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Pais Vasco and the Agony of Cycling Fandom

Jun 27, 2009
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This isn't really a post about doping per se, but since doping is the subtext, it belongs here.

I was quite surprised (and delighted) that there are no posts in The Clinic regarding Chris Horner's magnificent victory at Pais Vasco earlier this month. This is a career-defining win imo, as Pais Vasco is always a hotly contested pre-classics throw-down, and the list of past winners is hella impressive. Even sweeter is that Valverde wanted the win and Horner was able to deny him.

I suspect that part of the reason there is no doping innuendo, and little discussion in general, is Horner is a likable personality and no one wants to rain on his parade. Indeed I can't recall an American taking such a sweet victory since....well a certain Grand Tour in 2006.

Maybe since the events and fallout of 2006, cycling fans are reluctant to get on the band-wagon of any particular rider, with the perception that fandom invariably leads to disappointment down the road. I think this is one of the uglier consequences of cycling's doping culture...it's difficult to laud performances as genuinely heroic if at any time any major rider could be outed as a doper.

I find I can enjoy cycling from a detached perspective...enjoying the thrill of the race in the moment as well as the art of picking winners. But I do miss the pleasures of actually caring whether one rider or another won.

I'm curious how other cycling fans deal with these considerations and whether a great deal of compartmentalization is required.
 
ludwig said:
This isn't really a post about doping per se, but since doping is the subtext, it belongs here.

I was quite surprised (and delighted) that there are no posts in The Clinic regarding Chris Horner's magnificent victory at Pais Vasco earlier this month. This is a career-defining win imo, as Pais Vasco is always a hotly contested pre-classics throw-down, and the list of past winners is hella impressive. Even sweeter is that Valverde wanted the win and Horner was able to deny him.

I suspect that part of the reason there is no doping innuendo, and little discussion in general, is Horner is a likable personality and no one wants to rain on his parade. Indeed I can't recall an American taking such a sweet victory since....well a certain Grand Tour in 2006.

Maybe since the events and fallout of 2006, cycling fans are reluctant to get on the band-wagon of any particular rider, with the perception that fandom invariably leads to disappointment down the road. I think this is one of the uglier consequences of cycling's doping culture...it's difficult to laud performances as genuinely heroic if at any time any major rider could be outed as a doper.

I find I can enjoy cycling from a detached perspective...enjoying the thrill of the race in the moment as well as the art of picking winners. But I do miss the pleasures of actually caring whether one rider or another won.

I'm curious how other cycling fans deal with these considerations and whether a great deal of compartmentalization is required.

Never knew Oscar Perreiro was American.... Or perhaps you meant Basso?
 
ludwig said:
This isn't really a post about doping per se, but since doping is the subtext, it belongs here.

I was quite surprised (and delighted) that there are no posts in The Clinic regarding Chris Horner's magnificent victory at Pais Vasco earlier this month. This is a career-defining win imo, as Pais Vasco is always a hotly contested pre-classics throw-down, and the list of past winners is hella impressive. Even sweeter is that Valverde wanted the win and Horner was able to deny him.

I suspect that part of the reason there is no doping innuendo, and little discussion in general, is Horner is a likable personality and no one wants to rain on his parade. Indeed I can't recall an American taking such a sweet victory since....well a certain Grand Tour in 2006.

Maybe since the events and fallout of 2006, cycling fans are reluctant to get on the band-wagon of any particular rider, with the perception that fandom invariably leads to disappointment down the road. I think this is one of the uglier consequences of cycling's doping culture...it's difficult to laud performances as genuinely heroic if at any time any major rider could be outed as a doper.

I find I can enjoy cycling from a detached perspective...enjoying the thrill of the race in the moment as well as the art of picking winners. But I do miss the pleasures of actually caring whether one rider or another won.

I'm curious how other cycling fans deal with these considerations and whether a great deal of compartmentalization is required.

Sorry, but to believe in a rider who has ridden for SD, Astana (which was the remnants of Disco and USP) and now RS, is just too much. Those three teams alone and their systematic doping - you'd have to believe in Unicorns And to get a career defining result at almost 39 - give me a f***ing break. He basically went from one notorious doping team to another - not the actions of a clean rider.
 
