Tuesday, December 15, 2015

In Defense of Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong went for a jog in the woods this weekend with a friend at a small relatively non-competitive local trail race that no one has ever heard of... and the Internet flipped the fuck out! You'd think he took the last vanilla Gu at the aid station or something! Various trail running "experts" and "spokespersons" wrote angry blogs saying that Lance shouldn't be allowed to compete in trail races because of something he did 10 years ago in a completely unrelated sport.

Lance Armstrong -- in case you have been living in a yurt in the mountains of North Korea (or some other place without Internet access) for the past 20 years -- is this totally bad-ass motherfucker who won the Tour de France, the world's hardest endurance event, seven times in a row... after nearly dying of cancer and losing a testicle. He's a real life fucking super hero. Chuck Norris, the Internet meme, probably doesn't masturbate to posters of other men; but if he did, it would certainly to be a shirtless poster of Lance Armstrong. And who could blame him?

So even though he's like super-fucking awesome and stuff, a lot of people don't like Lance anymore because it was revealed that he took a shit-load of performance enhancing drugs en route to crushing his competition -- most of whom were later busted for also having taken a shit-load of drugs. Those other guys all got to continue racing after serving piddly little suspensions, but Lance got suspended for life. Presumably, because he was so fucking awesome.

Santa Claus ins't real; cyclists take drugs.

The fact that cyclist take performance drugs isn't really much of a secret. Cyclist have been doping, and dying of drug use, since the 1880s. In fact, doping in cycling wasn't even made illegal until somewhat recently, back in 1965. Up until then cyclists openly took drugs.

In fact, in the 1930's, the Tour de France guidebook for competitors informed riders that they should remember to bring their own drugs, as the Tour would not be providing any. Two-time Tour de France champion from the 1940s, Fausto Coppi, joked that he, only took drugs when absolutely necessary, which is nearly always. Similarly, five-time Tour de France winner Jacques Anquetil famously said that only a fool would imagine it was possible to ride Bordeaux–Paris on just water.

You have to be somewhat naive to think that normal human beings can ride their bicycles several thousand miles over some of the hardest and steepest mountains in the world averaging 25mph for weeks on end without taking a fuck-load of fucking drugs. I mean, come on man!

In any case, hundreds of top riders, including 23 of Lance's Armstrong's top 25 competitors have all been busted at one time or another for using performance enhancing drugs. It's on the Internet, so it must be true. But yet Lance is the guy that everyone hates. Again, because he's so fucking awesome.

People don't hate Lance because he cheated; they hate him because he's an asshole

Ok, let's be honest. Lance Armstrong is a major asshole. He's a complete fucking dick. He's a world-class douche bag. I mean for fuck's sake, he crashed his car while drunk driving and then made his girlfriend take the blame with the police. He's the kind of friend who would sleep with your wife while you're out of town on business and then drink all of the beer in your fridge (and not even bother to replace it). That's some cold-ass shit. Like I said, major dick.

I don't think most people are actually too bothered by the fact that Lance took drugs. Hell, at least half the trail runners I know have smoked weed -- some of them even during a race. Keep in mind that marijuana is on the WADA banned substance list; yes Mr. Speed Goat, I'm talking to you. No, I think the reason people hate Lance so much is because he ruthlessly went after anyone who tried to expose him, and didn't stop until they were destroyed, discredited and penniless. To which I reply, "Well, duh".

What the fuck did they expect? You go after one of the richest and most powerful athletes on the planet, a guy who is famous for stopping at nothing and doing whatever it takes to win? You try to ruin his life and take away everything he's achieved? And then you're surprised when he comes out shooting to kill? You didn't think that one through very well did you?

Hypothetical situation: If I see a rabid pitbull foaming at the mouth and angrily pacing back in forth at the end of a dark alley, I might think to myself, "Hey that pitbull isn't actually bothering me but... maybe I should pick up this stick and attack it". I might think that... if I was a complete fucking moron. Or, more reasonably, I might think, "He's not bothering me. Let me just mind my fucking business".

