Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Willful ignorance

Nike announced today that they cancelled their endorsement contract with Lance Armstrong. Registration for this weekend's Livestrong ride in Austin is rumored to be down significantly from years past. Armstrong has stepped down as chairman of the Livestrong board. The house is burning, and Lance, trapped by his steadfast refusal to acknowledge the truth, is sitting inside while it all falls down.

Grizzly Adam used superlative terms to describe the scope and scale of doping in cycling. I commented that he's missing an important qualifier: cycling is just the largest conspiracy that we know about. But to think that larger, wealthier sports--where the competition to land a spot on a team is higher and the upside of doing so is much greater--do not have doping conspiracies at least as large that simply have not been exposed is naive.

In the early 2000's, I cheered as much as anyone for Lance as he was sweeping across France seven years in a row. I didn't think he was doping because I didn't want to think about it. I was enjoying the show too much. At some point, it just smelled fishy, too good to be true. Ulrich and Basso were doping, but Armstrong still won? Hmm.

Similarly, when I watch the NFL or Premier League or MLB, I enjoy the show. But like Lance, the show is too good to be true. Whether the shoe ever drops and a conspiracy larger, richer, and more sophisticated than cycling's is exposed is simply a matter or whether the business owners getting rich from sport ever decide that cleaning up the sport is good for their bottom line. Athletes have already shown that the incentives are just too great to ever police themselves. To think otherwise is to be willfully ignorant.


  1. Reading Freakonomics and the scientific data to show rigged Sumo wrestling could probably apply to other sports. I know Horse racing is rigged and doped. Futbol players have been shown to dope and were part of the Operation Puerto. Look the reality is that if you lie and cheat to get ahead in America it is ok since you get to keep the spoils anyway.

  2. I agree with you entirely on this point. In addition, the NFLPA refused to include a comprehensive testing program in their last CBA because they wanted to be guaranteed of no false positives. Because this is scientifically impossible, they created their own loophole. I have argued for years that high level European soccer players aren't clean. There is no way they can sustain that level and that number of games for 8-10 months a year.