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August 23, 2005 8:14 PM   Subscribe

Lance Armstrong has won the 1999 Tour de France !
posted by Elpoca (57 comments total)

 
Explain.
posted by Dean Keaton at 8:23 PM on August 23, 2005


Oh, yeah. I totally forgot about that.
posted by Dean Keaton at 8:24 PM on August 23, 2005


Some people are so jealous of success. I don't really like Armstrong, but I respect him and believe he crushed his competitors the old fashioned way, with hard work and talent.
posted by caddis at 8:30 PM on August 23, 2005


Something is wonky because Lance Armstrong is a freak of nature. However, after 6 years, it's time to move on and let him have his victory.
posted by 517 at 8:39 PM on August 23, 2005


I think it has something to do with this.

But don't ask me, I'm not a street cycler. I need dirt.
posted by Balisong at 8:50 PM on August 23, 2005


Will he become yet another victim of our culture's insatiable need to destroy all the good guys?
posted by wakko at 9:08 PM on August 23, 2005


Oh look. Lance Armstrong is being accused of taking drugs. How novel and hard-hitting!

Ya can't help but wonder if it's crap like this that lead to the guy dropping out of the sport--every time he wins a race people are jumping down his ass about this crap.
posted by schroedinger at 9:24 PM on August 23, 2005


Armstrong used to only do the tour right? Wouldn't this be the ideal way to avoid getting tested when something might show up? Or am I just wrong. And if so why?

I dunno, I always assumed he was taking drugs, but so was everyone else, so the field was level in the end and he was still one of the most amazing athletes ever.
posted by sien at 9:32 PM on August 23, 2005



Armstrong used to only do the tour right? Wouldn't this be the ideal way to avoid getting tested when something might show up? Or am I just wrong. And if so why?


Pro cyclists have to disclose their location to race officials at all times and are subject to testing year round for this very purpose.
posted by hindmost at 9:51 PM on August 23, 2005


our culture's insatiable need to destroy all the good guys?

if there really are drugs in his urine I don't see how one can seriously blame society
posted by PenguinBukkake at 11:15 PM on August 23, 2005


But I've always had the feeling that Lance Armstrong's "I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs" mantra was as lawyerly and smug as Bush's "I have no plans for war in Iraq on my desk at this time."

The witch hunt thing is funny. When BBonds announced his season ending knee injury at the beginning of the season he blamed the media - "This is what you guys always wanted."
posted by minkll at 1:03 AM on August 24, 2005


Oh look. Lance Armstrong is being accused of taking drugs. How novel and hard-hitting!

The novel thing about it is that it seems to be backed up by scientific facts this time.

And if previous unproven accusations of taking drugs are an acquittal, I guess we better stop testing for drugs in pro cycling altogether, no?
posted by uncle harold at 1:12 AM on August 24, 2005


Some people are so jealous of success. I don't really like Armstrong, but I respect him and believe he crushed his competitors the old fashioned way, with hard work and talent.

Why do you believe that Caddis? Isn't it purely because he's an American hero? Would you be so certain he wasn't drugged up if he was (say) Ukrainian?
posted by salmacis at 1:27 AM on August 24, 2005


The problem I have with the story in L'Équipe is the part the journalists play in connecting the anonymous urine samples from 1999 to Lance Armstrong. It doesn't really matter that six samples have tested positive for epo. It does matter that the journalists claim to have had access to secret documents from the French cycling union that identify the samples as being Armstrong's. That smells fishy, because nobody can objectively say if that's true, or if they faked that.

But,that L'Équipe has been on a witch hunt against Armstrong has been clear for several years.

On the other hand, if you read this anecdotal tale about the positive effects of EPO and Human growth hormone on endurance sports, it becomes almost impossible to believe people would refrain from using such a miracle cure.
posted by ijsbrand at 2:55 AM on August 24, 2005


I dunno, I always assumed he was taking drugs, but so was everyone else, so the field was level in the end and he was still one of the most amazing athletes ever.

