pharmacologic enhancements – call them the Natural Leagues. The other would allow players to use gene fixes and other enhancements – call them the Enhanced Leagues. Let fans decide which play they prefer.

Why not indeed? With the exception the occasional game of soccer (normally involving the England team’s endless quest for long-gone 1966), Slap Shot style slaughter on the ice, and nine seconds or so of Usain Bolt, I don’t watch much sport, but leagues involving the best that science can manufacture, now that would be something…

  1. Mendel

    I have to shake my head everytime a libertarian calls for open doping in sports.

    Why?  Because the biggest athletic organizations are nothing more than huge businesses in an incredibly lucrative, but incredibly competitive market.  Their public crusade against doping is not driven by some sense of honor for their sport, but out of fear of losing viewership.

    The real reason for anti-doping witchhunts is because for whatever reason, Average Joe Sportsfan wants to watch athletes on TV who (he believes) are biologically on an equal footing with himself or his kids. 

    Why?  Who knows why, but the market is sending a pretty clear message.  If there was really a huge demand for watching athletes who openly use PED, why hasn’t one of the innumerable leagues fighting for attention tried this strategy yet?

    Of course, Average Joe Sportsfan also wants to see records be broken, which is why the big leagues will also continue to turn a blind eye to doping whenever it becomes feasible again.

  2. JimGoneWild

    If the biking authorities couldn’t detect the use of PH drugs over years and years, how much effect they have?

    Look, no one has been awarded 1st place to all those Tour De France races Lance won because nearly every other bike racer was on some sort of PH drugs. So, basically, the races were all equal.

    Give the wins back to Lance.

  3. Aaron Miller
    Andrew Stuttaford

    Over at ReasonRon Bailey, uh, injects some sense of proportion into the whole tawdry affair:

    So what? Well, the only reasonable objection is that it violated the rules; but other than that, why would any spectator care? Is the thrill of witnsessing a hard-fought competition thus somehow diminished? If enhancements undermine the competition, why not require cyclists to ride the same sort of bikes that were used in the first Tour de France in 1903? Surely the use of optimized light-weight bikes today is an enhancement?

    I like it. Make it unicycles and I might actually watch.

  4. Brian Clendinen

     

    Here here, I have been wanted to post a very similar point of view in the member feed.

    It is so silly that scientific improvements are allowed in training, nutrition, and bikes, but somehow PH drug improvements is somehow wrong? He broke the rules and so did have the racers. If a majority of racers were using the technology, did it really give him any advantage? More it was so he would not be at a disadvantage.

    To me the only real morally objectionable thing he did because he had to was lie about it because he had to. Using medicine to improve performance is not cheating even if you say it is against the rules.

  5. Brian Clendinen
    Mendel: Their public crusade against doping is not driven by some sense of honor for their sport, but out of fear of losing viewership.

    The real reason for anti-doping witchhunts is because for whatever reason, Average Joe Sportsfan wants to watch athletes on TV who (he believes) are biologically on an equal footing with himself or his kids. 

    Why?  Who knows why, but the market is sending a pretty clear message.  If there was really a huge demand for watching athletes who openly use PED, why hasn’t one of the innumerable leagues fighting for attention tried this strategy yet?

     

    You are wrong these are not  the major reasons. One it is the news media equates doping to 1970′s steroids use therefore everyone thinks it is highly dangerous, so bad information on the risk and real science of doping.

     

    Secondly,  the biggest reason is the world doping agency. They are fee based so ever drug test they can perform they make more money. Pretty much every single world sport organization uses this agency. They have ever incentive to keep finding more and more drugs which they can test and make illegal in sports to increase their bottom line.

  6. Mendel
    Brian Clendinen

    Mendel:

     You are wrong these are not  the major reasons. One it is the news media equates doping to 1970′s steroids use therefore everyone thinks it is highly dangerous, so bad information on the risk and real science of doping.

    I don’t think it’s just the health risks to athletes that disturbs people – although you may be correct that too many people have outdated notions of PEDs.

    Sports have a strong family tradition in America – we teach our kids to play, we encourage them in their little leagues, we watch sporting events together with them.  I don’t think many parents would feel comfortable endorsing openly doping athletes as role models for their kids – it runs counter to most of the lessons we want to instill in our kids through sports.

  7. Mendel
    Brian Clendinen

    Mendel:

     Secondly,  the biggest reason is the world doping agency. They are fee based so ever drug test they can perform they make more money. Pretty much every single world sport organization uses this agency. They have ever incentive to keep finding more and more drugs which they can test and make illegal in sports to increase their bottom line.

    But MLB and the NFL don’t use the USADA to perform their tests (as far as I know).  What financial incentive do either of those leagues have to perform testing, other than not losing fans?

  8. The Mugwump

    We could start genetically engineering our athletes in utero.  That would be something, all right.  I’d buy season tickets to see an 800 pound linebacker kill a 14 foot tall wide receiver with one swipe of his tale.  But that’s just me; the average person might be a bit more squeamish.

  9. Misthiocracy

    I have no problem with the people who run the Tour de France writing whatever rules they want about what is and what is not allowed. It’s their race, so they get to make the rules.