Feb 21, 2010
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I think it is curious that the discussion of Horner omits his early venture to Europe, where he was simply unable to even finish races at times, where his discouragement within FdJ and his lack of results, sent him home to ride with a low level regional pro team.

I enjoyed Horner's attitude and racing style, for me, starting with his win at Langkawi. He had an attacking style, and an easy, friendly manner. Ending up on teams with purported "programmes" throws a cloud of smoke over his palmares. You can hold out hope that he was the "clean" one but you'd suffer a fools paradox.

Finishing 6th at Tour de Suisse, when only a handful of years earlier he could not even finish regional races in France? Sounds like the real beginning of advanced preparation.

No judgement of Mr. Horner, simply consider in his first foray to the Continent Mr. Horner did not heed the advice of St. Augustine. Yet on his second extended commitment, he apparently has.
 
Jun 27, 2009
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I don't need any convincing re. Horner's history and team affiliations, nor the similarity of his performance arc to other aged cyclists who get busted later.

I guess what I'm trying to ask is how it's possible to be a 'fan' of this sport if I can't celebrate the accomplishments of a cool guy like Horner without feeling like a douchebag. I wonder if there is some kind of mental trick to it, or whether it can only be accomplished with large degrees of irony and/or dissonance.

Stuff likes this makes me understand why the omerta is there....cyclists more or less understand that unless a substantial portion of the fan base is deluded and/or unaware of the doping subculture then few will be interested enough to actually come out to the races.
 
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I'm pretty sure the doping conversation took place, it just wasn't in the clinic where it belonged. Maybe in Radio Shack Powerhouse? Or the Pais Vasco thread itself. I know there was a ton of posts about his career, and speculation because of his age.
 
theswordsman said:
I'm pretty sure the doping conversation took place, it just wasn't in the clinic where it belonged. Maybe in Radio Shack Powerhouse? Or the Pais Vasco thread itself. I know there was a ton of posts about his career, and speculation because of his age.

People were just as astonished by Horner's time trial as they were Cancellara.
 
Jun 18, 2009
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Ferminal said:
People were just as astonished by Horner's time trial as they were Cancellara.

I believe in Horner as much as I believe in Father Christmas.

It's hard to believe in the riders when every indication seems to be that it's a least a significant minority of the peloton who are doping, and likely the vast majority. It's particularly hard to believe in riders who have a sudden form jump in their thirties.

I assume that they are doping. It saves on disillusionment when a police raid catches them with a chemist's store in the basement.

And yes, there is compartmentalisation: While rationally, I 'd like any doper to be caught, I'd much prefer it if the testers caught riders who I don't like, before the riders that I do like.

I particularly would like those who treat whistleblowers badly - Armstrong, Pozzato, Oscarito, etc etc to be caught first. The best disinfectant is sunlight.
 
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ludwig said:
I guess what I'm trying to ask is how it's possible to be a 'fan' of this sport if I can't celebrate the accomplishments of a cool guy like Horner without feeling like a douchebag. I wonder if there is some kind of mental trick to it, or whether it can only be accomplished with large degrees of irony and/or dissonance.

Stuff likes this makes me understand why the omerta is there....cyclists more or less understand that unless a substantial portion of the fan base is deluded and/or unaware of the doping subculture then few will be interested enough to actually come out to the races.

Your first question begs another question: Why does it matter to you? Doping or not, you will have riders you like and dislike. Simply don't intermingle the doping aspect with your personal preference. To do so, means that you will most likely be disappointed when you come to realize that the riders you are drawn to utilize medicines and techniques that allow them to maintain their jobs and stay in their profession.

Now, an issue can occur if you "believe" that the rider for whom you support achieves results absent prohibited medicines and/or techniques. At that point, you are either uninformed or purposefully ignorant of the greater scope of doping in professional sports. Getting over that can be painful but no more so than overcoming Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, and similar myths.

As to your last point, I doubt there is much conscious thought in the mind of a racer as to what is or isn't bringing the fans to line the open road. Omerta is simply an ethos of non-disclosure, so as to not invite the excessive scrutiny (from ADA's, media, maybe police) that would collapse their own little schemes. Simply put, it is self-preservation. Self-preservation in job, with peers, with legacy. It is human nature.