Bingo. Bigger budget = better access to better goodies.

But I've always had the feeling that Lance Armstrong's "I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs" mantra was as lawyerly and smug as Bush's "I have no plans for war in Iraq on my desk at this time."

I thought it was more like "I've been tested hundreds of times and never tested positive." Which is even worse.
"The Tour de France is not won on mineral water." Jacques Anqueteil, five time winner
posted by fixedgear at 3:35 AM on August 24, 2005


salmacis: "Why do you believe that Caddis? Isn't it purely because he's an American hero? Would you be so certain he wasn't drugged up if he was (say) Ukrainian?"

I can't speak for caddis, but I'd believe he was clean if he were from anywhere. Drugs can easily get you through a good 100-meter dash, or even help you peak well during a season out of a year. But seven strong years, mid- to late-career, coming off of cancer? Drugs don't have that staying power. (Witness, for example, Barry Bonds.) If Lance Armstrong used drugs to get by, he'd be the famous guy who won two or maybe three Tours. Not this many. No matter what people say about 'wonder drugs,' the whole problem with taking performance enhancers is that they don't last, and they cost something later.
posted by koeselitz at 3:51 AM on August 24, 2005


Well, if a person hasn't actually taken performance enhancing drugs yet are asked whether they have all the time, I would think it would be most reasonable for them to reply with: "I've never taken performance enhancing drugs" and, when such controversy continued I would also think it quite reasonable for said person to respond with: "I've been tested hundreds of times and never tested positive" in an attempt to defuse/deflect/end the matter.

Let them prove the chain of evidence - ie. account for all samples, their origins, whose possession they were in for the last 6 years, who else had access with all supporting documentation and affadavits and give it all to a Judge, along with the test results/methodology/literature review of the science and testing procedures and let them say whether or not there is a case to answer.

Releasing results by a media group paid for by a media group does not rise to the level of evidence.

I have no opinion really but I hate seeing smear campaigns in which the subject has NO way of proving their innocence. (mind you, Armstrong is under no obligation - the case -- yeah, I know it's not a court case but that's where this should be fought -- has to be proved beyond all reasonable doubt and no benefit of the doubt and no assumption of innocence is being given to Armstrong at all)

oh yeah....
"But it [L'Equipe] said it could not confirm that any tests it had conducted belonged to Armstrong.

"The lab cannot link the results to a sportsman and can therefore not confirm the link made by L'Equipe between the test results and the (French federation) documents they publish," the statement said. "
posted by peacay at 3:52 AM on August 24, 2005


ijsbrand, that author better not bump into any transhumanists.

He writes, "As for the larger issue of drugs in sports, eight months in the world of the artificially enhanced convinced me more than ever that it's critical for an organization like the World Anti-Doping Agency to succeed.
...
WADA is the logical response to an argument that gets aired from time to time: that since cheating is impossible to eliminate, the only recourse is to simply legalize everything—that way, no athlete has a hidden advantage over another, since everyone would be free to try anything that might increase endurance.

Like a lot of powerfully bad ideas, that one has a certain mad logic. But it would turn every sport into a test of how much damage an athlete was willing to risk to improve performance, and would basically force every serious athlete to cheat and risk his or her health. Athletic contests would have a strange life-or-death quality. If we don't keep drugs out of these events, they become freak shows, the athletes like gladiators—with us playing the role of decadent Romans, urging them on.
"

Well, it wouldn't be cheating anymore. Secondly, if many are already taking these things now, where's the freak show? A pretty funny caricature. Finally, even with the pressure to push the limits, an ill athlete can't compete for long. If an athlete continues to use steroids despite knowing the long-term risks (which manifest later), then that reflects their value system and society's pressures, which aren't going to be reduced anytime soon. By accepting steroid use, one can encourage open commercial development of sustainable and less toxic supplements.

"Besides, on a fundamental level, drugs ruin the simple joy of competition. With drugs in the mix, it's not about the athletes, it's about the chemistry."

