Thursday, July 19, 2007

Doping - How Do Dopers Live With Themselves?

This letter first appeared in cyclingnews.

How do dopers live with themselves?

What do doper's friends and family think of the doping rider? I think it depends on the family and friends. However there are a couple ways of answering and I think that most of these riders receive support from the people who surround them.

1. Denial. Mark Hacking's (pleaded guilty to killing his wife Lori) father came out on TV and said he honestly believes his son had nothing to do with Lori Hacking's disappearance. Only when confronted with overwhelming evidence did the father step back from his strong convictions. It's very easy to convince yourself that your son/daughter/whoever is "right". I'm sure there are dopers out there who believe they did nothing wrong with friends/family that think the same.

2. Acceptance. Unconditional love means just that. There are riders out there who can barely walk due to the amount of performance enhancers they used (in particular I think of a US cyclist who needs a cane to walk due to heavy steroid use). In a situation like that would you abandon your child or spouse? Probably not. You may not agree with what they did but that's in the past. If your parents got lung cancer because they smoked (and maybe quit but still had the undercover smoke here and there) would you abandon them? You might be upset that they smoked but that won't stop you from visiting the hospital.

3. Support. If a rider could make more money by cheating, and I'm talking a serious amount more (say 100 times more - imagine getting your annual salary every three days!), maybe the rider's family/spouse would understand and help support what they do. If said rider could go from making $50,000 a year to $5,000,000 a year, it might be easy to justify cheating. Or in the case of some white collar criminals, maybe they'll make $500 million or more (Enron, WorldCom, etc). I don't think their families complained too much till they got caught ("No, I don't want another $20 million house" or "no, I really don't want you to hand me down your Ferrari, I'm perfectly happy with my Honda."). Rumsa's wife was supporting someone with all the drugs she had in her car, whether it was her mom or her husband.

Or the rider's friends/family may not care if the rider is cheating or not as long as the rider did well. A friend of mine was a teacher at a private school. If a student cheated, she could not say the student cheated. She had to say something positive like "David has creative problem solving skills". The student's parents would typically sue the school if a teacher or staff said something negative about their child. How can you expect such parents to disapprove of doping?

4. Rejection. Unless the doping rider's family/friends are extremely naive, I can't see this happening. Most people have some understanding of the Machiavellian tendencies seen in business. And a pro rider is a business, riding to make money. A measure of success is how much money the rider makes. So maybe the odd rejection occurs but most racers' friends/family would accept "everyone does it and I did it to stay in the game."

Overall I would think that most "cheating" riders would actually have either support during their cheating or support in the aftermath of getting caught (if they get caught). If true there is little to be lost by doping. The hypocrisy of doping in other sports (like baseball - your first positive gets rewarded by education?) isn't helping matters. This makes it all the more difficult to tether and subdue the practice.


Colin R said...

To me it's obvious -- dopers live with themselves by telling them that they had to do it. Let's say you've been training for years, trying to become a pro cyclist, steadily getting better, until you're almost at the top. What happens when you finally hit that plateau and you know/suspect some of your competitors are doping? Wouldn't you start to feel like the only way to could get better was doping? If you thought the only way you could make it big as a pro was by doping, you'd almost have to do it -- you'd come too far and sacrficed too much to give up now. It's not your fault the system is corrupt, right?

Makes sense to me.

Anonymous said...

Are there 2 types of cycling professionals? Those who get caught and those who don't? I admit I ate a donut this morning ;-).