I'm not actually justifying what Lance did, or how he treated people. His actions were dispicable. And he's admitted as much in recent interviews. Whether he is truly remorseful or merely going through the motions is anyone's guess. But if start banning everyone who's ever made mistakes or acted like a dick at some point in their lives, we won't have many people out on the trails.

Shut up, smoke your weed, and let Lance run

There are quite a few people who think that Lance shouldn't be allowed to compete in trail running and/or ultra-running because he took drugs ten years ago in sport where everyone else was taking drugs. I'm not saying these people all a bunch of whiny-ass-bitches. Not all of them anyway. Some are merely well-meaning but pretentious hypocrites. Others are jealous haters. And most are probably guys who are mad because Lance banged their wives and drank their beers. Dudes, get over it.

I think one of the most common misconceptions about drug cheats is that they are somehow trying to "take shortcuts" because they aren't willing to put in the work. Though it's actually the exact opposite. Athlete's don't take drugs because they are afraid of putting in work; they take drugs so that they can put in even more work.

I don't think that they aren't necessarily looking to cheat their fellow athletes; rather they are looking to cheat the laws of physiology that say, "dude, you've just put in two killer workouts today; there's no way you can go back out tonight and hammer another one". They look down and say, "shut up legs". Which by the way was the mantra of another famous, now retired cyclist, Jens Voigt, who I might add, much like Lance Armstrong never failed a drug test ;)

In truth, I sheepishly admire the dopers. They're fucking committed, I'll give them that. They're all in. While you or I might kick back and enjoy a beer after a race or long run, these guys go out and hammer another grueling workout after a race. They never rest. They are willing to do whatever it takes to improve, even if that means sacrificing their long-term health and risking death. And this isn't mere hyperbole; recall that dozens of riders inexplicably dropped dead in the 80's when EPO usage first became widespread.

Full disclosure: I don't consider myself a "doper" as I've never taken EPO, steroids, or any of that kind of stuff. But I have inhaled or ingested various things (always out of competition) that do appear in the WADA list of banned substances, which includes some fairly innocuous items like over-the-counter cough syrup, vitamins/supplements from GNC, and the occasional recreational stimulant and/or barbiturate. I could claim some weak shit like, "I didn't inhale," or "I didn't ingest," but I'm not going to try and pull a Bill Clinton on you.

Now obviously Lance wasn't just taking a little cough syrup to get some sleep at night, or smoking a joint on the weekends with friends. He systematically took a pharmacy full of crap, most of which I can't properly spell or pronounce. But so fucking what? So was everyone else. That was years ago. And that was in another sport. How does his running today, presumably clean, in a small-time trail race harm anyone else? How is he "cheating" anyone?

Elite dopers aren't hurting mid-pack runners

No disrespect to the average midpack or competitive age-group ultra/trail runner (myself included), but Lance doesn't need any drugs to kick our asses. He was beating the world's top professional triathletes when he was 14 (and presumably clean) while those guys were grown men at the top of their sport (taking who knows what). So the notion that Lance is somehow cheating everyone he beats at a local trail race today is absurd, bordering on completely butt-fucking-ridiculous.

Look, I may suspect Kilian -- and the rest of the entire Salomon Europe trail racing team of doping. Allegedly. [My lawyers made me write that last bit]. But I know that even clean, Kilian would still clean my fucking clock. So maybe instead of beating me by 6 hours at Hardrock, he might only beat me by 3 hours. And honestly, what do I care? It's not like his using (or not using) EPO somehow detracts from my experience or my enjoyment of the mountains.

If the elites want to shoot themselves up with all kinds of crazy-ass shit, maybe we should let them. Ultrarunning and trail running don't have any governing body for most races -- with the obvious exception of USATF championship events, which let's be honest, are few and far between. And most races don't have prize money or even trophies at stake. So yeah, maybe our Ultrasignup.com ranking might go down another fraction of a percentage after some doped up elite sponsored runner beats us by 5 hours. But, so what?

Watching doped up elite runners battle each other is actually kind of entertaining. It's like watching two superheros battling on screen. One punches the other through a brick wall. And then the guy climbs out of the rubble, brushes the dust off his shoulder, and smashes the other guy through a steel door. Are we not entertained?