This guy has a medieval view of the human condition, one which ought to have been antiquated with modern biology. What the hell does he think the human body is? It's a chemical machine, to begin with. Drugs are simply specific modulators that are potent in small doses. You still have to exercise and train. If the philosophical drive for sport is to test the limits of "natural" human achievement, then all the resources of civilization are cheating, from tailored nutrition to tailored training to the general quality of good health made possible by modern civilization. In fact, it would be hard to define cheating as anything but a social label for the sorts of self-modulation society is comfortable with or not. After all, why train? Just force athletes to compete "naturally".
posted by Gyan at 4:10 AM on August 24, 2005


Here's the deal.

Ever wonder why people like watching sports? Its because they can relate to them.

I'm serious. For every kid that plays basketball during lunch in high school, there's a few that play on the school team. And for every kid that plays high school ball, a few play college. And for every kid in college ball, a few play professional.

Everyone who played during lunchtime can relate to the one guy who made it pro.

Sports are interesting because people can relate to them. We can all run, we can all throw a ball, we can all tackle someone. Athletes represent the pinnacle of our own abilities. The problem with cheating is that the high school lunch kid doesn't take drugs to get ahead, and if the professional game is all about the drugs, the lunch kid can't relate. This is the problem pro sports is having with money in the game -- wildly rich star players become harder and harder to relate to.

Is the college model -- where the stars make nothing -- better? Not necessarily. But it's easier to relate to.
posted by effugas at 4:47 AM on August 24, 2005


effugas : "Athletes represent the pinnacle of our own abilities.

They achieve this "pinnacle" by an abnormal i.e. dedicated lifestyle centered on training and nutrition. 10-year old Johnny doesn't relate to such a lifestyle, why should the inclusion of drugs (for the pro) change anything? If you mean that Johnny could train and get legal supplements if he wanted to, then the same with HGH, if it was cheap and legally, readily available.

The problem with cheating is that the high school lunch kid doesn't take drugs to get ahead, and if the professional game is all about the drugs, the lunch kid can't relate."

Cart before horse. Why can't Johnny relate? It's to do with his conception of drugs and how they change the scene, and how the non-cheating accepted stuff is just part of the scene. Why are protein powder supplements not cheating but HGH is?
posted by Gyan at 5:13 AM on August 24, 2005


I'd like Lance Armstrong a whole lot more if he didn't come across as such an arrogant prick. I think more than a few people would agree with me here. I might even waste some effort defending him, if he wasn't such a fucking blowhard.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:38 AM on August 24, 2005


The novel thing about it is that it seems to be backed up by scientific facts this time.

Which facts are those? There are plenty of positive drug tests floating around, just none from Armstrong. That still appears to be the case. Any story as poorly sourced and un-testable as this one is deserves to considered apocryphal.
posted by OmieWise at 5:42 AM on August 24, 2005


Gyan--

Protein powder isn't cheating because you can get protein in steak, or beans, or whatever. The powder is just another recipe. But unless you're raised on a diet of human pituitary glands -- no HGH in natural meals. And no matter how hard you work, you'll never end up with an injectable supply of HGH. That has to be bought. This matters, Gyan.

Now, there are some historical elements to the equation too. Western nations were frankly horrified at the doping coming out of Eastern Europe, and we are the nation of the War on Drugs after all. But at its root, it's all about relating to the stars. See a star shooting up to get ahead -- that's just not something you'd want to do.
posted by effugas at 6:18 AM on August 24, 2005


Civil--

Prick or not, "Yo George, how bout you stop f***ing around in Iraq and start curing cancer" took some serious cojone.
posted by effugas at 6:19 AM on August 24, 2005


This is ridiculous. The entire French racing establishment has been desperately trying to get dirt on Armstrong for most of the past decade. Do you really think, if he were in fact doping, they wouldn't have turned it up by now? This is just the latest exercise in slander, backed by nothing but rumor, and those of you who are so eager to believe it are just as much suckers as those who refuse to believe their favorite baseball star has never touched steroids. Universal cynicism, like universal credulity, is much easier than actually taking life on a case-by-case basis.

