Frenchmen on the Podium at Tour de France for First Time in 30 Years

PERAUD_JEAN_CHRISTOPHEThe 2014 edition of the Tour de France is scheduled to end tomorrow afternoon and something rather remarkable is going to happen. Two Frenchmen,  Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot, are likely going to finish in second and third place respectively. This will mark the first time since 1997 that a man from that nation has finished in the top three at the Tour de France.

Why is this notable? Because of events that occurred during the Tour de France in 1998 and the reaction of the sports federation of France to those events. In that year’s race there was a huge doping scandal in which virtually every rider of the race was implicated. During the race not a single rider was found to have illegal substances in their body but subsequent revelations and testing showed that virtually every sample taken during the race was contaminated. An exception was George Hincapie whose two samples were found to be clean although he has since admitted to using illegal substances before and during that race.

The aftermath of this event triggered cataclysmic changes from the anti-doping agency in France although other countries did not act with the same level of alacrity. Lance Armstrong’s dominance of the Tour de France began the next year in 1999 and those who wanted to compete with Armstrong and his doping machine had to take the same path. Frenchmen could not because of the stringent testing policies created by their federation after the scandal of the 1998 Tour.

Suddenly, after nearly a century of domination, not a single Frenchman could be found on the Podium at the conclusion of the race nor even frequently among the top-ten finishers. All because they were riding presumably without the aid of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). What does that tell you?

Of further interest is the nature of anti-doping regulations now in place for all of the riders of the Tour de France. They are subject to what are called Biological Passports which keep track of all vital information of an athlete and anything out of the normal range is considered a violation. This removes the element of masking filters which eliminate PEDs from the system and yet allow for their use and thus increased performance. The masking efforts are apparently always going to be ahead of the testing efforts and therefore the Biological Passport seems to be the best method to detect the use of PEDs.

The use of Biological Passports does not extend to the professional leagues of the United States.

If the authorities largely cannot catch those using PEDs then the result will always be the use of PEDs by athletes. All results are tainted. Athletes from nations with progressive testing can almost never defeat their counterparts who are using such methods.

The world cycling federation  now uses methods long in place in France. Frenchmen stand on the podium once again. I think that says it all.

What do you think would happen if the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and other top leagues in the United States adopted a Biological Passport? I know what I think.

Tom Liberman

Roger Clemens – Steroids or Lies which is worse?

Sports DopingI’m happy to say that I’d all but forgotten the government’s misguided attempt to prosecute Roger Clemens for lying to Congress in their investigation of performance enhancing drugs. But, the news of his acquittal brought it back in full force and I thought I’d use my considerable blogging power to shed some light on the subject.

Basically, there are very few admirable people in this entire mess. The fact that athletes used and continue to use performance enhancing drugs, illegal or not, is not arguable. It is currently taking place and was in the past as well.

Let’s trace the roots of this disaster and look at it from a Libertarian, critical thinking point of view.

As always, Wikipedia has an excellent article that traces performance enhancing drugs in sports. There is evidence of “doping” in antiquity using plant extracts and laudanum or opium were used in walking races, popular in England around the early 1800s. Bicycle racing has long been immersed in drugs. There is no question that performance enhancement drugs have been around for a long time.

The National Football League was dependent on anabolic steroids in the 1970’s and the Pittsburgh Steeler championship teams of that era are often referenced as the first truly organized steroid abusers.

I don’t want to get into a big debate who was using and who wasn’t because it’s my absolute belief that the vast majority of athletes used, and continue to use, performance enhancing drugs. The detection methods are far behind the masking techniques.

What I do want to talk about is both the government’s involvement in prosecuting athletes and the lies athletes tell. Not many winners in this conversation I’m afraid to say.

I have no idea why Congress is asking questions of athletes about their use of performance enhancing drugs. Well, that’s not true. I do know why. They are looking for publicity. Look at me! I took on those evil cheaters! Look, at me! Vote for me! I made football clean! Nonsense of course. The government and the legal system in general shouldn’t be involved in these prosecutions. The professional sports leagues can monitor themselves. If people don’t want to watch or pay for the games because of such performance enhancement then the league must address it. If the people keep paying then so be it. I sort of like what weight lifting has done with an Open Division where doping is accepted and a Free Division where athletes are tested.

Now, how about Roger Clemens, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and the countless horde of others dragged before Congress. Most of them choose to lie. Nice. Their parents taught them well. Great example for their children. I hope you’re proud Roger, Lance, Barry, Sammy, and rest. Of course one other choice is to not lie but not tell the truth, I have some respect for Mark McGuire.

Finally, you can decide that coming clean is the most honorable strategy. Well done Marion Jones! Of them all, I respect you. Of course, they threw her jail. Great message. When they lie – prosecute, which is all but impossible, and fail. If they tell the truth, jail! Marion Jones tells the truth and her awards are taken from her. She goes to prison. The rest of them shine their trophies, smile and lie, tell their loyal fans lies, lie to their children. It makes me sick. Not that Marion Jones is squeaky clean in all of this. But compared to Clemons, Bonds, Sosa, Armstrong and the rest I save my respect for her.

And Congress, you’re no better than the Clemens and the rest. Hang your head in shame. Go home and don’t come out again. Blah. What a disaster.

Let’s all just be adults and face reality. Clemens cheated. Armstrong cheated. McGuire cheated. They all cheated. But, if they all were cheating wasn’t the playing field level? Wasn’t Clemens a great pitcher? Bonds a great hitter? Armstrong a great bicyclist? Of course they were. They did something everyone else was doing. Their bodies may well suffer long-term consequences but they chose their fate. Can’t we all just be honest about this? Forget about putting people in jail or keeping them out of the Hall of Fame. They were all doing it!

Grow up! Fans, grow up. You’re favorite player likely cheated.

Grow up! Players, grow up. Admit what happened and move on with your life in a way you can look your children in the eye.

Grow up! Congress. Stop trying to win elections and start trying to fix this country!

I’m done now.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
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