Larry Neumann said...

I wondered where this was going, then I saw it there at the end. Big Johnny explaining why his ultrasignup ranking isn't higher ;-)

Just kidding John, great writeup. My take is pretty similar. The whole debate comes down to who did he really hurt? If you are generous and say that his juice from 10 years ago gave him a residual 5 minute benefit (that his an oft used argument by the "concerned"), then maybe he hurt the guy who came in second. Oh, by the way, according to the trail runner article, that guy in second thought it was totally cool that he ran against Lance. So he literally hurt no one.

I see this as an identity crisis for trail running forced into the light. Trail running wants to keep it's surfer vibe ethos, but also wants to selectively keep out people that harsh their buzz. "We're the anti-cyclist-a-type-douchebags, anti-triathlon-competitive-a-holes, we worship guys who dirtbag it, our elites are regular guys, we welcome everyone, we've even converted some of those douchebag and a-hole cyclists and triathloners and they turn into nice guys when they trail run. Be cool man, no rules. But oh, not that asshole, he's not welcome."

Trail running knows that the rules of logic say that some of the top guys are probably taking something to help them do what they do, but they know that organizing, and getting harsh with the rules will fuck up some of the culture. So they don't want to do it, but they want the right to be indignant when Lance comes along and shows himself as, let's say, a 5% percentile runner. An upper-mid-packer.

But the real problem is what happens when the next guy, we'll call him Vance, is banned from his sport, serves a short sentence, then shows up at trail running's door and starts serving Killian and Rob Krar their asses on a regular basis. My belief is this is not really about Lance, this is about future Vance, and the "oh fuck" moment when trail running is forced to grow up. Or maybe if your suspicions were right, and one of the major stars of the sport is caught for doping, I mean, actually doping now vs 10 years ago, they won't have a ready made way to deal with it, aside from the vigilante lynch mob that we've seen this week.

Sam said...

Great write up! I have thought about this for years, as I am an avid/competitive cyclist, and occasional runner. Over and over, I have said that I would do the same thing that lance did. He had the opportunity to become rich, and help people. The only way to do this was to cast aside "morality" at the time, and do the drugs all the others were doing to compete. He was already fast, and awesome as an athlete. None of us could compete with this guy, even if WE were taking EPO's. That being said, he's a total A-hole, for all the reasons outlined. Who cares if he competes at some event in "your town"? I was in two events where he was present, one in 1999, and the other 3 years ago, and it certainly had no effect on my performance, or outcome. If anything, it pumped up the event, and made it more interesting/fun. The really odd thing for me is, I could not help but admire him during all of this, the way he had stuck to his guns for so long, the only wavering point was when he gave in, and admitted to "cheating". Really, it's all just entertainment.

#thereaper said...

Nice job Captain- Well Said

Scott said...

this post shits excellence. well done

John Nguyen said...

Very similar to my thoughts on the subject! Minus the colorful language, which I find honest and real. Barry Bonds, likewise, kicked ass as a baseball player, and everyone knew he was doping. It was still entertaining and exciting to see him knock out those homers night after night. Haters gonna hate.

LaBlog de LaBerge said...

I humbly bow to your most amazing awesomeness of telling it like it is. I puffy heart you man!

Unknown said...

I never really comment on blogs but had to take the time to say thank you for writing this. People cry so much about what Lance did when the reality is that EVERYBODY in cycling was taking drugs at the time. It was a level playing field and Lance won. The guy is a total asshole, but so what? I can still admire his skill and dedication to cycling despite him not being the nicest guy. I would love to see him run some of the bigger ultras, to see what he can do. And I'm with ya on the salomon guys....

Noel said...

Do you take Drugs so that you can put on more work? Or maybe you're just lazy?

Chris Justice said...

Do you take drugs, Danny? Every day. Good, good.

Nice work. Funny enough, there isn't one single bit I disagree with in this.

Nolimits said...

