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Weekly Doping Rant

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It's strange, I have no appetite for talking about who's doing what, but I can't get enough of critiquing the institutional responses... Two things occurred to me over the weekend.

1. Making Lemonade

Last week's big story was the Pledge, which has since been roundly criticized by everyone except ASO, who could be the UCI's ghostwriter, judging by the way the Pledge is so carefully construed to their tastes. The riders' collective CPA complained that it violated the riders' rights as if they were the only elements of the system at fault. The ACCPI (Italian CPA offshoot?) called it "an ad hoc law made for the Tour de France" while their Spanish counterparts (ACP) complained that decisions are "always against the cyclist."

It's hard to judge what goes on behind closed doors on another continent, but all the evidence says that the UCI is fundamentally incapable of building a coalition for anything. I do stuff like this for a living, and when you have a large group of diverse interests, you often can only make progress by sitting down privately with one party at a time, sharing ideas and hearing out each other's concerns. The surest way to fail is to come up with a plan that one or two parties like, and just announce it to everyone else like it's a done deal. Maybe the Pledge was shopped quietly to the rider groups earlier, but if it was, they didn't achieve much buy-in. And if it wasn't, if the UCI hit the riders cold with their announcement, then you can't blame the riders for rejecting it out of hand.

Still, the idea of financial consequences for cheating isn't a total miss. And this is what the Pledge is: the idea of promising not to cheat surely isn't new, since Cycling has been beset by cheating since at least 1904. But for the Tour to say "give me your annual salary" is fundamentally inappropriate on enough levels to justify its own separate blog. [If I win the Tour of Flanders, do I have to put up my winnings to ASO?] For the UCI to ask this isn't much better. For the state to ask... well, we accept that certain bad acts are punishable by fines, right? I don't know much about European law, but I suspect that if "sporting fraud" is an awkward common-law tort (who's the victim? what did they lose?), it nonetheless wouldn't be very hard to legislate something that says simply, it's illegal to dope for a professional bike race, and if you do, you can be punished by fine of up to $500,000, or whatever number is more than you can win by doping. And while you're at it, put the teams on the hook too.

2. ESPN is a bunch of vultures

This isn't a nice thing to say. Vultures are an important part of any ecosystem, and should be repected as such. ESPN... not so much. The latest ESPN The Magazine issue is what set me off. Here we are on the verge of the Tour, after a wondrous Giro and in the midst of other important races, and as usual ESPN can't be bothered to cover any of it. But they can find the time to run an excerpt from David Walsh's new book, entitled "I'm Pretty Sure Lance Armstrong Took Dope: How America's Leading Cyclist Must Have Cheated, Because Everyone Else Did, and He Was Faster Than Those Guys", delves into another round of circumstantial evidence which proves people should be skeptical of anyone's innocence. Unfortunately, Walsh's endless, profitable crusade against Lance, in the absence of hard evidence, raises questions about the author's motives... though in today's environment he probably shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. Anyway, ESPN seems to view the peloton as a more athletic version of the cast from "the Basketball Diaries," and is always happy to pass along such stories, devoid of context, to its audience of Cycling non-fans. Fuck them.