Doping in Sport is Wrong on More than One Count

There were hints of this in other news outlets today, and the internet was rife with denials and “no comments.”  It’s reported that George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong’s right-hand man through all of his Tour de France triumphs, will testify against his former team leader the the U.S. Anti-Doping Association’s case against Armstrong.

Meanwhile, writers that I respect dug up and re-tweeted old posts about biological passports, the tarnishing of Armstrong’s image, new essays on his supposed impending demise, and other doping-related topics.

It wasn’t until late afternoon that I remembered that there’s a little bike race happening in France this month.  With the laser beam focus on USADA’s charges against Armstrong, today’s stage winner was an afterthought at best.

Armstrong may or may not be guilty.  As someone reminded me, he’s innocent until proven guilty.  It doesn’t look good for America’s biggest endurance sports hero.  I freely admit that I admired the living daylights out of this guy.  For seven years, I bought the newspaper every day during the Tour.  I snuck online at work to watch realtime updates of all the stages.  If Armstrong is found guilty, it will be as big as the Black Sox scandal was for baseball.

Two aspects of this case bug me.  First, Armstrong’s alleged doping troubles are receiving more coverage than the Tour.  Second, and more important: as this case  crawls through the courts, all of us gawking spectators are going to wonder:  who’s clean and who’s  not?  Whether it’s cycling, skiing, track and field, or baseball, enjoyment is ruined when dope is in the back of your mind.

Did Virpi Kuitinen win all those World Championship medals clean after she served her suspension in 2001?  I really want to believe she learned a lesson and made a change.  But there’s that nagging doubt in the back of my mind.  Would Mark McGwire have broken Maris’s home run record if he hadn’t used steroids?  We’ll never know.

It may be that all the hullaballoo is because the man under scrutiny was the boss of the peloton for 7 years.  If Armstrong is cleared of the charges, many, myself included, will be wondering what really happened in those seven Tour wins.  When the doping news becomes bigger than the sporting news, there’s a problem.