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Day 38 – Doping and Drafting

136 days until IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga

Unfair Advantages

How long did it take for Lance Armstrong to admit that he was doping? Three years? Seven years? Accusations of his doping were made public as early as 1999, but it was not until 2013 that he admitted to wrong doing in an interview with Oprah Winfrey (according to a Wikipedia entry).

Endurance sports have become very vigilant about unfair performance enhancement commonly known as doping. Several months ago I received a notice in the mail that age groupers like myself could be subjected to drug tests. I’m not a very good test taker. I hope I don’t have to study for it.

Armstrong did break the rules and for that he should be held accountable. But I’m wondering why we are so concerned about doping at all when we appear to have such a split personality with performance enhancement. Companies like Nike and Roka and Ventum want us to believe that their products will make us better, faster triathletes. The list of companies that make such promises is quite long and growing. Yet the endurance sport community seems to have no problem accepting such performance enhancing devices and nutritional supplements. Even without drugs, one might get the impression that Kona qualification is open to the highest bidder. That I don’t believe entirely.

Where do we draw the line? What’s the difference between a fair advantage and an unfair advantage?

What I’m Not Against

I’m not against drug testing. My point here is that each athlete must decide for themselves what makes a fair or unfair advantage and then live within the rules of their race or pay the consequences if they don’t. I’d like to believe that I can build my “engine” powerful enough that I don’t need a $15,000 bicycle or a full time nutritionist. I’d like to believe that it will be possible to qualify for the IRONMAN World Championships based on my training, my discipline, my persistence and my healthy lifestyle. Of course, none of that is really mine. It takes a good support group too. Could the quality of my support group be an unfair advantage?

The Value of Doping

How is it that doping is worse than drafting?

Doping is automatic bad stuff that I think will get you DQ’d. Drafting is a few minutes in the penalty tent. In my opinion, drafting should be punished at the same level as doping. They are both against the rules and they both create a very large unfair advantage. To prevent drafting, races have statistically analyzed the effects of different start schemes like rolling starts and strategically placed waves. Does it help? Probably a little. The U.S. Anti Doping Agency tests for doping. Does it help? Probably a little.

And who are these age-group dopers anyway? They must be good athletes to begin with, because doping will not put a middle-of-the-pack athlete on the podium (unless the pack is five athletes or fewer).

Enough of my rambling. You get my point.

Until tomorrow…

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