I know, I know, I'm obviously a tool of the establishment and am probably taking illegal drugs myself. Otherwise, how would I know all those languages??
posted by languagehat at 6:37 AM on August 24, 2005


This is like the Concorde crash. They've got to somehow explain away their lameness by blaming the Americans.
posted by shoos at 6:47 AM on August 24, 2005


I agree with languagehat. And as for Lance Armstrong being a blowhard -- I don't know him personally but he seems to have the characteristics of a lot of people I do know who are at the top of their game: arrogant, single minded and doesn't suffer fools (that is, everybody else). To do what he has done, those traits would seem to be a requirement. I do know that his book, It's not about the bike, came across as one of the most honest books I have ever read. I say leave him alone and let him carry on his cancer charity work.
posted by bluesky43 at 7:03 AM on August 24, 2005


Those quotes from the Tour de France director are crazy. He's like "oh, now we have the facts and he obviously cheated and we're all such fools". If it wasn't a news story, I would think it was sarcastic.
posted by smackfu at 7:05 AM on August 24, 2005


languagehat writes "I'm obviously a tool of the establishment and am probably taking illegal drugs myself. Otherwise, how would I know all those languages??"
I'd ask for a urine sample but you'd just end up pissing all over the blue.©
posted by peacay at 7:14 AM on August 24, 2005


effugas : "Protein powder isn't cheating because you can get protein in steak, or beans, or whatever."

The same bioavailability? What about the concomitant fat, carbs and mass you would have to consume to access that protein in steak? There's advantages to fulfilling protein needs from concentrated products. And from where do you think the body manufactures any hormone? Incoming 'natural' nutrition. So you can improve HGH levels by tempering food choice and intake. So what's wrong with consuming the end-product directly?

The key point is that there's no logical coherence in arguing that human improvement must be via methods X and Y only. There is no User's Manual for the human body. We effect changes to our functioning via the mechanisms we know and which we have become comfortable with. All mechanisms have limits and constraints, and the quest of human excellence is to challenge those limits and/or develop new mechanisms. Only with the advent of modern biology and pharmacology, we are no longer bound to old mechanisms of generic nutrition and exercise to effect change. The efficacy and possibilites of these new methods are different enough in degree so as to appear to be different in kind. If such discoveries and changes challenge and impinge upon our sense of human identity, it's because we have internalized the limits and constraints of the existing ingrained mechanisms.

Drugs, psychotropic or somatotropic, are new devices of change and discovery. Like any tool, they can have nondesirable effects. We should learn to use, tame and integrate them, not run away in a comfort-driven sense of conservatism.

languagehat: Do you really think, if he were in fact doping, they wouldn't have turned it up by now?

I have no dog in the Armstrong case, but to answer your question: It would depend on the drug being used. Dopers are obviously aware of existing drug tests and their technicalities. A select few may also have access to experimental drugs which aren't (yet) publically known or used*. I mean, how does a drug get onto the anti-doping list? The direct mechanism of these new drugs could tweak parameters which aren't being tested for.

*Although I believe some organizations keep samples for some period to test for new drugs.
posted by Gyan at 7:17 AM on August 24, 2005


In bike racing the average racer gets tested at least three times a year. They have blood samples stored for testing later in case new drugs or drug tests are discovered to test for those later. As mentioned above, you have to keep in touch with the cycling body at all times in case they want to test you.

Also, every time you win a stage in a race you get drug tested. I'm not 100% sure on this last thing, but every day Lance wore the yellow jersey he may have been required to be tested too. Finally, for winning the race, the reward- drug testing.

Cycling has among the toughest drug testing (if not the toughest) of any sport. If they haven't found the drugs by now, they should probably quit hounding Lance.