Take a step back and question yourself why is doping banned? It is because the drugs destroy your body and put you and your heart at risk. If we allow doping in any sport, what do we tell our kids when they want to dope in order to do well knowing full well that we are condoning and encouraging the destruction of their bodies and brains.

Big Johnny Burton said...

Hi Nolimits,

Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm certainly aware that drugs can destroy your body (and brain) and result in death. Ironically, do you know what is probably the most dangerous and destructive drug in America? The answer might surprise you: alcohol. Drunk driving related deaths, liver problems, mental health issues, etc. So why isn't alcohol banned? We tried banning it and it didn't work because alcohol is such an ingrained part of our culture. In many respects it's the same with performance enhancing drugs in cycling. It's always been part of the culture, and it will likely always be part of the culture. I didn't create the system, or even participate in in, and I don't endorse it. But I do acknowledge it.

By the way, check out this podcast if you have time: http://freakonomics.com/2014/04/17/whats-more-dangerous-marijuana-or-alcohol-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/

All the best,

Big Johnny Burton said...

Hi Noel,

I'm not sure if you're question was rhetorical or serious. But just to reiterate, I don't take steroids or EPO or anything like that. I do sometimes take "drugs" like Advil for recovery after a hard race, but those aren't banned by WADA. I also take whey protein, branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), iron, vitamin C, vitamin and stuff like that, none of which is prohibited by WADA. Most importantly, I take a lot of performance-enhancing naps -- which I hope are not illegal ;)

Best regards,

ac said...

Seriously? "What the fuck did they expect?" You blame the victims who told the truth? Do you also blame women who get raped for wearing provocative clothing? And Lance didn't survive cancer, he GAVE himself cancer with steroids. This guy is your hero? If you want to argue "who gives a shit about a local trail race results", then that's valid. Or you want to defend doping, that's fine. But don't defend Lance.

Sage Canaday said...

This is much more than just about Lance. I don't like Lance because he doped (I also don't like him because he was an asshole, but for the logic of this issue of PEDs in MUT Running that is beside the point).

Just because probably all of the riders doing well in the Tour were doping doesn't make it right though. Your point on that?

Question: do you have a history with abusing any controlled substances (alcohol, etc.)?

I think the issue that I'm concerned about here is setting an example for future generations not to be tempted to use drugs. This isn't about Ultra-Sign-up ranking or who is "elite" or who is finishing ahead of who. It would be selfish to think this is just about a "personal experience" as well.

Of course as a pro I care about place and prize money and sponsorship so i have more financial interest in enforcing doping rules (to not be displaced). I'll admit that bias. But everyone should take a stand on this issue (mid-pack or back of the pack or elite), because I believe staying silent would be our greatest mistake. Ultimately this is about trying to preserve integrity in sport, and a simple differentiation from what is" right" from what is "wrong."

Big Johnny Burton said...

Hey Sage,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. It's certainly a nuanced topic and the "swearing and swaggering" tone I adopted for my post obviously doesn't address the issue too seriously or thoughtfully. My point, if there even is one, is that it's not right/moral/ehtical/legal to ban Lance from trail running when he has never cheated in trail running, especially when we have dopers and cheaters in our sports.

I know from your post that you don't consider stimulants and things like marijuana to be in the same class as "heavy hitter" drugs like EPO or anabolic steroids. But who gets to decide which drugs we selectively decide to enforce. If we want to ban Lance for taking drugs in a completely different sport (where everyone else was taking drugs) even though he has never cheated in ultra running or trail running and never harmed anyone in our sport, than we should also give a lifetime ban to guys like Karl Meltzer who use pot as performance enhancing drug and have cheated dozens of other runners out of possible victories.

I've got nothing against pot. And although I do enjoy a beer or two (or three) after a race, I'm lucky in that I've never struggled with alcohol or substance abuse. Though members of my family have. And I recognize the seriousness of the issue.

Anyway, I'm not necessarily for or against using the WADA list of banned substances for ultra-running and trail running. But I think we need some standard. An interesting idea might be for any race that awards substantial prize money to agree to volunterily agree to enforce a set of prohibited drugs (maybe say EPO and steroids are not allowed, but recreational drugs are OK) and then test the top male and female? But I do admit that I see this as more of a "first-world" problem that mainly effects the elites like yourself since the other 99% of us runners are never at risk of winning any prize money (although I guess I did win $150 for the master's championship at the Oakland marathon this year so...)