But clearly understand that as long as getting on a professional team delivers an other-wise opportunity limited young person from a career in warehousing, trucking, mill working or other less desirable work environs, winning races nets better pay, and maintaining the current system and its underpinnings means some security for it all, these athletes will continue to make the choice to enhance.

You are not a douchebag for identifying with racers who's personalities exhibit otherwise more accessible qualities, just don't gettoo drawn in. Like choosing a favorite flavor of ice cream...it is yummy but in excess all of the flavors make you fat.

Pais Vasco and the Agony of Cycling Fandom.

Rocky Road and the Agony of Ice Cream.
 
Colm.Murphy said:
Your first question begs another question: Why does it matter to you? Doping or not, you will have riders you like and dislike. Simply don't intermingle the doping aspect with your personal preference. To do so, means that you will most likely be disappointed when you come to realize that the riders you are drawn to utilize medicines and techniques that allow them to maintain their jobs and stay in their profession.

Now, an issue can occur if you "believe" that the rider for whom you support achieves results absent prohibited medicines and/or techniques. At that point, you are either uninformed or purposefully ignorant of the greater scope of doping in professional sports. Getting over that can be painful but no more so than overcoming Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, and similar myths.

As to your last point, I doubt there is much conscious thought in the mind of a racer as to what is or isn't bringing the fans to line the open road. Omerta is simply an ethos of non-disclosure, so as to not invite the excessive scrutiny (from ADA's, media, maybe police) that would collapse their own little schemes. Simply put, it is self-preservation. Self-preservation in job, with peers, with legacy. It is human nature.

But clearly understand that as long as getting on a professional team delivers an other-wise opportunity limited young person from a career in warehousing, trucking, mill working or other less desirable work environs, winning races nets better pay, and maintaining the current system and its underpinnings means some security for it all, these athletes will continue to make the choice to enhance.

You are not a douchebag for identifying with racers who's personalities exhibit otherwise more accessible qualities, just don't gettoo drawn in. Like choosing a favorite flavor of ice cream...it is yummy but in excess all of the flavors make you fat.

Pais Vasco and the Agony of Cycling Fandom.

Rocky Road and the Agony of Ice Cream.



Thanks for a great post. It has longer evaded me why so much attention to, and emotion about, doping gets displayed in the posts on this forum. The outright slander hurled upon athletes, who have not tested positive, but are of course doping, as expressed by the most smug and "informed" fans here, is one of the great oddities of human nature.

The irony is that they usually display a preference for a rider or team that they deem to be above reproach and some how "more clean". The realities about the nature and history of the sport, the economic opportunities, and the closed community within which it takes place creates a culture that is no different now than it has ever been.

There are no clean riders and there has never been any. Why would we consider Cycling to be different from Boxing, Baseball, Football, or any other sport where the incentive to succeed is so compelling. All participants inside that culture will eventually take advantage of any opportunity maintain a competitive standing, whether it pertains to training, equipment, or physiology. It's a basic moral risk and reward dilemma, and one that is obviously too attractive to resist.

I am not sure if doping in the peloton is at a higher or lower level than it has ever been, but it has never not been there. The most interesting irony for me is that there seems to be far more parity in professional cycling today than there has ever been in the history of the sport. There are more widely varied and skilled riders attaining success and keeping the sport interesting.

Japanese proverb says that "the nail that dares to raise it's head is destined to be pounded down", and while the odd Ricco or Rassmussen needs to be b!tch slapped for their audacity, the general state in cycling is either you are participating, or you are not competitive. So, if we accept the paradigm that professional cycling is, why are we so consumed with moral judgement?

I never get caught up in the doping argument. Sport is entertainment, and there are few things more entertaining than a winning move on an HC climb. And we all tune in to watch and applaud these genetic mutants who can make these moves, that are beyond our meager abilities and comprehension.

You can debate ad-nauseam who really won the 2006 TDF. But I am sure that few if any of the top 15 GC riders in that race considered the guy who stood on the podium in Paris to have had an unfair "program" advantage. All things being equal, he was just the strongest... and it was tremendously entertaining.
 
