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When the Whole Really Is False


   You know: At least the 2007 Tour de France had
   the right sense of etiquette to all-but-collapse under
   the weight of scandal and disillusionment triggered
   by the news of the widespread use of doping
   techniques by its top racers.  Now. Contrast this with Major League Baseball, where the governing assumptions are that the whole is so corrupt and irreparably false, the same kind of news about rampant doping fails to leave more than a few nicks in the paint. 

Notice, too, that while the establishment media in the States refer freely to the Tour’s doping incidents, they rarely use the term in relation to what the superstar athletes do in baseball and football and wrestling and cheerleading.  

Evidently, in France and across Europe more generally, something as ineluctable as the integrity of the Tour is still taken seriously.  When the German TV channels ARD and ZDF pulled-the-plug on covering the Tour around two-thirds of the way through it, one of ZDF’s editors explained that they "cannot show an event with teams and riders who are suspected of doping."  As yellow-jersey-bearers kept testing positive for unnatural levels of testosterone or somebody else’s red blood cells, and whole racing teams were kicked-out of the race for guilt by association with mates who did test positive or couldn’t even report their whereabouts accurately, one British racer whose Cofidis team suffered this fate lamented that the "Tour has lost all credibility.  It’s null and void as far as I’m concerned."

I regard mass disillusionment at this degree as a positive.  As always, the point is to seize it and not let it slip away.  My only disappointment is that more people don’t suffer it more often and more deeply in their bones.  For example, in the month since the body of the American "wrestler" Chris Benoit was discovered in his Georgia home, along with those of wife and son, both of whom Benoit had murdered prior to taking his own life, the popularity of World Wrestling Entertainment’s television shows in the States has remained unchanged.    

I’ve always believed that the more people who know bullshit when they smell it, the better.

So here’s a rule-of-thumb for American sports fans.  It’s real simple.

If doping causes reasonable doubt (or something stronger) about a sport, and as a consequence, this sport is delegitimized, at least the sport’s integrity is upheld.  Even if you never touch it again.

But if a sport isn’t delegitimized by doping, and if, on the other hand, doping not only is widespread in the sport but expected, accepted, rationalized, and the dopers regarded as heroes, then the sport doesn’t possess any integrity to lose.  Either it once had it, but lost it already.  Or, like "wrestling," never had any to begin with.  Whether or not you keep purchasing tickets to its events.  Reading about it in the newspapers.  And following it on TV.

On this simple test, the Tour de France has (or in the very least once had) integrity. 

But what about the standard fare produced by the American Sportsworld?  Beginning not with obvious cases like World Wrestling Entertainment.  But with Major League Baseball. 

Tour de France (English version)
Major League Baseball (Homepage)
World Wrestling Entertainment (Homepage)

World Anti-Doping Agency (Homepage)
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (Homepage)
Who will win the drugs race? Australian Academy of Sciences 

"W.W.E.’s Testing Is Examined After Benoit Murder-Suicide," Richard Sandomir, New York Times, July 17, 2007

"Player’s comments on doping in golf overdue," Christine Brennan, USA Today, July 19, 2007

"Referee Is the Focus of a Federal Inquiry," Alan Schwarz, New York Times, July 21, 2007
"NBA Suffers Crisis of Confidence," Mike Wise, Washington Post, July 22, 2007
"TV’s Faith in N.B.A. Unshaken by Inquiry," Richard Sandomir, New York Times, July 24, 2007