Anyway, I've rambled long enough. More than anything I just want to say, let Lance run. If he cheats in an ultra or trail race, then sure, go ahead and ban him.

Best regards,

Sage Canaday said...

Hey John,
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I see where you're coming from.

As far as Lance goes....I guess I view cycling and distance running as rather similar endurance sports. I'm pretty sure Lance is still banned from the sport of Triathlon as well..and he can't run in a USATF sanctioned running/trail race (not that he cares about that). So in a way he is already barred from certain running races.

He says he wants to run to "stay in shape and enjoy the trails" I think that's great! But I personally believe he lost the right to engage in an endurance athletics RACE and actually compete and appear in RACE results. Maybe people would feel differently if he took a WS100 or Hardrock lottery spot? Some clean athletes we coach care very much about Age-Group awards...what if he displaces them in results? Sure he may not be doping now, but is there a residual effect from all his doping years still at play?

Once a competitor always a competitor. If he wants to do fatass group runs and fun runs to enjoy epic trails, sure let him run all he wants...but if he wants to do a RACE...then that competitor mode is going to be switched on. That is a privilege that any EPO cheat in endurance athletics doesn't deserve anymore IMO. He's honestly lucky he's not in jail for stealing as much money as he did...and that goes for other cycling cheats as well. (and yes, obviously I realize this is a very minor detail given all our really important "real world" problems going around the globe).

But again, this is about much, much more than just Lance. I think it's about setting a standard for a [more] clean sport. You're right..we need some firm rules in place. Obviously a doping infraction for pot use during a race I think would be a minor penalty compared to an EPO positive (which I think should be for life....regardless of who it is).

But I think this is everyone's concern if they want to voice their opinion for a chance to change the culture and evolution of our sport. More tests are great, but they are only going to catch so many people and they are expensive. However, a change in attitude and culture (as well as a new set of rules) can really make a difference for future generations, and to keep the focus on what the human body can achieve in natural ways...esp in races and FKTs and personal records.

If track and field and road marathoning and cycling have shown us anything, it's that MUT Running is heading down a similar, but much smaller scale trajectory. Sure with sponsorship opportunities and a little prize money here and there more elites that are going to be doping. But in the end it's not about the money (there's not that much), it's about trying to keep integrity alive in something we love.

Best regards,

Jean Pommier said...

I must admit, John, this is quite an interesting piece on this topic, well done! I lost interest in cycling (spectating that is) because of the "full of cheat" aspect (no, I didn't say s**t...). That it is acceptable to some competitive and talented cyclists like you isn't much of the current debate. The thing is we don't want any of that in ultra running, end of debate. Too naive? Well, that's exactly the point. You are either 100% in or out, no middle ground which everyone can define based on individual goals or interests, the same plain and fair field for all. Or we get to situation where, despite a ban, you (yes, I mean you) decide that it is ok for Lance to compete again, at least until he is convicted of cheating again?! How many times have you set the acceptable limit at, seriously? There is really no need for a standard to define 0 (yes, as in zero)!

Again, a very entertaining post but an alarming attempt at legalizing cheating, if not in ultra running, at least in our society (I initially thought the post was just a satire, but there are too many serious arguments in your responses to the comments to believe it was just a joke. And, indeed, this is a very serious matter and incident which will certainly impact the direction of our sport, one way or another. And, hopefully, the better/clean way will prevail...).

Big Johnny Burton said...

Hey Jean,

Good to hear from you buddy. Thanks for chiming in. And yes, I realize that my use of humor and irony within the article probably made it somewhat difficult to tell when I was actually being serious.

Let me just say this: I totally understand the concerns voiced by you, Sage, and others that you want to protect our sport by keeping Lance out. I understand your hope that by banning a known drug cheat you will send a message that doping isn't tolerated in our sport and that this will deter potential dopers.

