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The Curse of Doping

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Aug 6, 2011
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hfer07 said:
the second part is simple: "when is too good to be truth............." there are some performances out there that cannot be simply passed unquestioned or judged in order to "preserve" the "good will & faith" on the athletes & the Sport".. we most not stop to be critical-otherwise we're going back to the Lance Armstrong era...

.
I am not saying we should live in good will & faith. I am not saying we shouldn't be critical. But being critical isn't the same as being cynical. In my opinion, every athlete that shows an incredible performance must be monitored closely, not because he's guilty, but there is a reasonable probability that something is funny, as with most sports. That does not mean we have to accuse someone of doping just because they perform.

I think any genuine athlete would agree with closer investigation of exceptional performances (okay that any part is overgeneralizing again). If they accomplished it from true sportsmanship, they can show that with a reasonable probability. Moreover, they now know that it is very unlikely that their competitors, let's say rivals, are only able to compete or show the same performance level because they are cheating.
 
WillemS said:
I am not saying we should live in good will & faith. I am not saying we shouldn't be critical. But being critical isn't the same as being cynical. In my opinion, every athlete that shows an incredible performance must be monitored closely, not because he's guilty, but there is a reasonable probability that something is funny, as with most sports. That does not mean we have to accuse someone of doping just because they perform.

I think any genuine athlete would agree with closer investigation of exceptional performances (okay that any part is overgeneralizing again). If they accomplished it from true sportsmanship, they can show that with a reasonable probability. Moreover, they now know that it is very unlikely that their competitors, let's say rivals, are only able to compete or show the same performance level because they are cheating.
There is a group of posters who frequent the clinic more than most who believe everything that happens in cycling is attributable to doping and they are more than happy to dismiss anything that might suggest otherwise, the idea of doping is so ingrained they cannot see past it and speak in absolutes on the subject.

Some examples, a few riders from the same team attack in a race, lets start a thread about how this is proof of doping

Any cyclist who rides for Team X or DS Y is definitely doping.

If a rider is going well, then they are definitely doping but if they start going bad then their doping must have gone wrong.

Rider X was caught or admitted doping years ago, they are definitely still doping now even if they are performing worse.

Anyone who doesnt comform to the expectations required by poster X in regards to talking about doping is definitely doping.

Poster X believes everyone in pro cycling dopes but still feels the need to start another new thread about how an individual rider or team are definitely doping.

A fomer/rider, journalist etc who speaks openly about doping is telling the truth but if the same person suggests a rider or team is clean, then they are BSing.

Doping gives at least a 50% advantage over everyone else which means that if another rider finishes within 30 minutes of a race winner, they are also definitely doped.

Posters who accept that doping is part of the sport but still like to follow the sport and talk about it in the racing section are nothing but doping apologists.

Anyone who doesnt believe 100% of pro cyclists are doped to the gills are stupid, naive and know nothing about the sport.

Any I missed?
 
Aug 6, 2009
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High-Cadence said:
How can anyone not be cynical about a sport.....in reference to cycling......that has such a long and notorious history of drug taking amongst it's athletes.
Just enjoy the exploits of your favorite riders and hope the ones you can't stand get busted.

As far as I'm concerned, once Armstrong, Bruyneel and doctors like Fuentes, Ferrari and Contador's ex-bagman (I forget his name) are exposed once and for all, that would be enough for me.

Taking a moral stance against doping is an exercise in futility due to the stuff I've seen with my own eyes happening on the weekend warrior circuit.

If the local everyday, run-of-the-mill cats dope when there is very little or no reason whatsoever to do so, imagine when the stakes are high.
 
Jun 27, 2009
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WillemS said:
With that I agree. I don't trust the UCI and it should have nothing to do with anti-doping what-so-ever. Period. The same goes for commercial organizations as the ASO.

I indeed belief that cycling deserves everything it got, but I also belief that other sports do as well. It's about time that soccer players get their first out-of-competition test, as are tennis players.

I think that a solution is not really possible if you isolate cycling, a doping solution should not be directed at one sport as it then gets involved in that same sport, which might corrupt the system. If only we had something like a non-corrupt IOC, which we also don't have.