Then again, this is the same sport where a Belgian was attacked, prevented his sixth tour win.
posted by drezdn at 7:28 AM on August 24, 2005


Gyan writes "So you can improve HGH levels by tempering food choice and intake. So what's wrong with consuming the end-product directly? "

Because we regard having a serum HGH concentration above a certain physiological normal range as cheating, unless all participants take it. Dietary optimization may tweak it towards the high range I suspect, but not outside accepted normal physiological levels. A pituitary tumour would be an exception but there are likely to be other problems that would negate any muscle building effects and I doubt they would be performing sport at a high level anyway.
posted by peacay at 7:45 AM on August 24, 2005


Frankly, L'equipe's story would have had much more (any?) credibility had there not been a concerted effort by the French media and cycling community to spread innuendo and false accusations.

Of course, this is all set to continue, as there is no French rider anywhere near the top of the cycling world.
posted by Elpoca at 8:34 AM on August 24, 2005


peacay : "Because we regard having a serum HGH concentration above a certain physiological normal range as cheating, unless all participants take it. Dietary optimization may tweak it towards the high range I suspect, but not outside accepted normal physiological levels."

I meant in a philosophical sense.
posted by Gyan at 8:44 AM on August 24, 2005


Lance Armstrong = Barry Bonds. I don't see much difference myself (except for the noticeable lack of champsionships, but then again, Lance has had better support ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 8:47 AM on August 24, 2005


The difference is that the pro-cycling tour has had a mandatory and rigorous drug testing policy for many years, while pro-baseball has not.
posted by Elpoca at 8:50 AM on August 24, 2005


To do what he has done, those traits would seem to be a requirement

Not necessarily... look at Michael Jordan. There's a vast gulf between confidence and cockiness in one's abilities. One of the reasons MJ is so deified is because he was a genuinely nice guy, and let his performance on the court do the talking. I mean, Ty Cobb was one of the greatest players in baseball, but he doesn't (and didn't) get much love because he was a complete prick. Don't get me wrong: Armstrong is probably the greatest cyclist, ever, and I want to be enamored. But every time I see him interviewed on television I want to bitch-smack that shit-eating grin off his arrogant fucking face.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:56 AM on August 24, 2005


This all seems like sour grapes on the part of the French who haven't won their own race since Bernard Hinault won in 1985, and then was defeated the next year by team mate Greg LeMond.
posted by caddis at 8:56 AM on August 24, 2005


Gyan writes "I meant in a philosophical sense."
gotcha...I wasn't readin' betwixt the lines so well. And damn! I thought there was an argument there in which I had a chance.
posted by peacay at 9:16 AM on August 24, 2005


I hope this doesn't hurt his presidential bid.

Omerta!
posted by craniac at 9:28 AM on August 24, 2005


Humour, from here:

Paris, August 22, 2070 The French newspaper L'Equipe announced today that it had won its lawsuit against the estate of Lance Armstrong and will have his body exhumed to search for evidence of illegal drug use. "This is a major step forward in cleaning up the sport of cycling, and establishing once and for all that Armstrong won seven consecutive General Classification titles in the world's greatest cycling race by cheating," gushed L'Equipe editor Liqui Lepew. Armstrong dominated the once famous Tour de France in the late 20th and early 21st century (Editor's note: The race was moved to the U.S. in 2049 after fifteen consecutive years of no Frenchman making their respective teams. It is now called the Tour De USA, but is unofficially known as the Tour De Lance). Newspaper officials plan to reveal their findings at the revered but controversial site known as Virenque's Tomb, where the former French champion climber from Armstrong's time lies in perpetual repose. Most Frenchmen cite the lack of decomposition of Virenque's body since his death in 2054 as a Holy Miracle and clamor for his ascension to Sainthood, but this remains unlikely as evidence indicates that heavy drug use during his professional career left him, as one scientist from England's Cadaver Institute for Medical Studies bluntly said, "basically pickled while he was alive. It's quite remarkable really."

