Supermen or Chemical Brothers?
IF THE drug-related exclusion of several top riders including pre-Tour de France favourites, Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, and the persistent shadow hanging over the now retired seven-time winner, Lance Armstrong were not enough to further damage cycling’s already tarnished image, 2006 overall winner, Floyd Landis, now stands accused of illegal substance abuse.
The Phonak rider tested positive for high levels of testosterone after his epic stage 17 victory and, if the B sample confirms the findings, Landis will not only be sacked by his team, but will also lose the title to Spain’s Óscar Pereiro Sío and be banned for at least two years. The American has professed his innocence, claiming his lawyers would prove that abnormal levels of the male sex hormone had occurred naturally. It can only be hoped for the sake of cycling that Landis is a freak of nature, something that past cases of this nature renders less than likely. At the same time, it has come to light that world and Olympic 100m champion, Justin Gatlin, is facing an identical investigation that may lead to a life ban for the sprinter.
The spectre of artificially enhanced performances, once so blatantly practised by former East German athletes, is today threatening to permeate every corner of the sporting spectrum. Whereas the Ben Johnsons of this world were once the exception to otherwise fair competition, even spectacles such as the Winter Olympics are now turning into a farcical witch hunt. Every great performance must now be questioned, a situation which surely undermines the very foundations that the Olympic Games and sporting endeavour are built on: spectators and sponsors, both essential 21st century components to the staging of popular events, will respectively turn off their television sets and money-taps. Sport as a global ‘business’ will die. Fortunately, doping is of little practical use in football – the world’s most popular game has compensated in other ways instead; money is the drug, leading to bribery, ‘bung’ and match-fixing scandals, suspensions, bans and referees spending time in prison. It seems that wherever money is involved, corruption of different kinds follows. I think I will go and watch a game of marbles before everyone else loses theirs!