We are never going to change anything if dopeurs have more money to spend on doping than anti-doping agencies on tests.
I think you've pretty much rebutted your original post. Let's list some of the things you've conceded

1) the main organizational authority in cycling (and doping testing) can't be trusted. Indeed it's leadership (McQuaid/Verbruggen) is exactly the same as pre-Festina.
2) Cycling has earned its reputation. It may be true that some sports are worse, but that's not really relevant.
3) The solution to the problem has nothing to do with fans' attitudes. Fans being aware and educated about the doping problem would be positive for the sport, not negative. The more aware fans are of the problem, the more likely the teams are to do something or act like they are doing something about the problem.

So no....I think the sport is better off with an educated fanbase than with a naive fanbase. If you get a bunch of naive fans who will walk away from the sport after the first scandal, you've achieved nothing. The kind of fans that last are the ones that continue to love cycling even after they understand what is going on behind closed doors.

I've also noticed that the most embarrassing cases of anti-doping rhetoric often come from misinformed fanboy types. They get emotionally invested in a rider and heap suspicion on competing riders who may have been involved in scandals in the past, who they feel may be cheating their hero. This sort of thinking happens because certain fans are ignorant of the context in which doping and omerta happen, and can be attributed to cycling media failing to do their job adequately, creating misconceptions about doping and how much of the peloton is doping. The core of it is--they believe their guy is being cheated so they get mad about it, unaware of the actual context which is omerta and UCI leadership.

If a rider wins a race I am happy to praise their achievement. My perspective is generally libertarian and against anti-doping moralism (most of the cyclists are doping and there isn't much we can do, somebody has to win) but someday I'd like the sport to adopt a more honorable perspective and stop trying to attract fans through lies and deception. In any case I have little tolerance for those who claim we should ignore the past doping and signs of contemporary doping simply because we love cycling. Sorry, been there done that buddy, what you are saying is absolutely nothing new; peeps have been singing the same tune as long as I've been following the sport. Cycling has taken the leap of faith route too many times, yet the leadership of cycling never changes--it's the same lies recycled over and over.
 
Aug 6, 2011
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ludwig said:
I think you've pretty much rebutted your original post. Let's list some of the things you've conceded

1) the main organizational authority in cycling (and doping testing) can't be trusted. Indeed it's leadership (McQuaid/Verbruggen) is exactly the same as pre-Festina.
I have never said anything about the doping system itself, I only staid something about how we cynically classify a lot cyclists as dopeurs after they performed something without any warrant. I have never said I trusted the current anti-doping programs nor the UCI. I don't. But not trusting an anti-doping program does not mean I automatically don't trust every cyclist.

A cyclist != (is not) anti-doping program

ludwig said:
2) Cycling has earned its reputation. It may be true that some sports are worse, but that's not really relevant.
I think other sports are relevant too, but not for the evaluation of an anti-doping program, which was not the point of my post. I never said cycling didn't earn his reputation, but, again, reputation does not mean that every performing cyclist is a dopeur. That's about the ONLY point I was trying to make. Stop being cynical, critical is fine, but a statement like "no WAY sky is clean" is not critical, it's an indictment.

It's like science should be. A scientist should be critical of his own theory and try to refute it anyway he could. But being critical isn't the same as saying it's wrong. It's being critical, followed by research and then, and only then, refute or hold it.

ludwig said:
3) The solution to the problem has nothing to do with fans' attitudes. Fans being aware and educated about the doping problem would be positive for the sport, not negative. The more aware fans are of the problem, the more likely the teams are to do something or act like they are doing something about the problem.
I was not trying to find a solution to doping. Again, my post was NOT about the anti-doping problem, it's about unwarranted indictments, incrimination without any indication, automatic rejection of someone's credibility when they perform something, etc.

ludwig said:
So no....I think the sport is better off with an educated fanbase than with a naive fanbase. If you get a bunch of naive fans who will walk away from the sport after the first scandal, you've achieved nothing. The kind of fans that last are the ones that continue to love cycling even after they understand what is going on behind closed doors.

