Is it really so difficult?

Apparently the only sports news that occurs these days is blockbuster news. And by blockbuster news we don’t mean Wayne Gretzky has been traded to the Kings or David Beckham has signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS. No, we’re talking front-page-next-to-the-real-news news.

First Michael Vick is indicted for allegedly running a huge dog fighting operation out of his home, complete with the same kind of training equipment used to rehab Barbaro as well as an execution area for the animals that deliver in the clutch almost as well as Vick himself.

Then there was NBA ref from a local high school and Villanova University who is being investigated for allegedly fixing games he officiated for the mob. Yeah, that sounds like a really bad movie that they couldn’t get DeNiro or Joe Pesci for. More like Adrian Zmed as the gangster or something.

By the way, Adrian Zmed and Tom Hanks were great in Bachelor Party.

And now Team Astana has pulled out of the Tour de France because Alexandre Vinokourov has reportedly tested positive for a banned blood transfusion after winning last weekend’s time trial. What that means is Vinokourov was caught with blood in his body that wasn’t his.

That’s fine for baseball, football, basketball and hockey and U.S. league, but not for sports governed by Olympic-styled drug testing.

Vinokourov, of course, was the favorite to win this year’s Tour, though he was in 23rd place and more than 28 minutes behind leader Michael Rasmussen, who also was involved in a bit of a doping controversy last week. Nevertheless, Vinokourov has won two of the last three stages of the Tour and has become a crowd favorite for his daring style of riding despite that he has approximately 30 stitches in his knees after a crash during the first week of the race.

Word is Vinokourov fell again on Saturday, the day after his time trial victory and when the alleged positive test was conducted, which caused him to lose 29 minutes to Rasmussen and fall out of contention in this years’ race.

But bigger than that, the news regarding Vinokourov is a knockout punch to a sport already reeling from too many doping scandals.

Upon hearing the news, David Millar, the British rider for Saunier Duval, said:

“Jesus Christ, I’m speechless. It makes me sad. I have the impression the riders will never understand.

“I really wanted to believe he was having a good day. Vino is one of my favorite riders, one of the most beautiful riders in the peloton. If a rider of his stature and class has done this in the current situation, we might as well pack up our bags and leave.”

Or this one from Eric Boyer, the manager of Team Cofidis:

“I’m completely disgusted. I hope that Vinokourov will not be so cowardly as to deny it, but will explain it to us, tell us who helped him, who participated in this dirty business, because he could not have done it all alone. Vinokourov told us that he only worked with Dr. Ferrari to establish a training regimen. He told us that he was courageous, that the French liked him, that he was stronger than the pain. He told us that we French didn’t know how to manage, that we were weaklings. Now we can conclude that he was a real bastard who has brought even more discredit on cycling through these practices. It’s one more heavy blow, and I hope we can get back on our feet once more.

“I regret nothing of what I’ve said in the past few days, or the past few months. I demand that the whole Astana team leave cycling as soon as possible.”

Word is that race organizers are holding an emergency meeting about what is to happen next with their race, but at the request of the Tour, Astana has packed up and withdrawn all its riders.

Yeah, this is really bad. I don’t think I would be surprised if the rest of the race is cancelled.

Here comes the editorial/rant:

Why is it so hard to compete clean? Why can’t baseball players, football players say no to steroids and human growth hormone? Why can’t endurance athletes stay away from blood doping, EPO, etc. etc.? Why is that so hard?

Look, I am a competitive marathon runner. I don’t get paid, I don’t have big-time sponsors (though I’m waiting, Clif Bar) and I don’t have the luxury of two-a-day training sessions and mid-day naps. Instead I just work as hard as I can, and, truth be told it’s not that difficult.

Oh sure, training for the marathon can be very hard as any endurance sport can be. Every day there are aches, pains, blood and bruises. My calves always hurt and my toenails are black and withered away. Plus, sometimes it takes up a lot of time.

But you know what? I don’t need drugs other than a big cup of coffee every morning to go with that Clif Bar and maybe some ibuprofen from time to time. All it takes is the desire and ability to do the work.

How hard is it to do the work? Better yet, why would someone want to live with the guilt of knowing that not only did they cheat themselves, their teammates and their fans, but also people who go out there and do the work every day and don’t get paid. Look, I understand that there is a lot of money and competition involved with professional sports, but if you aren’t good enough, live with it.

Sports don’t exist in a vacuum. If you want to play baseball or football, you don’t need MLB or the NFL. Just go play.

There is no crime in playing clean.

And all of those laudatory things I wrote about Vinokourov during the Tour? I guess I take them back.

More: A doctor explains blood doping (VeloNews)

1 thought on “Is it really so difficult?

  1. The Vino news totally sucks… Can’t say it’s unbelievable, because – sadly – it’s not, but still…

    I feel a little bad for Kloden.. he was having a good tour.. then again, proof that I shouldn’t feel bad for him probably isn’t far behind…

    Definitely a rough week to be a sportwriter for you — the only unscathed sport this week is hockey and who cares about that? ;)

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