In unrelated news, the World Health Organization announced that no new cases of cancer have been reported in the last ten years. "We now consider this once dreaded disease a footnote in history", it exclaimed in a press release.
posted by Elpoca at 9:58 AM on August 24, 2005


(I wrote this last year on SportsFilter and think it still holds up:)

Given the increasingly pathetic denials of [the] whole sorry crew of American and international athletes -- Hello, Marion Jones -- that their success has not come from the bottom of a pill bottle, I think it's natural to suspect that Armstrong's monumental TdF record is the result of doping.

Natural, but wrong.

I'm a cyclist, have been for close on two decades. Greg LeMond was one of my boyhood heroes. From my knowledge of cycling and Armstrong, there are some things to remember: In other words, Lance has the best training, the best physical assets, the best team, the best gear, a legendary mental strength and committment -- knowing this, the question becomes not "Is he doping?" but "Why would he ever dope?"

And remember that all of the people questioning him have strong ulterior motives. Journalists want to tear him down to make their names. His former masseuse is, by all accounts, bitter about being replaced on the US Postal team. LeMond -- who said Lance is a doper during the Tour this year -- has been eclipsed by Lance as the greatest American cyclist of all time, and still holds a huge grudge against Bernard Hinault, another five-team tour winner, who is a close friend of Lance's.

And, of course, Lance has passed every drug test ever administered to him.

I would also suggest that larger Franco-American political relations plays a role in the "Lance is a doper" campaign. Know that cycling has a place in French culture not unlike baseball does in the US or hockey in my native Canada. And the tour is not just another bike race, it is a national passion/ symbol/ festival in France. And know that French cycling is in complete breakdown. There has not been a great French champion since Hinault in the 80s. Indeed, a Frenchman has not worn the maillot jaune on the Champs Elysees since 1985 -- almost 20 years. The only time a French cyclist makes the news -- except for the exceptional ride of Voeckler in this year's tour -- is when he's revealed as a doper. And now, an American -- and a Texan at that! -- comes and just schools the peloton for six straight years.

Imagine if the situation was reversed. Imagine if a French pitcher became the dominant player in the major leagues, easily striking out every Yank sluggers, winning 30 games in one year, becoming the dominant starter in a World Series winner team. Don't you think the usual suspects on FoxNews and talk radio would accuse him of doing everything up to and including barbecuing dead babies to win?

No, I don't know for an absolute certainty that Lance is clean. (As a scientist, I don't know anything for an absolute certainty.) But the preponderance of evidence tells me Lance is not a doper.

Sorry for the long post. But I feel very strongly about Lance, not only as someone who loves pedalling two wheels, but also as someone who believes sport should be something that inspires. What we are watching today on the Champs Elysees is maybe the greatest sporting achievement of our lives, up there with DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, Mark Spitz's five gold medals or Gretzky's 50 goals in 37 games. Quite simply, there are times when athletes come along who redefine their sport. And their are times when athletes come along who transcend their sport and teach us things about being human. Lance Armstrong is one of those athletes.
posted by docgonzo at 10:36 AM on August 24, 2005 [2 favorites]


Well said docgonzo.
posted by drezdn at 10:55 AM on August 24, 2005


Armstrong is probably the greatest cyclist, ever

No, that would probably be Eddie Merckx. They called him the cannibal as he essentially ate his competition for lunch. Nobody has been more successful in the Tour than Armstrong, but he is a specialist who focuses on but one race per year. All the other races are merely tune-ups. Merckx raced and and won everything.
posted by caddis at 11:29 AM on August 24, 2005


Well put docgonzo.
posted by OmieWise at 12:23 PM on August 24, 2005


I'd definitely agree with docgonzo's second and third arguments (although I think Carmichael doesn't need to be deified any more, can we please stop that), but this still needs to be said:

For at least the last ten years, and starting before Lance's ascendancy, it's been common knowledge that almost if not all of the people winning road cycling races were doping. It's ubiquitous. It's a huge performance boost. It's damn hard to catch people doing it.

