Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sports, drugs, and the media

So, it's the first day of the Tour De France, and the kicker focus has been anti-doping.

I understand that the problem exists as a form of cheating. It is kind of a method that we associate with hacking and cheating in the video game community. However, just like hacking, doping can be "erased" to hide the act, and the evidence of the crime can be lost forever.

So based on that concept, I will present my opinion on Lance Armstrong's alleged doping.

My first point I would like to make is that they are re-analyzing samples from several years ago.  Unless, the samples are cryogenically frozen at absolute zero, the samples themselves can not last more than a year (even in -80C).  We don't even keep bug samples that long.  So how can anyone validate a test that is using a sample from that long ago? 

So let's take another avenue. He has drugs now. Is it legitimate? I believe it is if he is participating in a non-competitive context. Marathon rides for Cancer, and the like. It's not beneficial to him, but it helps a cause, and people are here for fun, more than a prize.  Obviously in a competitive context now, it would disqualify him.  However, the consequence of his doping should not be more severe than Contador doing the same thing who only lost 1 title, and not everything.

There is another point to this doping as well. He had cancer, and survived it. I believe one of his treatments involves chemo therapy. This includes a multitude of drugs that does include immuno suppression. This itself indicates steroidal treatment which leads to a positive dope test. Obviously though the intent of it is not to improve your muscles, but to control your immune system.  Sadly the media conveniently leaves these important points of information out. 

So I ask why Lance would admit it, and why he would give everything away on such a bad case?

Well, let's entertain a few speculations starting with the benefit of "the doubt. "

He is admitting it to avoid the media, court, and systematic hassles of denying it.  If we remember when this fiasco opened up, there was a huge debate about the validity of the results.  He even at first said he didn't do any drugs, and the debate and controversy just kept going.  Then on some whim of a day, he just went up and said "I did it. "  Then after that, the controversy and the reporting just stopped and died away with his titles.

I speculate that his main reason to admission is to me it looks like he said it just to shut people up to stop bugging him and to continue on with his life through his Charity instead.

I think this is the case because his more significant contribution to society is the Live Strong Charity that generates money for Cancer (and possibly him), and that has been a bigger part of his career lately, than the Tour De France.  So a route to not hinder the Charity's reputation is to end the controversy before it spills over.  He's still a man to conquer Cancer, and he competed at an international level to boot, drugs or not, fighting cancer and competing is still a tall order to fill.

Now let's go with the other,

He did do drugs, and is admitting to a mistake that he made.  So why is there any controversy?  Well if people are careful to read, they'll know that the controversy is in the Tour De France's bad reputation for improper inspection.  What the focus should have been on is that the race itself does not take doping seriously, and therefore just like bad GMs that don't ban hackers, dopers will become rampant in the competition.  Lance just happens to be THE BEST of the dopers to make it there.  However, in this case, he is simply following "the rules" by evening the playing field with the other dopers.  So he's more following the status quo, rather than being anything special.  Yet the media does not focus properly on where the systematic problems are.  To continue, Contador loses his title for 2010 because of a refresher on those old samples.  Gee, so how reliable are their sampling and testing techniques? Are we talking huge margins of error here?  It sure sounds like it considering they missed several checks on Lance, and obviously a few on Contador.

In this case, the problem of doping in cycling will continue, and the problem itself will not be solved, if anything it generates more media attention when the system fails.

Probably the most important point to this though is that it appears that humanity these days can not have the image of a true and pure hero or person anymore these days.  We must find some fault, some scandal, some glaring mistake that makes them a scumbag.

Why do we need to do this?  Does it actually help society?  In true honesty, I think it does the opposite, it puts society down, it destroys their hope, it destroys their positive thinking of being better than they are.  It destroys their dreams of being able to do something for humanity.

That's really what some of these people are.  They're better than they once were.  Lance is alive, from Cancer like many other patients, but he's also a major contributor to society in its success and research.  Before that he's just some arrogant athlete wanting to go faster than the guy next to him.  We wouldn't think 2 seconds of him if he was just another athlete to win the Tour De France.  Like the 75 some odd others before him, only the community of cycling would see him in high regard.  However, he did more than that, well that made him more than just an athlete.  He's a symbol of survival to many, and of hope to many (including myself).  This scandal and rebuke of his titles itself doesn't affect me, nor my brother, but it will affect others for sure, and it will affect the future in a bad way.

I will point out another example that is more famous, and more familiar to people:

Bill Clinton:
He had a mistress, and he lied on camera about it.  Honestly people, if your husband or wife had a mistress/affair, would you admit to it on national TV while you're still married?!  If you say yes, then I give you props for being true and honest, but I know most people are likely to think about the repurcussions of full admittance vs the chance of getting away with a "white lie."

This mistress though didn't affect his career as the President of the United States.  He was a good president too, pulling the country out of a recession, and into a beautiful market boom (that crashed later).  He instituted good relations with other countries, and we started to see the USA as something besides a dumbass (which got reversed later).  Literally during his time, the focus was what he was doing, where he was going, and what contributions he was making around the world, and to his people.  Up until he had an affair, then it all went to shit about not what his political tribulations are, but what he is doing in bed.

It's really completely unrelated, and the effect of what he does at home isn't seeping into what he is doing at work.  I think most people in society are capable of separating their home life, from their work life.  In the case of the President of the United States, I  would say he did that pretty well, but it just made a fiasco when his home life wasn't the Classic 50s American Dream commercial.

So I say to the people of this world, keep your role models, look up to them, despite their flaws and their weaknesses, look at what makes them brilliant and special.  Take that with you, and move onward towards your dreams and goals.

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