But I would disagree on two fundamental issues.

1) Unfortunately doping is already in our sport. Preventing Lance Armstrong (who I assume is actually clean) from running and racing isn't going to prevent future doping or do anything to clean up the doping that is already rampant. Banning Lance is a nice political statement that looks good on paper, but it actually accomplishes nothing.

2) For me this whole thing comes down to a decision/statement about the culture of our sport and what we place the most value on. Do we want to exclude people who we see as threats in order to protect the sanctity of our sport? Or do we want to use our sport to embrace potentially flawed individuals and help them improve their lives and become better people and community members?


Sage Canaday said...

My opinion on your two fundamental issues:

1. Yes, doping is for sure in our sport. But I don't think it's rampant (yet). There are elites and mid packers alike that I suspect, but I don't think it's rampant like it probably is in cycling. And you are assuming that a ban on Lance would have no effect. While i believe that it would have some effect...but we are both making assumptions there. If anything it would cause another "uproar" online by a few of us that's for sure. Of course we'd ban Elisa too though...would banning every EPO cheat (former and current) accomplish something though?

2. Agree with culture of our sport and a decision/statement that reflects that is key. Again though, as I mentioned in my own blog post, people seem to not realize that "forgiving Lance as a flawed person" is not the same as "forgiving Lance as an endurance athlete."

Likewise some in the MUT Running community have a history with using drugs/substance abuse. But abusing alcohol when one's life is seemingly in the gutter and using EPO when one is at the top of an athletic sport should not be compared.

As I wrote in my personal blog post:

"We’re human and we make mistakes. For those that may have had a slip of judgment in the past and abused a controlled substance or struggled with addiction (i.e. drugs like cocaine, LSD, alcohol etc.), but then sobered up and found running…I say this: more power to YOU! On the other hand, if an athlete has used a heavy hitting PED like EPO to gain a major edge in endurance athletics…I say this: Lifetime ban from all races. No second chances. It’s a strict zero tolerance policy. I don’t think some people realize how much of a drug like EPO boosts running performance. What Lance (or any big-time PED athlete) repeatedly did for years and years cannot be compared at all to what others may or may have not done in the past (with recreational drugs etc) in their prior transgressions."

So I say "yes," we do want to exclude people (explicit rule breakers who violated the sanctity of our sport by abusing things like EPO) who we see as threats in order to protect the sanctity of our sport. Welcome all other flawed individuals (we all are), but I don't think the heavy hitting PEDs deserve a second chance in competitive endurance athletics (aka Races). Forgive them as a person, but not as an athlete that races.

Unknown said...

Just want to make a point about the "all cyclists were/are doping" comments. If you read Tyler Hamilton's 'The Secret Race' book, it was not exactly a level playing field. The teams with the most $ had the best doctors, the best race drug & blood bag delivery and positive test avoidance systems, the most influence over officials, and basically 'doped' much more effectively than the other competitors. EPO and blood doping is extremely expensive and it is far from a "level playing field".

Big Johnny Burton said...

Hi Everyone,

Thank you for taking the time to read my post (which is admittedly somewhat off the cuff and probably full of errors in logic). It's obvious from all the passionate responses that this is a topic that many others of you also feel strongly about on both sides of the argument.

I don't think we're going to change each other's minds with any of our comments here, no matter how well-reasoned or impassioned. But I do value the conversation, and I think it's important that everyone have a voice.

The main reason I wrote this post is because I felt that the elites like Sage and Ian were being the most vocal and dominating the conversation. Meanwhile, I knew that from talking with my friends, many midpackers and age-group runners felt that Lance should be allowed to run. And since I don't think that elites, as small minority, should be allowed to set the policy for our entire community, I wanted to write a dissenting opinion to give the "common man/woman" a voice.

Anyway, I don't really have much more to add, so I probably won't be responding to many more comments. So please don't take it personally if you spend the time to leave a thoughtful comment below and I don't respond. Thanks again for reading (and commenting).

And now, if you will excuse me, I'm off to write my next blog post, "In Defense of Donald Trump". LOL.

All the best with running and life!