It really is miraculous if Armstrong isn't doping, just based on the fact that he can dominate people who are also genetic freaks (maybe not to quite the same degree, but still), training every bit as hard, and also doping the hell out of themselves. It would be like someone bench pressing 1200lbs and then denying steroid use.

I remember hearing when Armstrong had cancer, and expecting he'd be dead in a few months. I remember meeting him briefly when he was going through his mountain biking phase. I remember when he re-entered pro-cycling, and when he won his first Tour.

And I really hope that in another twenty years, when they go over his lab results again, with whatever new tests they can devise, he still comes out clean. But, unfortunately, I doubt it.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 1:04 PM on August 24, 2005


Beautifully written, docgonzo. I would only add that in addition to his cycling achievements, he chose to use his fame to address, sometimes in very personal ways to complete strangers, a frightening disease. He could have said - no, I am done with cancer. Instead, he chose to give some hope. Maybe he is not a loveable character like Michael Jordan but I think he is honest , perhaps to a fault. If it can be established that he did dope in 1999 (and I, like docgonzo would ask why?), I would still believe that about him as a human being.
posted by bluesky43 at 1:52 PM on August 24, 2005


Carmichael doesn't deserve the credit, Dr. Ferarri does. Get a copy of Lance Armstrong's War and give it a read. I'd love to beleive Armstrong is clean, but I think that unfortunately the whole sport is dirty. Tom Simpson exploding from a little too much speed was just the beginning. Twenty-eight year old guys just don't die in their sleep from too mch training.
posted by fixedgear at 1:56 PM on August 24, 2005


Thank you, docgonzo.

And it really seems puerile to me to demand that someone who has beaten cancer and won an unprecedented number of victories in the Tour de France also be a sweetheart and say exactly the right things to make us love him. If we're still at the stage where we expect professional athletes to be great guys and role models, it's time to grow up.
posted by languagehat at 1:59 PM on August 24, 2005


fixedgear: So because Tom Simpson died in his sleep, Armstrong is doping? Brilliant reasoning.
posted by languagehat at 2:00 PM on August 24, 2005


Sorry, languagehat, that wasn't really clear. Two seperate thoughts.

Tom Simpson died in '67 from too much speed on a hot, hilly day. His famous last words were 'Put me back on my bike."

Here are a few deaths among what otherwise would be considered young, healthy guys. In case it wasn't clear, I think everybody dopes. The sport is mess but I still love it. I have no idea what the solution is, but I don't think it is possible to comepete in a three week grand tour like the Giro, TdF or Vuelta on Gatorade and PowerBars.

Dunno how interested folks are in this stuff, but this book by Paul Kimmage is an eye-opener. Cycling is pretty well-known for closing ranks and protecting its own.
posted by fixedgear at 2:33 PM on August 24, 2005


One of the reasons MJ (Michael Jordan) is so deified is because he was a genuinely nice guy, and let his performance on the court do the talking.

Uh, no, he wasn't. He was and is a bit of an asshole. Ask his wife or John Paxton.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:43 PM on August 24, 2005


And it really seems puerile to me to demand that someone who has beaten cancer and won an unprecedented number of victories in the Tour de France also be a sweetheart and say exactly the right things to make us love him.

Nobody demanded anything. He can act any way he wants to, regardless of his achievements, but that doesn't exonorate him from being an asswipe, like you seem to suggest it does.

Ask his wife

I got her on the phone, hold on... nope, she said he's not.

Kidding.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:21 PM on August 24, 2005


Not necessarily... look at Michael Jordan. There's a vast gulf between confidence and cockiness in one's abilities. One of the reasons MJ is so deified is because he was a genuinely nice guy, and let his performance on the court do the talking.

I was one of Michael Jordan's biggest fans when he played ball, because he was the best player of all time, but anybody who doesn't realize that he was one of the biggest assholes on and off the court has seen one too many coke commercials.

