Saturday, July 28, 2007

The More Things Change...

Government class. There I was sitting my life away for an hour every day. I had better things to do with my time during my senior year in high school: play practice, art club, flute lessons, shooting hoops.... We'd just started up another school year, and a controversy flared.

The Tour de France was rocked by news that Astana's battered team leader, Alexandre Vinokourov, tested positive for a homologous blood transfusion after Saturday's time trial in Albi...the Kazakh's blood had shown evidence of a transfusion from another person with a compatible blood type.... Upon receiving the news, the Astana team suspended Vinokourov and quit the Tour de France....

Tess: I just feel so bad for them. She was a cheerleader, don't remember in which sport, but she was cute and blond and she felt bad.

Me: They signed the paper. Their parents signed the paper. They knew what they were doing. The entire first string football team had gotten caught at a party on homecoming night. That year, getting caught drinking, smoking, drugging, or even getting caught in the presence of any of the above meant an athlete was done for the season.

Every rider that is participating in this Tour de France has signed the UCI's antidoping charter in which they promised to give up a year's wages if caught doping. That means that Vinokourov, Moreni and possibly even Rasmussen may be giving up their salaries as punishment, but that's no consolation for their teams, the sponsors, the mechanics and other people involved with the team.

Mr. Hausenkopf sat back and listened during the spontaneous debate in government class.

Tess: But still, they shouldn't have been kicked off!

Bert: It wasn't fair. Bert was an enigma. He was somehow one of the beautiful people, in the popular crowd without being involved in sports, no art, no music and no personality from what I could tell. He spent no time on anybody who wasn't somebody, and I was barely a blip on the outer edge of the Somebody Radar screen.

The news Tuesday...raised a number of concerns with Floyd Landis. One of them was the question about fairness, which the California resident said was not adequately considered in the months leading up to the Floyd Landis trial....

Me: Not fair?! School officials had gone to great lengths to outline for us the new training rules that fall. We got it loud and clear. When I signed, I understood what I was signing. If I was ever caught I was out of whatever I was in. To me, nothing was worth that.

Bert: They shouldn't be kicked off the team for being at a party! Bert was trying to sound as eloquent as his 17-year-old countenance would allow. That's just stupid!

...the Danish federation claims Rasmussen missed an out-of-competition test on May 6, 2007, afterwards correcting that date to April 6 and adding another missed test on June 21, 2007. Finally in June 2007 Rasmussen was again careless with sending his whereabouts schedule to the UCI, according to the claims."

Me: We don't decide what's stupid. We decide whether or not to follow the rules, and if we want to play we don't have much choice. We all signed it -- they signed it. They all knew what would happen! Of course there was a chance of not getting caught, but everyone knew the consequences if they did get nailed. Their decision lay with assuming the risk. The new rules were harsh, but were clear. There were no second chances.

Team manager Theo DeRooy has withdrawn the maillot jaune from the Tour de France. The team fired Rasmussen, who lied to them as to his true whereabouts when he missed his out of competition tests in June. "Wrongly reporting whereabouts is a flagrant violation of UCI rules and is unacceptable," read a statement by the Rabobank team.

Bert was stuck. He looked at me and sneered. Well, just because you're a jock.... It was the best insult he could come up with on the spot. It made no sense given the conversation we were having. I was a jock. It pissed me off just the same. He didn't understand the sacrifices nor the honor of just being part of the field.

"This is a bitter pill to swallow," said Nick Nuyens, whose Cofidis team removed itself from the Tour de France. "It hasn't all sunk in yet." Nuyens was forced to leave following the news that his Italian team-mate Cristian Moreni had tested positive for testosterone. "Of course I was surprised [by Moreni's positive test], he told the Gazet van Antwerpen. "I am disillusioned. I don't know what they will do with us. All I know is that we have to leave the Tour. "When you take part in the Tour for the first time, you hope to at least reach Paris, not this," he said bitterly. "And I was so happy to have survived the last mountain stage."

I decided to follow suit and called a spade a spade. Just because you're a waste....

I didn't understand then that while adults are expected to grasp the consequences of actions, arguments can be made for the adolescent brain and what it understands, how it responds and whether it can reason. Can the same argument can be made for elite cyclists? They're aware of the consequences, but do they really understand? They're young. They've been so immersed in racing for so long that it's all they know. Is it an arrested development? Is it desperation at having put it all on the line for so many years and finding their results and their dollars won't carry them past their 30s?

Former pro cyclist Jan Koerts announced live on Dutch television Wednesday night that he used doping products during this career. "You come to a given point in your career where you have to decide," he said on the show De Avondetappe. "Either you consider your career has failed or you participate in doping," he said. "I have participated. It was that or put an end to my career.



WheelDancer said...

Great post!
Responsibility is like a bacon and egg breakfast; when you agree to take it you are involved just like the chicken but until you accept the consequences you don't know the commitment of the pig.
Cycling needs more pigs and fewer chickens!


Alberto said...

Good stuff, O.B. They agreed. Those are the rules. Because they treated us like naive morons, they get as pay back now. 'Cause those are the rules!

Roberta S said...

Jeanne, just this morning I heard this comment on talk radio. "Gambling addicts are not responsible for their actions. They simply succumb to an overwhelming force."

I was shocked but this is where society is drifting to and God-forbid, it appears to be a philosophy being passed on to the kids.

Obviously you and I and a few others still understand there ARE NO EXCUSES.

PAB(a.k.a.CID) said...

i agree, no excuses.

at some point a conscious choice was made to no longer be clean and honest, to break a rule.

i wouldn't say i don't believe in second chances, but i definitely believe in stiff stiff penalties.


bleh, hate this subject, but love your post, as usual.

thanks for the kind words the other day.

gwadzilla said...

hard to explain to a three and a six year old that adults would cheat to win

in the end....

the cheaters are thieves

there is big money at stake

those that have won in the years past due to illegal methods should be sued and forced to pay the money back!