Big Johnny Burton

JK said...

Nice article. If people don't want to watch a sport with doping, I guess they can no longer watch the NFL, NBA, MLB, hockey, soccer, any track and field event, college football, cycling(still) and the Olympics. So I guess your trail running will be on ESPN next year, right?

Big Johnny Burton said...

So... I know I said that I wasn't going to reply to any more comments, but damn it JK, you lured me out of retirement. To quote the Godfather film, "Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in".

JK, you forgot a few sports including tennis and another sport that has even more doping than cycling. Wait for it... golf!


willgotthardt said...

Brilliant JB.

Unknown said...

Great article very funny

justmmb said...

I like the posting and how it's written but do not agree with the sentiment one little bit.

Sure, Lance didn't cheat in a trail or running race but he did cheat in sport so spectacularly that he furthered his own legend at the expense of a number of others without a care. To paraphrase Nicole Cooke (cyclist) "...they take the livelihood of clean athletes on the way up and then make even more on the way down with their confessions..."

A life ban should mean a life ban. It's not just Lance either I think David Millar (Scottish cyclist), Alberto Contador and every other cyclist that has served a ban should have been subject to the same punishment as should Justin Gaitlin (sp) and any others.

I know I will never be an elite, I will never compete for podiums or prize money but I always do the best I can do and I am a clean #coughs "athlete".

There are, though, kids out there that may have dreams and aspirations to achieve something wonderful in sport and of those some of them may have the actual talent and work ethic to do it.... those kids need to know that the risk of taking PED's is so great that it is not worth it.

The only deterrent is a life ban.... when the risk is that great the rewards never can be..

Big Johnny Burton said...

Marcus, thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. Your comment is one of the most compelling I've read and you bring up an issue that I think is at the heart of this issue.

Look... I could aruge that life-time bans aren't actually effective as deterrents. I could similarly point to studies that show, for example, that show that the death penalty has never been effective at detering crime. But without putting words in your mouth, I think that for many people, life-time bans (and the death penalty) is more about justice and punishment than it is about preventing future crimes/doping.

Again, not to put words into your mouth, but if people feel that strongly about justice and punishment being necessary, I'm probably not going to change their minds by quoting a study or pointing out some statistic.

And on the other side of the argument we have people who believe that everyone, no matter how far they have fallen, can still be redemed and deserves a second chance. To a Christian, no matter how much they may despise what Lance Armstrong has done, they fundamentally believe that if he is truly remoseful and asks for forgiveness, his life can be saved. And of course, many former drug/alcohol addicts who have turned to running feel similarly. And it's probably only a natural extension of this philosophy to say that, everyone deserves a second chance... even in sport.

You could of course point out errors in the logic of this thinking, or call for a seperation of church and sport. But in the end, such arguments probably aren't going to change anyone else's fundamental beliefs.

So I'm not sure where that leaves us. Issues like abortion, capital punishment, and even doping in fringe sports like trail/ultra running probably won't ever be resolved in the comments of some random guy's blog post. But again, I value the dialogue and exchange of thoughts. While it might not resolve anything, I think/hope it brings us closer as a community.

Thanks again for reading and sharing your opinion.

All the best,

Unknown said...

I like free markets.

Though I understand your perspective, I don't share most of it. That means I won't support directly or indirectly any organization that allows anyone who has doped, according to WADA guidelines, to race. So, I won't register for ITR races.

Of course there are possibly lots of others who are doping at events that don't regulate doping and participate nonetheless. Not much to do about this considering the cost of doping testing.

Nonetheless, I won't put anyone on a pedestal, which includes allowing them to compete in any sport, who has doped and will actively do everything I can to ensure they don't compete on any level again.


Unknown said...

John, I thought it was a great post. Having read yours and all the replies I got your points clearly the first time and the style made it more fun.

My main concerns are along the lines a few have noted which is the example and accepted behavior PED use sets for young competitive athletes. I side with you that he should be able to compete in running events because I give credence to the second chance logic. However, I would side with whatever policies can be shown to remove PEDs as an 'acceptable risk' to young athletes.