I don't think he used drugs though. Lance Armstrong on the other hand, let's just say that I'm a cyclist, and I don't believe that anybody can do what the top cyclists do every day during the two weeks of the tour without drugs. I just don't believe it's possible.

Greg LeMond said a while back that if it is true (that Lance was taking drugs during his tour victories) it would be the biggest fraud in sports history. But I don't think he'll ever be busted for it.
posted by sic at 5:08 PM on August 24, 2005


languagehat: "If we're still at the stage where we expect professional athletes to be great guys and role models, it's time to grow up."

At this point, most of us have learned not to expect that of anybody. I don't know that that's a good thing. If professional athletes really are just all assholes-- and no argument here, they seem to be to me-- then professional sports are boring and pointless, like movies where the bad guys win every single time; realistic, maybe, but not uplifting or enjoyable. And certainly not something I'd want kids to watch, or anybody else for that matter. Maybe there's some sort of scientific allure, a sort of 'look what that strange man can do with his body' kind of thing where we find 'freakishness' like Lance Armstrong's somehow interesting, but that's a pretty limited thing. A real feeling of triumph, a feeling of will overcoming vast obstacles and true human strength doing something great, sort of evaporates when you realize the guy doing it is a jerk. It's sort of sad; if we were going to be let down by Lance Armstrong, it probably should have been a long time ago, like maybe around the time of his divorce.

Sorry for the rant.
posted by koeselitz at 9:06 PM on August 24, 2005


koeselitz writes "If professional athletes really are just all assholes-- and no argument here, they seem to be to me-- then professional sports are boring and pointless, like movies where the bad guys win every single time; realistic, maybe, but not uplifting or enjoyable."
See, I don't quite understand the logic here. I really enjoying watching some sports (admittedly in cycling it's only Le Tour) but it really doesn't much influence my enjoyment level whether I know that these people are Gandhi or Charles Manson off the field. If they perform well at their 'art', that's as much as I want and expect. I guess it's a different kettle of fish if they are dickwads while competing -- cheating, intentionally hurting others or whatnot -- in that case I'm not seeing elegant sport. Anyway, I just like to see people do amazing sporting feats. That's where my expectations end. Some of them can be articulate, some of them can be humble. But it's a bit much to expect that they have elite gifts in all areas of endeavour. I sure as hell wouldn't come across as an urbane everyman were I to be interviewed by the countless hordes, even without sporting triumphs at the elite level in the background.
posted by peacay at 11:45 PM on August 24, 2005


If professional athletes really are just all assholes-- and no argument here, they seem to be to me-- then professional sports are boring and pointless

Like peacay, I don't understand this line of thought. I don't want to live with an asshole, but that's about where I draw the line in terms of caring about assholery. Hell, some of my best friends have been assholes. As for sports or any other professional activities, it boggles my mind that anyone past adolescence could think it likely that one can reach the top level in any activity while remaining sweet, modest, kindly, and unassuming. It takes tremendous focus and intensity to achieve and maintain excellence in just about any field; you have to give up things you enjoy, say no to people you like, fend off people who are just doing their job because you've only got so much of yourself to give and you need it for your sport or your writing or your art. Plenty of potential masters in any field have frittered away their talents by hanging out, being nice guys, putting other people's needs above their own. I'm not saying it's impossible to be both great and good, just unlikely.

And really, why do you care? Why does it affect your appreciation of a championship or a great novel or painting or piece of music to know that its creator blew off friends, betrayed spouses, or (for pete's sake) has a "shit-eating grin." If you refuse to enjoy anything unless it was produced by a sterling human being, your options get pretty limited -- and most of them exist because we don't know enough about their creators. You can enjoy the Iliad because we don't know anything about Homer; if you'd been around the Aegean in the eighth century BCE and run into him in the port towns, you'd probably think he was a real asswipe. So what?

Yeah, Ty Cobb was a complete asshole. I'd sure love to have watched him hit, though.
posted by languagehat at 5:20 AM on August 25, 2005


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