The wheels have come off the Tour de France," Simon Kuper, Financial Times, June 29, 2007 
"The Tour de Dope?" Matthew Stevenson, Boston Globe, July 10, 2007
"When the Fix Is In, You Can’t Believe It," Sally Jenkins, Washington Post, July 24, 2007
"Bonds just isn’t Bonds without him," Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune, July 25, 2007 
"How Vinokourov was blooded into the Tour of infamy," William Fotheringham, The Guardian, July 25, 2007
"Fixing: the ultimate taboo," Allan Maki, Toronto Globe and Mail, July 25, 2007
"French turn off tour over endless cycle of scandal," Catherine Field, New Zealand Herald, July 25, 2007
"Worst blow yet for tour," Greg Couch, Chicago Sun-Times, July 26, 2007 
"Rasmussen wins stage and loses everything on day of disaster," William Fotheringham, The Guardian, July 26, 2007
"French demand drastic action as outrage turns into disgust," Hugh Schofield, The Independent, July 26, 2007
"Now Bonds is chasing…Costas," Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times, July 26, 2007
"Tour in Tatters: Race Leader Ousted by His Team," Edward Wyatt, New York Times, July 26, 2007
"Whole World Is Watching As Wheels Come Off the Tour," George Vecsey, New York Times, July 26, 2007
"What’s left but to cancel the show?" Allan Maki, Toronto Globe and Mail, July 26, 2007
"Fix the fix on sports," Editorial, Christian Science Monitor, July 27, 2007
"Is the Tour de France discredited beyond recovery by drugs scandals?" Simon O’Hagan, The Independent, July 27, 2007
"Sponsors shift to avoid scandals," Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2007
"Has Tour de France become tour de farce?" Richard Moore, The Scotsman, July 27, 2007
"The needle and the financial damage done," Brian Milner, Toronto Globe and Mail, July 27, 2007
When glory is hollow," Paul Kent, Daily Telegraph (Australia), July 28, 2007
"Seb Coe wants four-year ban for drug cheats," David Bond, Daily Telegraph (U.K.), July 28, 2007
"What Tour must do to save its skin," Richard Williams, The Guardian, July 28, 2007
"Survivors glimpse a shaft of light amid the gloom," William Fotheringham, The Guardian, July 28, 2007
"Wiggins glad he is out of Tour that has ‘lost all credibility’," Stephen Farrand and Alasdair Fotheringham, The Independent, July 28, 2007
"Scrap the Tour and weed out the dope cheats," David Leggat, New Zealand Herald, July 28, 2007
"Wiggins relieved to be out of a Tour he declares ‘null and void’," Jean LaFond, The Scotsman, July 28, 2007

"A Tour de Farce reality tv show?" Stu Cowan, Montreal Gazette, July 29, 2007
"The Deafening Roar Of the Shrug," Jere Longman, New York Times, July 29, 2007
"Puzzle of the Teflon Peloton: Risk, Reward and Ridicule," Juliet Macur, New York Times, July 29, 2007

"Tour ban small but a start in doping battle," Paul Lewis, New Zealand Herald, July 29, 2007
"Mountain view plunges Tour into the abyss," William Fotheringham, The Observer, July 29, 2007
"Tour ruined by old guys who think doping is normal," Bradley Wiggins, The Observer, July 29, 2007
"They bust the addicts, but the dealers ride on," Paul Kimmage, Sunday Times, July 29, 2007
"Tour finishes in civil war," Alan Hunter, Sunday Times, July 29, 2007

"Dogfighting…Steroids…Illegal Betting…," Jeff Duncan, Times-Picayune, July 29, 2007
"Professional Poor Sports," Les Carpenter, Washington Post, July 29, 2007 

"Tainted Tour de France finishes under cloud," Jeffrey White and Andrew Curry, Christian Science Monitor, July 30, 2007
"Tainted Tour de France finishes under cloud," Jeffrey White and Andrew Curry, Christian Science Monitor, July 30, 2007
"It is time to allow doping at Tour de France," Julian Savulescu, Daily Telegraph, July 30, 2007
"Contador reigns as new king of the road but crown is battered and tarnished," Richard Williams, The Guardian, July 30, 2007
"Only going back to basics can halt Tour’s destruction," Alasdair Fotheringham, The Independent, July 30, 2007
"Contador is winner of a questionable Tour," Chuck Culpepper, Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2007
"Contador Wins a Scarred Tour de France," Edward Wyatt, New York Times, July 30, 2007
"For me, this Tour has no winner," William Fotheringham, The Guardian, July 31, 2007
"Mayo joins race’s list of shame as Vinokourov sacked by Astana," Julian Pretot, The Guardian, July 31, 2007
"It may be wishful thinking but I prefer my cycling without drugs," Richard Williams, The Guardian, July 31, 2007


David Peterson
Chicago, USA

Addendum (July 29): Note that the Michael Vick case has nothing to do with the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the professional sport where Vick performs, and therefore is unrelated to this particular blog.  I am reproducing the July 23 commentary below to make a different point: Not about Vick, but about Dave Zirin.

"Barry Bonds Laughs Last," Dave Zirin, Edge of Sports, October 10, 2005 (as posted to ZNet)
"Judgment of the Juiced: Why Mark McGwire Wasn’t Elected to the Hall of Fame," Dave Zirin, Edge of Sports, January 9, 2007
"Bonds-bashing: bad sport," Dave Zirin, Edge of Sports, May 20, 2007
"The unforgiven: Jack Johnson and Barry Bonds," Dave Zirin, Edge of Sports, June 19, 2007
"Who Let the Dogs Out on Michael Vick?" Dave Zirin, Edge of Sports, July 23, 2007
 

 

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