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VeloFidelis said:
Thanks for a great post. It has longer evaded me why so much attention to, and emotion about, doping gets displayed in the posts on this forum. The outright slander hurled upon athletes, who have not tested positive, but are of course doping, as expressed by the most smug and "informed" fans here, is one of the great oddities of human nature.

The irony is that they usually display a preference for a rider or team that they deem to be above reproach and some how "more clean". The realities about the nature and history of the sport, the economic opportunities, and the closed community within which it takes place creates a culture that is no different now than it has ever been.

There are no clean riders and there has never been any. Why would we consider Cycling to be different from Boxing, Baseball, Football, or any other sport where the incentive to succeed is so compelling. All participants inside that culture will eventually take advantage of any opportunity maintain a competitive standing, whether it pertains to training, equipment, or physiology. It's a basic moral risk and reward dilemma, and one that is obviously too attractive to resist.

I am not sure if doping in the peloton is at a higher or lower level than it has ever been, but it has never not been there. The most interesting irony for me is that there seems to be far more parity in professional cycling today than there has ever been in the history of the sport. There are more widely varied and skilled riders attaining success and keeping the sport interesting.

Japanese proverb says that "the nail that dares to raise it's head is destined to be pounded down", and while the odd Ricco or Rassmussen needs to be b!tch slapped for their audacity, the general state in cycling is either you are participating, or you are not competitive. So, if we accept the paradigm that professional cycling is, why are we so consumed with moral judgement?

I never get caught up in the doping argument. Sport is entertainment, and there are few things more entertaining than a winning move on an HC climb. And we all tune in to watch and applaud these genetic mutants who can make these moves, that are beyond our meager abilities and comprehension.

You can debate ad-nauseam who really won the 2006 TDF. But I am sure that few if any of the top 15 GC riders in that race considered the guy who stood on the podium in Paris to have had an unfair "program" advantage. All things being equal, he was just the strongest... and it was tremendously entertaining.
Speaking of great posts, you read my mind. Very well said.
 
Doping, to be honest, wasn't a big deal to me until I encountered it face-to-face on a local level. I've mentioned this in other threads so I won't rehash it here.

I wanted Zulle and Virenque to do well in the '98 Tour, then they got busted. Unfortunately the only thing that changed was the Festina team was disbanded and eventually the sponsor left the sport.

The owner of Festina watches said during the doping scandal sales of his watches actually went UP. He was lambasted for this, but all he was doing was speaking the truth. Better to lie about it?

What kills me is the hypocrisy. That's what I hate the most. How could you possibly call the '99 Tour the "Tour of Redemption" when Armstrong wins and Zulle comes in second?

That's when I realized that, like any other bloated institution, it is the protection of said institution that matters more than ethics and fair play.

This is how mediocrities like Hein Verbruggen "Fat" Pat McQuaid get and hang on to their jobs. That is in part how the whole Armstrong myth was created. Armstrong aligned himself with the people who had a vested financial interest in perpetuating his myth, so he goes untouched.

I'm not a big fan of Horner but I do enjoy watching him race. That doesn't mean I'll celebrate any of his victories because he, in the end, is also full of crap. He has been outspoken in the past about the riding style of Bruyneels' tour teams, and recently has come to the realization that he'd better join up because that's where the cash and success are.

You have a right to make a living at your chosen profession. But the hypocrisy I can do without. It is an insult to the collective intelligence of many cycling fans that at the advanced age of 38, Horner is finding his legs without the use of drugs.

And the hypocrisy works both ways. If we wanted a cleaner sport we wouldn't pay any attention to what these guys are doing. But we do because we are fans. Bottom line is, no one knows who is doing what until they are caught. And even then the truth always gets marginalized because we care not to hear it. We collectively would rather that the show just go on. A few busts here and there, a few isolated scandals here and there, but the show must, and will, go on. And we will keep on watching.
 
Berzin said:
Doping, to be honest, wasn't a big deal to me until I encountered it face-to-face on a local level.

What kills me is the hypocrisy. That's what I hate the most. How could you possibly call the '99 Tour the "Tour of Redemption" when Armstrong wins and Zulle comes in second?

That's when I realized that, like any other bloated institution, it is the protection of said institution that matters more than ethics and fair play.

He has been outspoken in the past about the riding style of Bruyneels' tour teams, and recently has come to the realization that he'd better join up because that's where the cash and success are.

