I’ve had a lot to say about doping in cycling. What I’ve failed to give much attention is that while I think cycling is still rife with doping, it’s no longer nearly as blatant as in other sports. The difference is that cycling—because it’s been forced to due to sponsor withdrawal—has attempted to do something about its cheating problem.
Contrast this with the three big sports in the USA or football* elsewhere, where if there is a doping violation that actually gets prosecuted, it warrants hardly more than a slap on the wrist. Manny Ramirez was suspended 50 games for a doping violation. Out of a 162 game season. That’s less than 1/6th the penalty a cyclist receives for testing positive. The size and speed of players today should be sign enough that they’re juicing to achieve those physiques.
*One of the quirks of this blog, at least for American readers, is that I insist on using the metric system all the time and I refer to association football, or soccer, as football, whereas what they play in the NFL is referred to as American football.
It’s rumored that Operation Puerto was stifled because it was found that Dr. Fuentes was doping not just cyclists, but footballers. And Spain couldn’t tolerate the notion of seeing their football heroes’ reputations sullied by links to performance-enhancing drug use.
I have no idea to what extent performance-enhancing drugs are used in football, but doping notwithstanding, football has its own cheating problem, which is brilliantly outlined on one of my favorite websites, The Science of Sport. From that article:
Cycling is still burdened by its doping past, make no mistake, and the legacy of its "great" champions means it will forever be questioned - again, this is a deserved reputation. But it has certainly improved - the efforts of the biological passport and the invasive testing and the sponsors have gradually begun to control the extent of doping in the peloton. As we will see over the next few weeks, the power outputs produced by the winners are coming down. They are now "physiologically believable". And for this, anti-doping efforts deserve some credit.
However, today, I felt the need to comment on another sport, which is, without doubt, more corrupt, more fraudulent and more immoral than cycling. That sport is football - a sport that is completely without morals and an ethical code.
The rest of the article is worth reading. I hope you come away wondering, as I do, how an elite athlete can be hauled off the field in a stretcher, only to reappear moments later, fully fit, and ready to compete, and come away from the experience with the self-respect to look himself in the mirror. And why we as fans tolerate and even embrace such behavior rather than ridiculing it for the cheating that it is.
Contrast that with Manuel Cardoso, who crashed and suffered a broken clavicle and a double jaw fracture in Saturday’s prologue, yet still had the sack to get up, get back on his bike, and finish the course.
And then tell me which sport has a bigger character problem.