Lance Armstrong, drugs, and skepticism

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Brian (January 21, 2013, 10:03:05 AM):
the guy who came second is no-one and was not copped as far as I know: Lance was/is a celebrity who got caught. He must pay the price.
st0nes (January 21, 2013, 10:06:53 AM):
the guy who came second is no-one and was not copped as far as I know: Lance was/is a celebrity who got caught. He must pay the price.

I don't think celebrity is relevant--according to those who know cycling everyone who competed at the top level was guilty of doping. Armstrong didn't 'get caught' either, until his confession the evidence against him was hearsay and circumstantial. He never failed a dope test.
BoogieMonster (January 21, 2013, 10:22:23 AM):
Anyone else ever wonder if he got cancer because of drugs?
Mefiante (January 21, 2013, 10:42:44 AM):
All else being equal, those who can afford better equipment and training will also do better. It is not always clear to me why it is fair for an athlete to use the very best equipment and trainer and diet he and/or his team can afford, but when he uses the best drugs he can get hold of, it becomes unfair.
I think the gist of it is a slippery-slope argument: Where exactly does one draw the line between what constitutes the athlete’s own unique efforts/talents, and what would give him/her an unfair advantage over competitors? With the very best equipment and trainer and diet, it is not hard to see that the athlete’s performance during an athletic event is very much his/her own unaided effort, whereas the situation with doping is less clear.

Moreover, athletes are aware of doping restrictions (we’ll ignore their pettiness and arbitrariness, which I agree need revision), whereas no similar restrictions apply to training and/or diet, and athletes respect the rules about equipment for fear of disqualification. But athletes still dope in defiance of the ban thereon because the risk of discovery is worth the win. In motor racing, there are restrictions on engine sizes, tyres and fuel, etc., and any team that, say, fits nitrous oxide boosters to its cars is obviously not playing fair and violating the rules of the game.

The situation of blade runner Oscar Pistorius is somewhat analogous. When an independent German consultancy declared that Pistorius’ artificial legs gave him a mechanical advantage over able-bodied athletes, the stink of nasty finger-pointing and cheap character assassinations rose high, and even now one still hears dissatisfied rumblings from certain quarters. The point is that able-bodied sprinters could in principle have had their own lower legs amputated and replaced with blades so as to gain a similar advantage. Oddly, I don’t know of any who followed that option, even from the ranks of the most clamorous complainants, but if they had, races would then have become more and more about who has the best blades. Taken a few steps further, should more extensive cyborgs compete against able-bodied athletes? How about power-assisted cyborgs or even task-specific robots? Because that’s the slippery slope the regulators fear. And it should be clear enough that whether assistance or enhancements are mechanical or chemical (or both or other), the same underlying objections apply, the only real difference being that the chemical route is much easier to conceal.

Another aspect lies in the considerable amounts of money involved in many sports, not just the prize money but also indirect funds from advertising and sponsorships and such. The winner takes the lion’s share, including personal glory, which together are a powerful motivator to prevail, even if it is at the cost of a little bit of cheating. Armstrong’s case is just one of many examples.

Thus, it seems to me that the main intention of the regulating bodies in respect of doping is to prevent their sport being publicly drawn into any actual or perceived disrepute, and to preserve their own credibility so that the sport and its practice should not carry the least hint of shadiness about it. As I said earlier, the whole thing’s mostly about perceptions, and your point about “a generous dollop of old-fashioned moralism” is one of its more noticeable dimensions.

Anyone else ever wonder if he got cancer because of drugs?
It’s entirely possible but any link would be almost impossible to prove. Epidemiological risk factors are hardly ever straightforward, and human anatomy and physiology are hugely complex.

Tweefo (January 21, 2013, 10:50:09 AM):
... And that, dear people, is the problem with pressuring someone into a confession: you don't know if they really meant it.
Guess all will be disclosed in the next biographic installment, It's not about Oprah ;)
I don't think it was just pressure. A paper is claiming 1 million pounds of him now. He got that in a libel case against them when they accused him of doping. Now they want it back.


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