9 years ago my daughter was a senior in a San Francisco Bay Area high school, a team captain, competitive athlete and member of the "in" crowd in her school/suburb. I asked how many of the jock guys in her school were using PEDs. She thought a little and replied "about half the guys who are good and serious". Pollyanna me was shocked.

justmmb said...

Hi John,

Thanks for your reply and nice words about my comment.

You are right in that a discussion such as this means views are unlikely to change probably because it is an emotional response as much as anything.

I was one of those Lance 'fanboys' (books, DISCOVERY cycling tops, DVD's etc etc) and feel personally cheated. This undoubtedly affects my views about Lance but not the wider issue.

It's great to have debate and until I read your piece I hadn't considered those angles.

This also (generally) feels a little like enough already - by discussing and commenting we are fuelling further notoriety, continuing to raise the profile and maybe even fuel the ego.

I still like the piece though and even sent it to my wife to read ;)

Merry Christmas!

Kristine Anna said...

I am neither runner nor cyclist and just stumbled across your blog through connections, but I'm so glad I did - brilliant! Informative, real and hugely entertaining..
Merry Christmas!

Chris said...

Nope, sorry but I don't agree. Lance can run, but not compete. He blew it so badly. If it was me and doped so badly, I would keep fit and fast but never compete again and drag a terrible history into anyone else's event.

Unknown said...

I agree with the humor and sentiment of the post. Nicely done.

Sage, if EPO is such a cheat.... With residual effects... Where do you stand on oxygen tents? Should Koerner be banned? What of his hard rock victory? Personally, I'd love to see Lance race ultras. Sure... He was a dick. But, he's recently been less of a dick than many of you elites.

Talk less and run more? Maybe we should all follow that advice.

Unknown said...

Well actually... He can. Most ultras have no PED policy. That means it's not cheating. I could take a PED and compete and you'd just have to enjoy my still mediocre performance.

Unknown said...

Here's something I haven't seen discussed yet: The annual cost of EPO is estimated to be around $5,000 per year for a competitive athlete ($1,000 to $1,500 per 6 week cycle, on average, with several cycles per training season or calendar year). Looking at the prize money in MUT running, it's barely worthwhile to buy EPO in order to win MUT prize money—it's not a viable strategy you can make a living from. The prize money for the Tour de France starts around $500,000 for the top athlete; even the 15th place cyclist at the Tour de France wins more than the 1st place MUT runners at the most competitive MUT races in the country. The lack of real prize money in MUT running is going to discourage cheaters more so than cycling, road/track running, and triathlons, which are more commercially viable and have bigger prizes at stake.

Secondly, as a MUT runner in Austin TX who occasionally sees Lance running around the lake downtown (and can barely hold his easy run pace as my tempo pace), I say let him participate in our community. Our sport has always been inclusive to liars, drug addicts, cheats, assholes, fuck-ups and the like. If we're banning someone like Lance—a former "bad person" who has found a niche in our sport—why not also ban someone like Charlie Engle? It's a slippery slope. If someone is not caught cheating in MUT running, let them run, and let them have a chance at redemption.

justmmb said...

Hi Stephen Bush, prize money may not be significant but the pro athletes need that money to maintain their livelihood. They also need to compete and do well to sustain endorsements and sponsorship. Lance made way more cash from endorsements than he ever did in prize money and as the tdf winner you give the money away to your team anyway precisely because your profile and what that can earn you increases.

Same thing applies in MUT - Killian is the best and presumably his endorsement value reflects that.

As the profile of the sport rises the money will come and with it will come more incentive to cheat. Setting foundations where this will not be tolerated now will stand the sport in good stead going forwards.

cthoerner said...

Lance Armstrong is the biggest liar of all time in sports. Whom did he harm? Very easy: all the lovers and fans and admirers of his performances in the Tour de France who over 7 years believed his affirmations that he is clean and his performances are real. Fans who have invested their passion for the sport and have watched uncountable hours on TV or like me even travelled to France to experience it live. All this was a lie. I don’t understand how people still don’t understand this and still defend a real criminal like Lance Armstrong...