I love watching the Tour de France (that’s cycling for the ones who have no idea what I’m talking about). The home country’s public television always live broadcasts all the entire stages of the Tour, so for me the ultimate feeling of being too bored during the summer holiday is to watch an entire stage of the Tour de France. And the Tour de France helped me survive the week between BlueEyes’ due date and his actual birthday, when my belly was too big and it was too hot outside to do anything else than bounce on a yoga ball and watch entire days of Tour de France. So why write about the Tour de France in October? Because the UCI just decided to take away all of Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour titlesafter the US anti-doping agency released a huge amount of evidence against him. This enormous amount of doping use suggests that Lance Armstrong was not the only one, but that some/most/all (?) of the professional cyclists in the Tour used some form of doping. This has caused some of the big sponsors, like Rabobank,to quit sponsoring cycling teams. But it also means that somewhere in the world there are teams of doctors that are able to mix drugs, vitamins and blood transfusions in such a way that a man who was once a cancer patient, can a few years later make it seem like he is the only one cycling while all of the others are standing still (like in the prologue in 2005 when Lance Armstrong flew by Jan Ullrich). Any other medical success of that size would for sure be discussed on TV, but these people have to stay anonymous because what they do is not legal.
So does knowing that some, most or all of the cyclists use doping make it less fun to watch? To me it doesn’t. It’s not like with doping it’s easy to cycle 3500 kilometers in a couple weeks. It’s not like any person could do it with the right amount of doping and it’s not like the athletes are not sacrificing their life in order to train enough to be able to cycle in the Tour de France.
So why not make it legal to use doping? Then the sport would be kind of like Formula 1 or Nascar racing, where teams of people try to make the best and fastest car. In this case teams of doctors and scientist would build the best body to cycle with. We could study how that works, and test all sorts of things, like viral vector mediated expression of genes to enhance muscle fiber and oxygen transport. And the people behind this don’t have to hide anymore but can share their knowledge with the world. I even thought of a name for this discipline: cyclingpharmacology. Has a nice ring to it right?