Thursday, July 27, 2006

Dopes

If this ends up being confirmed, one can only imagine that the blow to American illusions about international athletic dominance could stagger Congress into doing something legislative about drug use in sports generally. (In addition to spawning all manner of weepy, over-wrought stories about how "Lance never did that".)

So right now let me just go on the record as saying that, as far as I can tell, the only real issue with performance-enhancing drugs in sports is that actual sports leagues almost never have consistently enforced policies themselves. Congress really shouldn't be part of the puzzle. Whether the International Cycling Union (or MLB, etc.) should ban doping is entirely a function of what sorts of rules the ICU and its fans would like to see established. I don't know much about the ICU, but my impression of MLB, for instance, is that the league doesn't really object to doping - it probably makes the games more exciting, which, for baseball, is an accomplishment - but they don't want to come out and make doping formally allowed. And that is probably a function of Congress's righteous indignation whenever the subject comes up.

I gather that the politics of the Tour de France are somewhat different, and more nationalistic, in nature, but the basic problem of inconsistent enforcement (Landis appears to have failed his drug test three days before he won the race) seems to remain.

3 comments:

good times said...
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Zembla said...

I don't think the Tour has an issue of inconsistent enforcement - it simply takes a few days to get results back from the lab.

Cycling is pretty strict about doping. There are big penalties if you get caught, and riders are often suspended based solely on suspicion or guilt by association. Part of that is due to the added dangers - many cyclists have died of mysterious heart problems at very young ages.

There don't seem to be many fatalities from doping in baseball or basketball. The most compelling argument is that lax enforcement of drug rules forces players to use steroids to keep up.

Paul said...

I don't follow sports very closely, so that might very well all be true. My impression had always just been that, at least during Armstrong's reign of complete and embarrassing dominance, the issue of doping became very political in the cycling world.

And it wouldn't be at all surprising if cycling was more strict about this stuff than, say, baseball.