FanPost

When is it appropriate to be suspicious of a rider's performance?

Given that it's Tour de France time, and the recent history of the race almost naturally leads people to wonder about almost any rider who's doing well, it seems appropriate to try to lay out some rules about when it might or might not be justified to be suspicious that something fishy is going on based on a rider's performance.

This, I think, becomes especially pertinent given that we are trying not to be a clearinghouse for baseless rumor about doping, which hurts everyone.

That said, determining standards for this sort of thing is difficult, and I'm sure that the collective wisdom of the Cafe will outstrip anything I can come up with on my own. So I'm going to make a suggestion, and hope that discussion improves it.  

Here's my proposed rule:  A remarkable or unprecedented performance by a rider would justify suspicion of doping only if there do not seem to be ordinary, legal factors that could adequately account for that rider's good or significantly improved performance.

A good test case for this rule would be Brad Wiggins performance in this year's Tour, and today especially.  

Wiggins has never before this season approached anything like a top ten finish in the Tour, or any three week stage race.  He has also never demonstrated extraordinarily climbing ability of the sort that we saw flashes of in the Giro and clear evidence of today.  So what gives? Can we reasonably suspect that perhaps, as some in the press have already suggested, he's doing something fishy?  

Only the testers can tell us for sure, but based on the above rule, there doesn't seem to be any real reason to be concerned. Wiggins has changed his focus, his training, and most importantly his physiology (lost 6kg compared to his Olympic weight) considerably over the past year, in ways that should, all things considered, lead to vastly improved performance as a climber.  So if he does better than he has previously as a climber, we don't have to worry, since it can be explained by known factors that do not involve doping.

I'm hoping that the rule above would be useful for other cases as well.  But I'm sure it can be improved, which task I leave up to you dear Cafe readers.

edit:  Just to be very clear, I meant rule as in standard or criterion, not rule of conduct.  I'm not trying to suggest that some sorts of topics should be off limits or anything, or some views should be barred from getting expressed.  But I thought it might be useful to try to formulate a standard to help us distinguish what may and may not be suspicious. 

one more edit, in honor of bradBordeaux:  As far as I'm concerned, the takeaway of using the standard is that no rider, so far, has done anything that is inherently suspicious in this Tour.  It looks clean, and we should all be happy about that.  I probably should have said that before, to avoid giving the impression that I'm trying to stir up speculation that otherwise wasn't going on. 

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