I've also noticed that the most embarrassing cases of anti-doping rhetoric often come from misinformed fanboy types. (...)
I agree, being naive won't fix the doping problem. Convicting every rider without any empirical proof wouldn't either. That last thing is just what I am saying. If we want to classify winning a race as proof of doping, then we will always have a doping problem unless we decide to kill the competitors before they reach the finish line. Then no one will win. Again, it's not about believing blindly in cyclists, I like to be critical, being critical is my job for crying out loud, I am saying that performing is not equal to doping. Saying that performing equals doing doping, now that would be naive too.

ludwig said:
If a rider wins a race I am happy to praise their achievement. My perspective is generally libertarian and against anti-doping moralism (most of the cyclists are doping and there isn't much we can do, somebody has to win) but someday I'd like the sport to adopt a more honorable perspective and stop trying to attract fans through lies and deception. In any case I have little tolerance for those who claim we should ignore the past doping and signs of contemporary doping simply because we love cycling. Sorry, been there done that buddy, what you are saying is absolutely nothing new; peeps have been singing the same tune as long as I've been following the sport. Cycling has taken the leap of faith route too many times, yet the leadership of cycling never changes--it's the same lies recycled over and over.
I am still anti-doping, as it introduces gaps between chances. If you have money, you can do a nice doping program, if you're not, you're screwed. But this has nothing to do with my thread.

----

Okay, again a summery of the point I was trying to make?

I don't want to review the doping system, the point I was trying to make was this:

We shouldn't regress into cynical beings convicting cyclist for just performing, we need to be critical, we need to investigate, we need to review the accomplishments, but we should not incriminate without empirical evidence.

In my original post, I made a lot of unrelated statements, a lot of errors, a lot of thinking fallacies. And I am glad everyone here pointed them out to me, especially Dr. FastCar. I appreciated the discussion, it chanced and sharpened my thoughts.

But please, don't try to let me say things I don't try to say. And give me some slack and grant me the possibility to develop my thinking during a discussion.
 
Jun 27, 2009
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Here's a problem with your train of thought WillemS.

You seem to be trying to say that we ought to give every cyclist the benefit of the doubt, therefore they are not cheaters etc. However, think about where that thought process leads you in terms of anti-doping enforcement. If it were true that doping were just a few bad apples, then the whole integrity of the sport becomes dependent on sniffing out these bad apples. Hence, if you are consistent with your position then you should be calling for the strongest possible anti-doping programs, because otherwise not only is the sport a joke (since the best doping program wins), it's ALSO a massive injustice because there are clean pro cyclists getting screwed etc.

So it ought to be unacceptable to you that Bruyneel, Riis, Echevarri, McQuaid etc are the leadership of the sport. Because if these guys (eg, established and proven dopers and doping enablers) are reaping the rewards, then surely the clean guys are getting screwed.

So ultimately your train of thought leads to rabid anti-doping and eventually cynicism. This is what happens to most cycling fans--they start by buying into the idea that doping is only a few bad apples (hence they are outraged at the injustice of the good guys getting screwed). After that, eventually their fav riders are involved in scandal, and their attitude often becomes cynical.

Who bears the ultimate responsibility for the fan's cynical attitude? Does a cycling fan actively choose to be cynical? No..many cycling fans are optimists, dreamers, and die-hard believers. Barthes wrote an essay on their imaginative psychology way back when that's worth revisiting. But returning to doping, as everyone knows, the cyclists, DSes, and the media, bear the primary responsibility for fans feeling let down and cynical, since the cycling fan feels deceived and betrayed if he knows he's being lied to. It's only once the cycling fan puts the pieces of the puzzle together (eg understands omerta) that he is able to forgive the cyclists or DSes for lying.

It's a fact of life--attaining knowledge and breaking misconceptions leads to greater tolerance. Wrongheaded notions, spearheaded by media spin, lead to intolerance. I believe that pretending that doping is only a few bad apples simply reinforces the negativity towards dopers among fans, and also makes fans feel betrayed once they realize its far more ubiquitous then they thought. Media spin creates a false drama play between virtuous clean athletes and villainous dopers...only there is virtually no substance to it.

