There are two sides to the current debate; those that support a legalization of use, and those that call for continued restriction on drug use in professional cycling. That may be, frankly, a gross oversimplification of the issue at hand. These are, really, two ends of a broad spectrum, with the current state of affairs laying somewhere between those two polar opposites.
“You got to go about it another way and you’ve got to legalise doping. They [the testers] are so far behind in the testing organisations that there’s no way to change it now. Just accept that it’s here, that it’s not going away and that it’s just going to get more complicated and the fact that it’s not that complicated yet compared to what it will be. Ten years from now it’s going to be four times as hard as it now to test for things.
Landis expressed a pessimistic view of efforts to clean up the sport, saying, “They’re not even remotely close to catching anybody; it’s just a joke. You can use as much EPO as you want and unless you’re an idiot you’re not going to get caught.
“Just start over and let it be. I’m convinced now that there’s no stopping it and you’ve got to stop ruining lives over it. The bad guys will always have guns and the bad guys will always use drugs and that will force the good guys to do the same.
“Since you can’t stop it you have to deal with it in rational kind of way. You can’t stop it and you cant fix it. Monitor it and make sure people don’t hurt themselves, but you have to accept it.”
Counterpoint: Problem not solved.
And where do we draw the line? Do we have limits on certain drugs or do we allow the most ruthlessly ambitious to push back the boundaries until they reach the grave? Having limits would be pointless. The culture proves to us that if you draw a line someone will step over it. So let’s make sport a giant game of Russian roulette. Just keep going until you’ve got blood thicker than porridge. Just keep going until you have developed hormonal problems. Just keep going until you’ve transfused and drained your blood a dozen times over.
The point is, if we make doping legal we force our 12-year-old dreamers to do things to their bodies when they get older that no one in their right mind would endorse if they actually sat down and thought about it. Legalise it and you make it all but compulsory.
If drugs were allowed the limiting factors would be, arguably, the same as they are now; front end costs in terms of dollars, and back end costs in terms of the long-term risk to the athletes health. It may well be “all but compulsory” today to at least occasionally dabble in drugs, if not to sign on to a full-on drug program.
I’m not sure what would change in that regard if the drugs were allowed. For all intents and purposes, the 50% hematocrit limit is little more than a tolerance of whatever procedure takes one no higher than 49.5%, be it an altitude tent, EPO or it’s many variants, or good old blood doping. The same could be said of testosterone levels. Extreme efforts can limit natural production, and an injection can address that deficiency without crossing the line we’ve drawn in the sand expressed as the testosterone / epitestosterone ratio.
I should also mention that I do not believe that cycling stands alone on an island. Most professional sports are dealing with the issue of performance enhancing drug use, the balance are simply ignoring it. We’ve seen how well the latter course of action worked out in American baseball.
The sports of professional cycling must ask itself some difficult questions.by