    I have no problem with the International Olympic Committee writing whatever rules they want about what is and what is not allowed. It’s their competition, so they get to make the rules.

    I have no problem with international and/or national cycling associations writing whatever rules they want about what is and what is not allowed in the races that they govern. It’s their race, so they get to make the rules.

    THAT BEING SAID…

    I do not for the life of me understand why any US governmental or non-governmental body should have any right to discipline Armstrong for something he did in the Tour de France or at any Olympics that wasn’t on US soil.

  10. ChristmasBeard

    Screw it. Let’s DO this!

  11. EvlMdnghtBmr

     

     If enhancements undermine the competition, why not require cyclists to ride the same sort of bikes that were used in the first Tour de France in 1903? Surely the use of optimized light-weight bikes today is an enhancement.

     

    This example is more than a little silly. No one argues that no enhancements in training or technology should ever enter a sport. By doping, Lance gave himself an advantage that other riders DID NOT HAVE. For your analogy to be comprable, he would have to be riding a modern bike while his opponents were using 1903 versions. It is the violation of our sense of fair play, not a violation of some rule about using archaic equipment.

  12. Darius

    The natural league would very quickly become a second enhanced league.

  13. TomJedrz
    JimGoneWild: If the biking authorities couldn’t detect the use of PH drugs over years and years, how much effect they have?

    Look, no one has been awarded 1st place to all those Tour De France races Lance won because nearly every other bike racer was on some sort of PH drugs. So, basically, the races were all equal.

    Give the wins back to Lance. · 10 hours ago

    This is my opinion as well.  They were all cheating, just that the rest were cheating and losing.  The playing field was level, and Armstrong won because he trained harder and could stand more pain.

    But more than that, I despise those who insist that we REWRITE HISTORY. He won the races … the regulators had their say, tested, monitored, didn’t catch, and declared a winner.  It should stand.  Fine, put an asterisk next to his name.  He won the races.

  14. TomJedrz
    EvlMdnghtBmr:  

    … By doping, Lance gave himself an advantage that other riders DID NOT HAVE. … 

    Nonsense … they were all doping.  All of the testimony came from others doing the same things.  Of course they say that Lance was the biggest cheat … what else are they going to say when the authorities clearly had a hard on for Lance.

  15. Paul Dougherty

    Lance Armstrong cheated, whether the other riders were as well, is not relevant. He knew the rules, he countered them. This, I cannot admire. Reflecting back on his races, I am still impressed with his performance. He does not owe me an apology, he will not get my endorsement.(not that he seeks it)

  16. Paul Dougherty

    Listening to Hugh Hewitt show the other day, Larry Arne, of Hillsdale, was telling of how Achilles had armor forged by the gods. How fair is this? Apparently, Hector swiped it from Patroclus so Achilles had new armour made (presumably by the gods). Achilles defeated Hector who was clad in the captured armor, so did Achilles cheat?

  17. Scott Abel (formerly EstoniaKat)

    So to sum up, Stuttaford and Bailey are advocates of this:

    http://vimeo.com/40861906

  18. Scott Abel (formerly EstoniaKat)
    Kidding aside, I worked in sports journalism for about 10 years before getting out to an equally shifty area: academe. I have no illusions in this particular arena, and I have Mark McGwire to thank for that, watching him shatter the home run record for baseball when I was in graduate school. I spoke to a sports management class last May, and got into an argument with the students about Armstrong. The gist of my argument was “of course he’s doping”, which was widely hooted down. I expect to add Tiger Woods (eyebrow raising connections to a Canadian doctor) and Usain Bolt to my “told you so” list in the future. I mean, Tyson Gay, a busted doper, finished FOURTH in the last Olympics. I watched the 100 meters and went, ‘no way’. Your personal gullibility may vary , but that’s from someone who just a couple years ago, saw Estonia’s gold-medal champion Andrus Veerpalu busted in humiliation as people took to the street with “We believe in Andrus!” signs. Do I have an answer? No. But to have a healthy skepticism to anything you see.
  19. Michael Hornback

    Breaking the rules wasn’t my biggest problem. Just as Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky wasn’t my biggest concern. It is what they did to cover up their “sins” that showed dishonor. Lance Armstrong destroyed anyone that could be a threat to his program. The lesson of Lance’s assistant, Mike Anderson, should be instructive. When Lance feared that Mike found something in his bathroom, he immediately fired him and requested he sign a non-disclosure form. When he wouldn’t, things went down hill from there. Read about it! http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/biking/road-biking/My-Life-With-Lance-Armstrong.html?page=allLance was a jerk and a bully and I don’t think anyone should cut him slack with the “everybody’s doing it” excuse. We have rules for reasons. Lets keep the playing field even and prevent super stars like Lance from ever happening.

  20. EvlMdnghtBmr
    Nonsense … they were all doping.  All of the testimony came from others doing the same things.  Of course they say that Lance was the biggest cheat … what else are they going to say when the authorities clearly had a hard on for Lance. · January 18, 2013 at 8:27pm

    I’m sure many of them were. But to just blandly state that “all” of them were is to assume facts not in evidence, and do yet one more injustice to whichever cyclists were clean.

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