Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saturday Roundup

'Tis the season of Year-End Reviews,

St Louis Post Dispatch columnist Kathleen Nelson writes a column about doping under the headline, "No cheaters should escape punishment they deserve", but it's a more nuanced piece than that. She writes of cycling,
The equal protection clause also applies to my own blind spot. I've been tempted to convict Bonds, Marion Jones and Mark McGwire. But bring up my beloved cyclists and I sound like Merriman: "It can't be." "Somebody screwed up at the lab." "They're such good guys." "The body can't use steroids so quickly, so why would he do it?"

I've found myself thinking all of those thoughts regarding Landis. His story is so compelling: rebellious Mennonite rides away from home, becomes one of Lance Armstrong's trusted lieutenants, strikes out on his own and continues the American dominance of the Tour de France despite a degenerative hip condition. I want to believe him because he looks and sounds sincere in his denials.

Then, I analyze his defense, built on evidence that other people screwed up so badly that the results can't be trusted. He and his lawyers are playing the high-percentage shot.

Which leads me to wonder what the "high percentage shot" in a doping defense may be. The best one I can think of is to not participate in something that does drug testing.

Dave Barry's year review says of Landis:
. . . the Tour de France bicycle race is once again tainted by suspicions of doping when the winner, American Floyd Landis, is clocked ascending the Alps at over 200 mph. Landis denies that he uses illegal drugs, attributing his performance to, quote, "gears."

OutSports does a 2006 review, and does a pretty good job with the cycling problems. Pre-tour, he writes:
As a friend said to me the other day, "They should just give up. Almost everyone dopes, just accept it that doping *is* the level playing field". While I admire my friends combination of resignation and cynicism and generally approve of a "better living through chemistry" aesthetic, I can't see that happening any time soon. The fragile credibility of the sport would nosedive if the authorities gave up prosecuting dopers, but it's hard to see anything substantial being done.

And after it hit the fan,
It seems that every cycling story has a drug angle; the now-retired Lance Armstrong has been lucky to have never tested positive, meaning he was either the only clean rider out there among the elite riders, or has doctors that know how to beat the test. These days, everyone is under suspicion.

The Newindpress publishes its "Head-Butt Heads" list and FL makes the cut:
Dope In and Out
Floyd Landis wins Tour de France in a sensational surge. The world marvels at his achievement, for here’s a guy whose hip joints have awful structural damage and yet… Another American icon from the Lance Armstrong school of the indomitable, the world concludes. Then the unspeakable hits the fan. Landis flunks dope test. Verdict: high on Big T, male testosterone. Disqualified. Shakira is wrong. Hips do lie. At times.

The St. Petersburg Times Tom Jones rates the Landis saga as the number 3 sports story of 2006 behind the breakdown of Barbaro and the Florida vs Michigan college football debate:

3. Winner or cheater?
When American Lance Armstrong retired from cycling, it seemed as if America's days of dominating the Tour de France were over, at least for now. Then along came Floyd Landis, born and raised by a conservative Pennsylvania family in a Mennonite community. Suffering from a career-threatening hip injury, Landis staged one of the greatest comebacks in Tour de France history and won the event. But then a drug test showed suspicious levels of testosterone. His appeal is pending.

Smithers, who laughed at handwriting errors previously, is aghast at VeloNews selecting Landis as North American Cyclist of the Year.

Lij's mom reviews her busy year, including a trip to the TdF (w/pic of Landis), one wedding and another in planning. Lij was an early open Floyd supporter.

Ithaca College blog for budding sportswriters asks, "What is the fate of Floyd Landis?", and does a fact-based review including outline of the public defense. Not much analysis or opinion.

Binza ran over things on Dec 22; he'd like him to be innocent, but doesn't know.



Anonymous said...

My hometown paper weighs in on doping, albeit not saying anything new. Or, really, anything that interesting. Unless you count the weight loss stuff.

I agree that there must be balance, but being as there' is no possible way for an accused athlete to prove their innocence other than to dispute the evidence and say they haven't cheated, I'm not sure what they can do. It's not like Floyd can go back in time and pee again, or let them follow him for the full 24 hours from the end of stage 16 through doping control on 17.

They also haven't learned that people send each other links and the shorter the URL, the better.

Anonymous said...

Dave Barry took his shot. This one's actually kind of funny. (Page 3).