You have a right to make a living at your chosen profession. But the hypocrisy I can do without. It is an insult to the collective intelligence of many cycling fans that at the advanced age of 38, Horner is finding his legs without the use of drugs.

And the hypocrisy works both ways. If we wanted a cleaner sport we wouldn't pay any attention to what these guys are doing. But we do because we are fans. Bottom line is, no one knows who is doing what until they are caught. And even then the truth always gets marginalized because we care not to hear it. We collectively would rather that the show just go on. A few busts here and there, a few isolated scandals here and there, but the show must, and will, go on. And we will keep on watching.

+10000 "Hate the Players, not the Game"

Horner & Leechaimer expresed out loud the dislike of the LA/JB era, back in 06/07 and yet they become part of it a couple years later...................
I can put up with doping-is part of human nature to use any available resource to overcome your competition, but is shameful when those two sell their principles when money is put in their faces........ I really used to like them, but now they are just as dirty and biased as LA/JB.....
 
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hfer07 said:
+10000 "Hate the Players, not the Game"

Horner & Leechaimer expresed out loud the dislike of the LA/JB era, back in 06/07 and yet they become part of it a couple years later...................
I can put up with doping-is part of human nature to use any available resource to overcome your competition, but is shameful when those two sell their principles when money is put in their faces........ I really used to like them, but now they are just as dirty and biased as LA/JB.....

What's the difference between riding with LA and riding with Garmin? Saxo Bank? Cervelo? Do you think those teams are racing clean? Rabobank? Euskatel?
 
hfer07 said:
+10000 "Hate the Players, not the Game"

Horner & Leechaimer expresed out loud the dislike of the LA/JB era, back in 06/07 and yet they become part of it a couple years later...................
I can put up with doping-is part of human nature to use any available resource to overcome your competition, but is shameful when those two sell their principles when money is put in their faces........ I really used to like them, but now they are just as dirty and biased as LA/JB.....

I may openly recognize the foibles of human nature as it applies with the athlete leveling the competitive field, but I am not endorsing doping. If an athlete chooses doping as a course of action, then they have already sold their principals.

Changing your tune when "money is put in your face" is just good gamesmanship. Alex Rodriguez once lived in Seattle and hated the Yankees.
There is always a more convenient and timely perspective available.
 
eleven said:
What's the difference between riding with LA and riding with Garmin? Saxo Bank? Cervelo? Do you think those teams are racing clean? Rabobank? Euskatel?

None-it's all about whose team get's the best dope. The problem is that neither Horner, nor Leechaimer complained "openly" about their former employers-I wonder why....;)


VeloFidelis said:
I may openly recognize the foibles of human nature as it applies with the athlete leveling the competitive field, but I am not endorsing doping. If an athlete chooses doping as a course of action, then they have already sold their principals.

Changing your tune when "money is put in your face" is just good gamesmanship. Alex Rodriguez once lived in Seattle and hated the Yankees.
There is always a more convenient and timely perspective available
.

I know where the comment is coming from, but there is no comparison between a 2 million dollar deal in cycling to 100 million dollar + in MLB deal...................
BTW ARod has made the investment worth expending so far--and I'm a Red Sox fan
 

Polish

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The two things I like most about Horner are:

1) He is not afraid to speak out against dopers. Rare that.

2) He is not afraid to admit it when he makes a mistake (about who the dopers are for example). Most people are too stuck-up to admit mistakes.

Also, he is a wonderful stylist on the bike. Always looks elegant riding.
Ok, so there are three things I like most....
 
Polish said:
The two things I like most about Horner are:

1) He is not afraid to speak out against dopers. Rare that.

2) He is not afraid to admit it when he makes a mistake (about who the dopers are for example). Most people are too stuck-up to admit mistakes.

Also, he is a wonderful stylist on the bike. Always looks elegant riding.
Ok, so there are three things I like most....

Any time I look in on the forum and I see that Polish has posted on a thread I have to check in because I just know he has come up with some stupid crap that is more stupid and crappier that the last stupid crap he came up with. Thank you Polish for never letting me down.
 