Only after we man up and accept the ubiquity of doping is it possible to 1) have compassion for the athletes involved (since we now understand they are not "cheating" in the strictest sense) and 2) start to get frustrated with omerta and desire an open forum for solving the problem where everyone involved pro cycling can contribute without fear of retribution.

What we have at present is the code of silence and omerta, along with a press corps determined to make cycling appear clean again. If cycling doesn't privatize and dump the UCI/WADA soon, then its a recipe for police intervention, as doping has been outlawed in most European nations now. Let's hope cycling survives the next Puerto-like upheaval and learns better lessons next time.

The posters and fans in the Clinic that I respect most do not have a black and white attitude. They don't indulge in hate or vitriol (eg they are past hating this doper or that whistleblower...they've followed the sport too long for that). They love cycling, and they understand that PEDs, ped testing, and ped scandals are endemic to pro cycling as a business for profit. Generally what emerges is a detached irony that you could describe as cynicism, but it's a mindset that allows them to continue to love the sport without actively deceiving themselves or (worse) other forum members.

I get too emotional about cycling (it's only a pro sport after all, and I enjoy sports that I know for a fact are more corrupt), so I fall well short of the description above. Hopefully someday I'll be closer to the detached ironist than the eternal optimist, especially regarding issues as complex as sport ethics.
 
When cynicism reduces exceptional accomplishments to speculative doping allegations.
I’m not meaning to nitpick over words, but I don’t have a problem with healthy scepticism about “exceptional” accomplishments or about the performances of any riders with a history of doping.

What I generally disagree with is people making bold assertions about performances that are good but utterly predictable accomplishments (e.g. Wiggins thus far, Froome in the Time Trial). A rush to judgement before the race is even over and the dust settles on results (e.g. Wiggins and Froome will likely be top 5 and top 15 respectively at best in a field that is hardly of exceptional class). But if folk want to make posts about that, then it’s fair enough. Its up to me if I choose to read them or not, or choose to be influenced by them. Reading such posts can actually help you gain confidence in a given rider if others fail to present a coherent case for why they must be doping.

Everyone has their own reasons for their individual stance on doping in cycling and it is a personal decision. To study scraps of evidence obsessively, or to ignore doping or even to not care about it and cheer on your favourite rider regardless of their history. As others have pointed out, individual stances are trivial compared to what the “powers that be” do and that is something that most of us are relatively powerless (or unmotivated) to influence (other than by booing Contador at this years TdF presentation or heckling McQuaid in his increasingly rare public outings).

Also, as others have said, the forum is not representative of the wider population. For example, cycling coverage in the UK has been getting good viewing figures. In the UK it was routinely the most viewed programme on the relatively fringe channel that showed it, and actually gained four times as many viewers as some of the coverage of England becoming the top ranking Test cricket nation on earth.

So yes, let the Germans do as they see fit with their coverage (I can understand their stance, even if it is hypocritical in relation to others sports) and let those on this forum give their views, because ultimately, the show will go on and those who choose to, can enjoy it.

Besides, if cycling was reinvented as a hugely popular sport with lots of money sloshing around, then we’d start to see issues like “super teams” where success is purchased and becomes utterly predictable like it is in soccer.

My personal stance is that with
- more credible performances in recent Grand Tours combined with,
- continued identification of the Contadors, Kolobnev’s & Mosqueras of the sport and,
- an ability from contenders from teams that aren’t the richest to still compete,

I think we are experiencing a relatively good period for cycling despite the old guard having their claws in most of the modern teams (and lets hope the UCI does address that in the future as it would be a large deterrent for a rider to dope).

Even making the assumption that everyone in the peloton is still successfully doping under the radar, the performances and climb times we are seeing provide an indication that the proportion of a rider’s performance that is tied to their doping programme is lessened compared to recent decades. This is my opinion despite proven offenders like Basso, Cunego & Contador being near the top of this years TdF. Even the guys you know have cheated in the past seem incapable of reproducing their pre-2008 performances in terms of endurance and power. Even Contador at last years TdF with clenbuterol in his system appeared a shadow of his former self (until the last rest day at least which coincided with his positive test). I happily challenge this personal stance by reading the posts of others here, but I’m still fairly comfortable with my position.

