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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

re: Is There Anyone Left?

posted by on July 25 at 17:23 PM

How about this solution for the doping problem in competitive cycling: legalize it. EPO, transfusions, steroids, surgically re-routing muscles, synthetic blood, removal of ‘unnecessary’ organs, ECMO—if it can be done, you should be allowed to do it.

As Fnarf commented:

Cycling is all about efficiency of body processes. Cyclists are machines for moving oxygen through the blood. They are vastly more efficient than this than you or I, or even other athletes. Your average baseball or football player would have a massive stroke or coronary half an hour into the first day if they tried to do what these guys do.

It all comes down to the genetic hand—your lungs, your blood cells, your hemoglobin, your heart—you’ve been dealt. By allowing some shuffling of the deck, wouldn’t more cunning enter the sport?

Why should nerds be limited to testing, to spoiling the fun? Let cycling become the 21st century sport it wants to be.

RSS icon Comments


Or they could get rid of the Tour de France. It's a shadow of it's former self.

Posted by or | July 25, 2007 5:46 PM

Just the concept, if it can be done it should be done, if science and hard technology, with the commodities they birth, if they had such unregulated bounds. Carte blanche to push the limits, wherever they might be? The ethics blow my mind.

Posted by Phenics | July 25, 2007 5:51 PM

woohoo fnarf!

Posted by fun shaped | July 25, 2007 5:52 PM

My cyberpunk rock and roll fantasy.

Posted by The Peanut Gallery | July 25, 2007 5:53 PM

I agree (with Jonathan, not or). Some manipulations are already allowed -- you're allowed to control your blood cell count up to a certain "natural" point, you're allowed to control your diet, to train in wind tunnels, to use exotic materials in your bike (but not too exotic; there's a minimum weight). It's all science. Joe Blow could train 20 hours a day from the time he's ten and not win anything if he didn't have access to these specialized equipment, processes and staff.

Posted by Fnarf | July 25, 2007 5:54 PM


I'm not sure how I'd feel about a world with the "if it can be done, it should be done" ethic. Still, if it could work anywhere, competitive athletics -- where the body is already destroyed -- seem a natural place to explore what such a world would be like.

Posted by Jonathan Golob | July 25, 2007 6:12 PM

You would still have the question of how you felt when the athletes starting dying in droves. They already do, on a lesser scale. Dozens of riders dropped dead in the eighties and nineties from EPO-related blood thickening. They also might become a little unsavory to look at.

Posted by Fnarf | July 25, 2007 6:24 PM

Jonathan Golob: It would sorta look like the Formula 1 racing world. Hyper-technological cars, costing millions, with nothing in common with normal cars except they too have four tires. The win-at-any-cost attitude has resulted in the exploitation of aerodynamics and composite materials, but has also taken all real competition out of it.

F1 drivers must now maintain large distances between the cars, else if they get too close they upset the aerodynamics, lose downforce (traction), and risk spinning out. F1 races are now widely seen as a joke, turning into very expensive parades with little drama.

There's what happened when the if-it-can-be-done ethic reached saturation level in F1... it destroyed nearly all the competition in the sport.

Posted by Dr_Awesome | July 25, 2007 6:47 PM

oooh noooo.... they could never become unsavory to look at with calves like theirs!

Posted by blackandblue | July 25, 2007 7:12 PM

They should legalize everything for bicyclists: running red lights, ignoring crosswalks, riding in the Interstate. No bicyclist, whether they be a professional athlete in the Tour de France or professional whiner on the Burke-Gilman trail, can obey even the most wise and just law. What's in their blood is a compulsion to do it all the wrong way. It's a wonder they don't all pedal sideways.

But we should keep our law against running them down with your car, given that car drivers are by and large capable of obeying said law. It's not pointless like trying to tell a bicyclist right from wrong.

Posted by elenchos | July 25, 2007 7:20 PM

The solution is very simple. Given the riders' fondness for drugs, you just confiscate what they have and pile them on the finish line for the winners. That'll induce tremendous efforts by the cyclists to get them back, and they'll be clean for a terrific race.

Posted by tell me another one | July 25, 2007 7:22 PM

I'm a fan of the idea but OHHHHHHHHH what's a Pandora's Box you'd open, to have a sport that legalized performance enhancing drugs.

Posted by Gomez | July 25, 2007 7:22 PM

It'll be a hard sell. Too many folks get off equating victory with heroism and righteousness.

That's how we got here, right? By being victorious?

Posted by opticsdoug | July 25, 2007 8:31 PM

Drugs or no drugs, France is beautiful in July.