Hugh Januss said:
Any time I look in on the forum and I see that Polish has posted on a thread I have to check in because I just know he has come up with some stupid crap that is more stupid and crappier that the last stupid crap he came up with. Thank you Polish for never letting me down.

So tell us... what's the secret to a Hugh Januss? Do you drop the soap too often? Or is it that people just naturally want to put their foot there?
 
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Colm.Murphy said:
Your first question begs another question: Why does it matter to you? Doping or not, you will have riders you like and dislike. Simply don't intermingle the doping aspect with your personal preference. To do so, means that you will most likely be disappointed when you come to realize that the riders you are drawn to utilize medicines and techniques that allow them to maintain their jobs and stay in their profession.

Now, an issue can occur if you "believe" that the rider for whom you support achieves results absent prohibited medicines and/or techniques. At that point, you are either uninformed or purposefully ignorant of the greater scope of doping in professional sports. Getting over that can be painful but no more so than overcoming Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, and similar myths.

As to your last point, I doubt there is much conscious thought in the mind of a racer as to what is or isn't bringing the fans to line the open road. Omerta is simply an ethos of non-disclosure, so as to not invite the excessive scrutiny (from ADA's, media, maybe police) that would collapse their own little schemes. Simply put, it is self-preservation. Self-preservation in job, with peers, with legacy. It is human nature.

But clearly understand that as long as getting on a professional team delivers an other-wise opportunity limited young person from a career in warehousing, trucking, mill working or other less desirable work environs, winning races nets better pay, and maintaining the current system and its underpinnings means some security for it all, these athletes will continue to make the choice to enhance.

You are not a douchebag for identifying with racers who's personalities exhibit otherwise more accessible qualities, just don't gettoo drawn in. Like choosing a favorite flavor of ice cream...it is yummy but in excess all of the flavors make you fat.

Pais Vasco and the Agony of Cycling Fandom.

Rocky Road and the Agony of Ice Cream.

Excellent post.
 
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hfer07 said:
None-it's all about whose team get's the best dope. The problem is that neither Horner, nor Leechaimer complained "openly" about their former employers-I wonder why....;)

I don't think I understand what you're trying to say. Because Horner complained about US Postal / LA / Johan years ago, he shouldn't accept a well-paid opportunity to ride for them now as well as being a protected rider in select races?

But you're a Sox fan, so ya can't be that bad;)
 
eleven said:
I don't think I understand what you're trying to say. Because Horner complained about US Postal / LA / Johan years ago, he shouldn't accept a well-paid opportunity to ride for them now as well as being a protected rider in select races?

But you're a Sox fan, so ya can't be that bad;)

I think his point is something along the lines that in the current environment of pro cycling many riders have to give up ideals of integrity, honor, and good sportsmanship in order to get by in the current system. And yes I'm talking about the doping decision. In regards to Horner this is a guy who publicly criticzed the Bruyneel system and basically said (reading between the lines) that USPS created boring racing since the team was all doped up and so strong that it made for robotic racing. Then several years later Horner gets the chance to "join the dark side" and he jumps on the bandwagon regardless of what his prior thoughts on the matter were.

Anyway, I stated none of that to judge the riders for their decisions. In the current system I don't begrudge any of them for making the decisions they need to make to remain competitive. I would prefer they didn't have to make a choice along these lines and I think the sport would be much much better without PED's but I try to just observe the reality of the situation and understand it. Maybe the situation will get better with better testing and on the other hand maybe it will get worse and the testing will fall further and further behind more advanced drugs and/or the testing will not be serious and just be PR.

I will keep following the sport and see how it all turns out because I love the sport too much to just walk away. I did walk away once but could only stay away for about a year. :D
 
I remember Indurain being criticized in his fourth and fifth Tour wins, for being robotic an too methodical. I also recall USPS' "Blue Train" being criticized for being too controlling and boring. Both have had a profound affect on team strategy, and stage racing tactics as they continue to play out today. However these criticisms were always leveled at their superior strength and power, and usually came as a position of envy from riders and teams.

I don't recall riders like Horner and Leipheimer making direct accusations or even allusions to doping doping at Postal, Discovery, or Astana prior to riding there. I may just not have been paying attention, but knowing that LA has a particular memory or such things, I doubt they would find a place there if they had. If you have evidence or quotes I would love to see them.