So I’ll enjoy this period for as long as it lasts, until we get a doping scandal or (as is more likely to happen first) start to see the return of regular highly improbable individual performances. Then for me, as with everyone, it’s a personal decision if you stand by the sport or decide to spend your leisure time watching something else.
 
Aug 6, 2011
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ludwig said:
Here's a problem with your train of thought WillemS.


Trimmed for readability.
No, I don't want them to get the benifit of the doubt. I remain critical after performance, but I don't automatically convict it as doping powered. I do not, however, adobt the position that the cyclist is clean. We don't know. Critical, not cynical. Investigative, not speculative.

Within a discussion of possible doping use, I would want people to say: "Wow, he amazed me. We should investigate whether or not he doped.". I don't want people to say, as some people do these days: "Wow, he amazed me, he is a dopeur". There is a difference in those two statements, the first is, considering the recent history of cycling, a healthy response. There is a chance that it is doping, so we should investigate. The second comes from a very cynical point of view in which you can't seem to believe there is even one performing cyclist that is clean. Everybody who performs, dopes. And that, I do not want to assume automatically.

If there are signs that something is off, they should be given. But stating that someone has shown an unusual pattern of physical performance is, in my eyes, not enough to definitively prove that someone is doping. In the past, people were accused of doping because of above-threshold values of endogenous substances (substances normally found within the body). Later it became clear that they were having a medical or genetic predisposition to have elevated levels. Thus, while their performance may be due to that elevated level, it isn't because they cheated.

ludwig said:
I’m not meaning to nitpick over words, but I don’t have a problem with healthy scepticism about “exceptional” accomplishments or about the performances of any riders with a history of doping.
Oh, I totally agree with you. But being skeptic isn't the same as saying that it's a certainty that the performance is due to doping. Thus saying "I am skeptical/critical of that exceptional performance" is different from saying "no WAY sky is clean". And that's the difference I am talking about.

Thus, I totally agree that people can post that questions regarding a performance, but that is not the same as declaring the cyclist guilty.

On the case of journalism: In Germany, cycling was still getting decent viewing rates. The problem I have with their decision is that it's hypocritical as in other sports doping is also either a big problem or a problem never talked about. This isn't about the opinion of the German viewers, because the TV-boardroom is not a place controlled by the democratic vote of the viewers, but rather by managers and big-shot journalists. They made a decision, I think that decision is hypocritical. But I should've left that out of my original post as it has nothing to do with the opinion I tried to convert.
 
May 26, 2010
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Fergoose said:
My personal stance is that with
- more credible performances in recent Grand Tours combined with,
- continued identification of the Contadors, Kolobnev’s & Mosqueras of the sport and,
- an ability from contenders from teams that aren’t the richest to still compete,

.

- when you consider how 'in' credible TdF winner performances have been that is not saying much.

- Contador has been indentified along time ago, he road for Saiz, his name is allegedly on a Fuentes list, he then rides for Bruyneel and now for Riis. Not hard to work that all out before his Clen positive.

- Evans rides for a rich team if that is what you are alluding too. Leopard Trek are loaded they dont even need a sponsor!

The sport is not getting cleaner, just the rhetoric is spewing forth from the sport tells us that it is cleaner, but we were told that when Armstrong retired. The Same DS's are still running the same teams when Armstrong was winning. They haven't gone way you know.
 
Jun 27, 2009
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Well Willem, if you are sticking by your previous post then we don't have any substantive disagreement, only a semantic one.

The core of the issue is cycling's leadership is knee-deep in the culture and their statements cannot be taken at face value given their history of blatant falsehoods. No performance can be assumed to be clean. And finally, omerta remains in effect and whistle blowers continue to ostracized. If we can agree on those 3 points you don't need much schooling. So imo when people are talking on a message board, there is essentially no practical difference in saying "doping is endemic" and saying "we have good reason to believe doping is endemic". The only difference in the 2 statements is semantic. The opinion expressed is essentially the same.

Giving the example of "No Way Sky is Clean" as an example of "cyncism" is not a good one since that thread title was clearly ironic and a play on previous thread titles. Of course, if you said we have no reason to believe Sky is clean, then I would agree with you.

