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Cheating

Jun 18, 2009
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I've moved on from the Lance scandal, since I really believe I see the end game. It's over for Big Tex.

So let's suppose I'm right. Now what!?!?

This is going to seem like a weird parallel, but it's the most relevant one that comes to mind: center line violations. Bear with me here.

First off, the narrative is starting to become "well, everyone is doing it, so it's OK. Why does it matter?" Well, if there's 1 guy not doing it, or 1 guy who didn't even make it to the show because he's not doing it, it matters. Besides, sporting competition, by definition, is defined by its rules. We don't let people hop in the car to get to the top of climbs, and we don't allow them to boost their own blood.

So, if we agree there's a problem, how do we solve it? For some background to our non-US readers, a quick primer on the center line and its history. In the US, most races require you to stay to the right of the yellow/center line in the road. Even as a domestic pro, more than half of the races I do are Pro/Am affairs where this is the case.

When I started racing as a junior, I raced in the beginning adult category. I listened to the pre-race instructions in my first race, and having no mentor in the sport, I listened. To my initial shock, tons of guys were attacking/riding/coasting over the center line, despite our instructions? WTF?? Like doping, it was rampant, and really, "not a big deal". You weren't really gaining an advantage, you were just doing what everyone else did. If you complained about someone riding over the line, you were told to 'f off'.

Fast forward to today, and it's exactly the opposite. Sure, you have the occasional guy who jumps the line, but honestly it's much more the exception than the rule, and the riders pretty much police themselves. So how did that happen?

Step 1) Admit there's a problem. Sounds simple, but much like it took riders getting killed by cars, the scab has to finally be picked off the sport's dirty history in admitting the severity of the problem.

Step 2) Figure out a strategy to make EVERYONE pay for the transgressions of others. DQ'ing a rider doesn't really help. Then it becomes a matter of "OK, don't get caught going over the center line" (this is where we are now with doping). During the earliest days of the "new rules", i.e. the old rules being enforced, I was in a race where a field split of 25 guys was sprinting for the finish in a hard, hilly road race. 2 or 3 guys jumped the line early (we had the whole road at 200 meters). The entire group was DQ'd. I was sprinting in the gutter to avoid the crosswind. I couldn't believe it! The gave the win the the next group, 4 minutes down!

Guess what: everyone in that group learned a pretty hard lesson. You are your brother's keeper, and yeah, it is your business if they're cheating. Was it "fair" that I, and 20 other guys following the rules were relegated? Well, not really. And fortunately, these days that never happens. However, back then, that's what it took to start the sea change in behavior.

Likewise, suspending a rider for his transgressions reinforces the "don't get caught" mentality. When an entire team is suspended because of a rider's actions, you can bet the entire team will have a stake in it. So, if Cadel has to sit out the Giro because Thomas Frei was doping, you can bet there would be internal pressure not to dope on your own.

So, what if the whole team is in on the organized doping plan? Well, this is where there's going to have to be some draconian measures put in place, and this is going to be the hardest and most painful to implement. A couple of races, due to the nature of the course, still had issues with center line violations. Those races ended up being canceled all together. In that vein, here's a suggestion: if there are 2 positives from a race from 2 different teams, the race isn't held next year (or none of the professional teams are allowed in). Yeah, that's pretty draconian, and everyone is suffering; promoters, riders, fans, local businesses.

Basically, the concept is to spread the punishment around so that the riders and team managers have an incentive to encourage following the rules. It's actually in their interest not only to follow them, but to make sure others are following them as well. Kinda like Omerta in reverse...

Let's face it: testing methods can and will improve, but they're never going to be perfect. While you need people enforcing the rules, those participating in the sport need to help police themselves. That now is exactly how it is with the center line. The crackdown didn't occur by giving people year-long suspensions or by tripling the number of officials. It made everyone responsible for the transgressions of others, and eventually the riders started taking measures to police themselves. Sure the officials are still involved, but the first line of defense is your peers. It's a strong disincentive, and it works pretty well.

I realize that the parallel between these two situations isn't perfect, but I really do believe the concept is sound; make everyone have a stake in fair competition. Simply going after individuals really hasn't worked so far, so I think it's time to take a hard look at some alternatives.

Thoughts??
 
Feb 21, 2010
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131313 said:
I've moved on from the Lance scandal, since I really believe I see the end game. It's over for Big Tex.

So let's suppose I'm right. Now what!?!?


Thoughts??

I think there is a distinction between bio-doping and rules of the road/equipment regulations.

For Bio-Doping, the ADA's and NGB's establish the rules and adjudication standards. The "prohibited list and methods" govern what is illegal. Though rife with silly conundrums (caffeine is legal but inhalers /over a limit/ are not). Generally, digressions are met with the same 2-year sanction for a first offense.

As for Rules of the Road, things are a bit more discretionary, with varying degrees of enforcement and penalty, with more latitude for subjectivity.

Your yellow-line-rule point is well formed but most of us would agree that crossing the yellow line, as opposed to holding onto a car up a climb, are different in their severity of what is gained as well as what safety issue could be permitted.