Otherwise, complaining about the tactics of the more powerful teams in your sport is pretty much the reason that sports journalism exists. And I don't know too many competitive athletes that would not make a move to improve their chances of winning, or being more highly compensated for their efforts if they could.
 
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Thanks to Colm.Murphy, Vedofidelis, BikeCentric, Berzin, Polish and everyone else for the thoughtful replies. It's great to have access to a community of passionate fans with which to discuss this sport.

It has longer evaded me why so much attention to, and emotion about, doping gets displayed in the posts on this forum. The outright slander hurled upon athletes, who have not tested positive, but are of course doping, as expressed by the most smug and "informed" fans here, is one of the great oddities of human nature.

The irony is that they usually display a preference for a rider or team that they deem to be above reproach and some how "more clean". The realities about the nature and history of the sport, the economic opportunities, and the closed community within which it takes place creates a culture that is no different now than it has ever been.

There are no clean riders and there has never been any. Why would we consider Cycling to be different from Boxing, Baseball, Football, or any other sport where the incentive to succeed is so compelling. All participants inside that culture will eventually take advantage of any opportunity maintain a competitive standing, whether it pertains to training, equipment, or physiology. It's a basic moral risk and reward dilemma, and one that is obviously too attractive to resist.

I am not sure if doping in the peloton is at a higher or lower level than it has ever been, but it has never not been there. The most interesting irony for me is that there seems to be far more parity in professional cycling today than there has ever been in the history of the sport. There are more widely varied and skilled riders attaining success and keeping the sport interesting.

Japanese proverb says that "the nail that dares to raise it's head is destined to be pounded down", and while the odd Ricco or Rassmussen needs to be b!tch slapped for their audacity, the general state in cycling is either you are participating, or you are not competitive. So, if we accept the paradigm that professional cycling is, why are we so consumed with moral judgement?

I never get caught up in the doping argument. Sport is entertainment, and there are few things more entertaining than a winning move on an HC climb. And we all tune in to watch and applaud these genetic mutants who can make these moves, that are beyond our meager abilities and comprehension.

You can debate ad-nauseam who really won the 2006 TDF. But I am sure that few if any of the top 15 GC riders in that race considered the guy who stood on the podium in Paris to have had an unfair "program" advantage. All things being equal, he was just the strongest... and it was tremendously entertaining.

I can agree with you that the fan who accepts the reality of doping and loves the sport anyway (ie rationalizes that cyclists will do their best to regulate the problem) is far preferable to the fan who buys into the hype of teams like Garmin or who insists that their favorite rider is clean while everyone else dopes etc. I certainly consider myself closer to the former category and am easily annoyed by the latter category.

However, the problem is a little more complex. There isn't a level playing field re. doping.... Indeed there is good reason to believe some teams are favored by the UCI authorities and get special treatment of a sort. Worse, all medical programs are not equal...some teams have better doctoring than others, some teams try harder to meet the written regulations on doping than others. With omerta, there's hardly any way to regulate doping without relying on testing...and if the UCI is carrying out the testing, it can hardly be trusted....

All I'm saying is there are differences and there are different attitudes toward doping within the sport, and these differences have a non-negligible impact on performance.

This is what makes it hard to be a fan of cycling in any way that goes beyond enjoying the spectacle and picking horses etc. Ie that most of us agree doping is morally questionable at best, but the race winners are consistently those who push the envelope re. doping, regardless of how dedicated they are in all other aspects of training.

I guess these contradictions are likely present in just about any professional sport if one examines it closely enough. And there is a certain "survival of the fittest" argument to be made for accepting this inequality of doping programs and corrupt authorities is part of a competitive pro sports environment. However, this line of thinking doesn't stand up to scrutiny, as sport by definition is regulated competition. If there is no regulation, all we have left is spectacle, and the athletes are as Vino so memorably put it "actors".

Maybe the answer is...'don't be a fan of pro sports beyond the enjoying the spectacle; save the moralism and regulatory zeal for amateur sport'. Ok, fair enough, but it would be a shame if because of this we stopped desiring a fairer and healthier sporting environment, and to really cultivate that desire and help make it happen as fans, it seems necessary to sustain more than a passing interest.