Monday, July 30, 2007

Tour wrap up

As I sat on my bed last night and watched the cycling's greatest riders make one final push down the cobbles of the champs elysees, I couldn't help but wonder why it is that we've chosen to become to so hard on dopers in the recent years. People rhetorically ask "what has happened to cycling?" or "will cycling ever be clean?" Perhaps a better question is, "has it ever been clean?"

In the early days of the tour riders consumed alcohol and even ether to dull the pain of the then nearly 400 kilometer stages that kept competitors riding well into the night. A recent article in the Times quotes Fausto Coppi, the Italian who rode to yellow in 1949 and 1952, on his response to being asked if he had ever used amphetamines in the tour:

“Only when necessary,” he said.

How often was that?

“Most of the time,” Coppi replied.

There is the infamous Tom Simpson, who in 1967 collapsed dead on Mount Venoux from a combination of amphetamines and alcohol. He had amphetamines in his jersey. Doping control promptly began the next year.

To think that the tour will ever be clean is to deny a characteristic that has been with it from the beginning. I don't take it personally, drugs or not I'll never be there. And I'll still lose 3 hours a day in July religiously watching.

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