As well, cutting a course is the most egregious form of yellow line rule though I've never seen or heard of a rider sanctioned for cutting the course (maybe in MTB racing but let's stick to road racing for now).

So, I think the concept of rules enforcement should allow some latitude of subjectivity in enforcement and penalty. Racers can file a protest of a result within a certain amount of time after results are posted, and this happens when a sprint ends with some dispute over going off line to block an advancing racer.

The discrepancy between bio-doping and rules of the road should always be wide, in both the subjectivity of the enforcement and the subjectivity of the penalty.
 
Mar 10, 2009
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131313 said:
... make everyone have a stake in fair competition.

Everyone has always had a stake in fair competition. Unfortunately, many people in that same group have also had a stake in unfair competition. The stakes were higher in the unfair competition gambit - so were the payoffs.

Greed will trump honesty, when greed has the better payoff.
 

MarkGreen0

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May 28, 2010
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131313 said:
Besides, sporting competition, by definition, is defined by its rules. We don't let people hop in the car to get to the top of climbs, and we don't allow them to boost their own blood.

But those rules are in place because of the culture of wider society. It's mind conditioning. If we were brought up to believe hormones like EPO are no different to vitamins or drinking a stimulant like coffee, then we wouldn't think twice about it. What we believe is right and wrong was in fact decided for us by people a couple of hundred years ago. If they had believed something else, then we would believe something else today.

In the bubble of pro-cycling they have developed a different culture that has its own norms and is totally different to the culture of the outside society. They think society would not understand their culture and therefore they don't see any moral problem with lying about what they do and having a bunch of PR rules which they don't follow on the road.

I'm not saying we should just accept that, but that's we're they're coming from.
 
Feb 21, 2010
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MarkGreen0 said:
But those rules are in place because of the culture of wider society. It's mind conditioning. If we were brought up to believe hormones like EPO are no different to vitamins or drinking a stimulant like coffee, then we wouldn't think twice about it. What we believe is right and wrong was in fact decided for us by people a couple of hundred years ago. If they had believed something else, then we would believe something else today.

In the bubble of pro-cycling they have developed a different culture that has its own norms and is totally different to the culture of the outside society. They think society would not understand their culture and therefore they don't see any moral problem with lying about what they do and having a bunch of PR rules which they don't follow on the road.

I'm not saying we should just accept that, but that's we're they're coming from.

Ah, Mr. Green, you entertain me with your position.

In the USA, a couple hundred years-or-so ago, there was this thing called slavery. Africans, caught in their own country, placed in chains, placed on ships, bought at auction, subjected to labor for their owner, without rights or even the consideration that they were "men". This was permitted by the law, and it "was" the way things were. And it was wrong, ie, legal does not make it right, ie, legal does not always mean it is right.

I would caution you wide and sweeping assumption that right and wrong are absolutes and that they were in the beginning, are now and ever shall be, amen.

Right and wrong is subject to freedom and rational thought. Sometimes arriving at it requires mistakes of epic proportions (slavery) and sometimes they are temporary (Japanese internment in the USA during WWII). Correcting these flaws in thinking are the duty of free men. Overcoming these errors is the duty of civilised society to assure they don't happen again.

Back to cycling, EPO, hormones and sport as a profession was hardly part of society back that far, but the ethical dilemma of cheating for gain has plagued men since the beginning. Examining the ethics of sport, and the greater impact on society is a discussion worth having but it is not very simple. However, boiling it down into something which can no longer be said to contain the basic element gets us no where.
 

MarkGreen0

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Colm.Murphy said:
Ah, Mr. Green, you entertain me with your position.

In the USA, a couple hundred years-or-so ago, there was this thing called slavery. Africans, caught in their own country, placed in chains, placed on ships, bought at auction, subjected to labor for their owner, without rights or even the consideration that they were "men". This was permitted by the law, and it "was" the way things were. And it was wrong, ie, legal does not make it right, ie, legal does not always mean it is right.

I would caution you wide and sweeping assumption that right and wrong are absolutes and that they were in the beginning, are now and ever shall be, amen.

Right and wrong is subject to freedom and rational thought. Sometimes arriving at it requires mistakes of epic proportions (slavery) and sometimes they are temporary (Japanese internment in the USA during WWII). Correcting these flaws in thinking are the duty of free men. Overcoming these errors is the duty of civilised society to assure they don't happen again.

Back to cycling, EPO, hormones and sport as a profession was hardly part of society back that far, but the ethical dilemma of cheating for gain has plagued men since the beginning. Examining the ethics of sport, and the greater impact on society is a discussion worth having but it is not very simple. However, boiling it down into something which can no longer be said to contain the basic element gets us no where.

The point I was making is the moral case against using hormones and other substances is a cultural thing that was decided by previous generations to us. The fact that we used to think slavery was okay shows that people before us don't always get it right, and that things can change. In pro cycling they decided to reset the button on doping and were working to a different moral framework than the outside world. I just think it's important to understand that different cultural mindset sometimes when we try to understand their approach.