Posted by DOUG. | July 25, 2007 9:26 PM

I'm all for legalization, but I suspect the greatest resistance would come from the riders. The majority of pros probably use the safer techniques like own-blood transfusions or appreciate that someone is keeping their EPO-fueled hematocrit below 50. They would probably resist having to use the dangerous stuff to keep their jobs.

Posted by CG | July 25, 2007 9:43 PM

The bikes and mechanical things are one aspect of the game, but when you start messing with the bodies of the athletes it's a whole different ballpark.
As I see it, it's *good* that they can't use the drugs to engineer bicyclists because it *should* just be that one guy who's blessed by nature who wins. Sport's not nearly the same if everyone thought that if they had the cash to retrofit their bodies even they could be winning the Tour de France and what not.
What is Michael Jordon worth if you can create a hundred of him?

Posted by arandomdude | July 26, 2007 2:46 AM

From SNL News in the 80's:

Dennis Miller: In response to what its sponsors claim is an idea whose time has come, the first All-Drug Olympics opened today in Bogota, Columbia. Athletes are allowed to take any substance whatsoever before, after, and even during the competition. So far, 115 world records have been shattered! We go now to correspondent Kevin Nealon, live in Bogota for the Weightlifting Finals. Kevin?

Kevin Nealon: Dennis, getting ready to lift now is Sergei Akmudov of the Soviet Union. His trainer has told me that he's taken antibolic steroids, Novacaine, Nyquil, Darvon, and some sort of fish paralyzer. Also, I believe he's had a few cocktails within the last hour or so. All of this is, of course, perfectly legal at the All-Drug Olympics, in fact it's encouraged. Akmudov is getting set now, he's going for a cleaning jerk of over 1500 pounds, which would triple the existing world record. That's an awful lot of weight, Dennis, and here he goes.

[ Kevin steps aside to reveal the steroid-bulked athlete bent over to lift the 1500 lbs. weight. Sergei tightens his grip on the barbells and pulls up, but instead of lifting the weights, his arms are pulled off and blood squirts ferociously out of his pulpy stubs.

Kevin Nealon: Oh! He pulled his arms off! He's pulled his arms off, that's gotta be disappointing to the big Russian! [ Sergei's trainer wraps a towel around him ] You know, you hate to see something like this happen, Dennis! He probably doesn't have that much pain right now, but I think tomorrow he's really gonna feel that, Dennis! Back to you!

Dennis Miller: Thank you, Kevin. Very nice form on the Russian. Canada, of course, is leading that competition.

Posted by StrangerDanger | July 26, 2007 7:52 AM

Was just having this very debate with a co-worker.. and this may sound prudish but you have to include the example-setting in the debate. Kids who want to be pro riders, in a world where it's normal to take steroids in competition, will start doing so at ever earlier ages, and you'll have some seriously fucked up kids.

You say it won't happen becuase the drugs are hard to obtain? Or because it's the parents' responsibility to protect their kids from them? These drugs would be (if they're not already) on the street just like weed and crack, if there's a new young market for them. And forget the parents.. some of them (you know the ones, who think their kid is gonna be the champ!! your intensity is for shit!!) will even expedite.

Just a bad idea...

Posted by fer the kids | July 26, 2007 9:20 AM

fer the kids- Parents who want athlete kids fuck em up enough already. Steroids couldn't make the matter much worse, or if they could, who cares? Instead of being fucked in the head and having a dozen permanent injuries, child athletes get to die of brain cancer by 21. Seriously though, yeah, it's tragic, but it's hypothetical too, and a very fun hypothetical. I like the idea of where this leads... Cybernetics! Like that other cat said. As soon as choppin limbs for superior replacements arrives, sports would be madd wild. A basketball team with everyone running on pogo sticks? Bet those guys could still get more tail than a rabbit in rut. Funny.

Posted by christopher | July 26, 2007 9:35 AM

@17 - I was remarking to my boyfriend the other day that, just like there are classes in motorsports for different levels of modifications, there should be the same for the Olympics. We could have the Showroom Stock Class, with no performance-enhancing substances allowed, and the Unlimited Outlaw Class, where the sky's the limit. I feel certain that this would prove highly popular with the WWF crowd, and it'd no doubt advance medical technology as well.

Posted by Orv | July 26, 2007 9:36 AM

@18 - Thank you for thinking broadly, something Fnarf (and Golob) seems to lack in this instance.

Posted by Matthew | July 26, 2007 9:44 AM

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