This isn't a philosophy or science seminar, it's a bunch of nerds trading opinions. There's alot of trolling, irony and tongue-and-cheek involved and not everything you read ought to be read literally.
 
The sport is not getting cleaner...
But, but... *points downwards*

Benotti69 said:
- when you consider how 'in' credible TdF winner performances have been that is not saying much.
Admittedly, it can "get cleaner" than the 90s and 00s and still be utterly filthy at the same time.

As for the point about super rich teams, I am merely alluding to the fact that, in this Vuelta for example, I've lost track of the amount of teams that had credible GC contenders (including Lotto & Astana who appear to have little assistance for their main riders). There is no team that has itself loaded with top tier riders, or say 3 GC contenders working as domestiques for the main guy. If the sport was more money orientated (like soccer & Formula 1) and didn't have salary restrictions (like the NFL) I think it'd only be a matter of time until you saw such unevenness. So I'm quite happy for cycling to continue to be a relatively fringe sport where even some of the "mid-table" teams can compete for a podium.
 
May 26, 2010
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Fergoose said:
But, but... *points downwards*



Admittedly, it can "get cleaner" than the 90s and 00s and still be utterly filthy at the same time.

As for the point about super rich teams, I am merely alluding to the fact that, in this Vuelta for example, I've lost track of the amount of teams that had credible GC contenders (including Lotto & Astana who appear to have little assistance for their main riders). There is no team that has itself loaded with top tier riders, or say 3 GC contenders working as domestiques for the main guy. If the sport was more money orientated (like soccer & Formula 1) and didn't have salary restrictions (like the NFL) I think it'd only be a matter of time until you saw such unevenness. So I'm quite happy for cycling to continue to be a relatively fringe sport where even some of the "mid-table" teams can compete for a podium.
who are these mid table teams competing for GC?

Sky super rich!

Rabobank- a bank sponsoring them FFS

Geox put 50million into the team?

Leopard trek another rich team?

that's the top 5 on GC of LA Vuelta, the top ten is made up of rich teams.

Mid table teams are some of the French teams, Quickstep, Garmin, Vaconsoleil, Lampre etc....
 
I'm not aware of team budgets, but in the past week we've had people predicting victory for riders from the following teams

Sky, Katusha, Liquigas, Euskatel, Radioshack, Lampre, Geox, Rabobank, Leopard Trek.

Other teams like BMC & Saxobank could compete if they'd brought a suitable team. That is an extremely broad spread of competitive teams in comparison to more money orientated sports. They can't all be considered as "top of the table" in terms of budget. :D
 
May 26, 2010
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Fergoose said:
I'm not aware of team budgets, but in the past week we've had people predicting victory for riders from the following teams

Sky, Katusha, Liquigas, Euskatel, Radioshack, Lampre, Geox, Rabobank, Leopard Trek.
All these teams with the exception of Lampre are top and i imagine rich (for the sport) teams.

Fergoose said:
Other teams like BMC & Saxobank could compete if they'd brought a suitable team. That is an extremely broad spread of competitive teams in comparison to more money orientated sports. They can't all be considered as "top of the table" in terms of budget. :D
Saxobank lost half its team and the better riders from its team after the TdF last year and were trying to find a new sponsor, hard to compete when that happens but they won a GC this year.

BMC have spent big this year. Gilbert and Hushovd!

Cycling budgets are voodoo, i bet lots of teams find other funds in the kitty when it is needed, Katusha a team sponsored by Russia, Astana another country sponsored team and we all know how Bruyneel finds extra funding.
 
Aug 6, 2011
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ludwig said:
This isn't a philosophy or science seminar, it's a bunch of nerds trading opinions. There's alot of trolling, irony and tongue-and-cheek involved and not everything you read ought to be read literally.
Yeah, that Sky-thread reference was just an easy example. But still, even meant a bit ironically, it still signals some kind of attitude towards performance.

About sticking to my post, the things in there are pretty much what I wanted to say to start with, I just didn't write it out right, I guess. I gave it too little thought while writing it.
 

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