In a recent article on Cyclingnews, Floyd Landis proposed that instead of trying to catch drug cheats that are way ahead of the testers, cycling should legalize doping (with medical monitoring). It's a controversial and pessimistic view (if anyone has the right to be pessimistic about cycling, it's Floyd Landis). I admire Floyd's willingness to stand up and tell the truth, but I'm not sure I agree with him when it come to legalizing doping, I think there may be some complications if the sport decides to go "full drugs". Here are some considerations.
At what age do the kiddies get to start the injections?
I'm not a hand wringer when it comes to children's safety (both of my daughters received Barbie chainsaws on their fourth birthdays), but if drugs are to be legalized, we will have to decide which age is right for starting a regimen of routine injections. Should the age be eighteen? Should the riders wait until they turn pro? Pro contracts are a valuable commodity—every edge helps.
Say you child shows a talent for cycling, should you get ahead of the game and start the drugs as soon as they hit puberty? Should they get hormone therapy? Can you buy these things at Costco (because we really like to buy in bulk at our house)? These are all questions a motivated parent (someone like Marv Marinovich, for example) would want to know, because every little bit helps, and if you want to ride like a pro, you have to inject like a pro.
If you are on a poor team, you are going to die
Good drugs and doctors cost money, and teams with smaller budgets simply won't be able to keep up with the big teams when it comes to making their blood into an oxygen-thick, race winning goo. This will force them to either fall behind or cut costs when it comes to their medical program. Perhaps they will find discount drugs overseas, or they will get by with less oversight from the team doctor, either way they are in for trouble. While some racers have shown themselves to quite adept at managing their own medical program, if you have everyone on the sauce, chances are that someone will slip up during an injection or take too much or too little, resulting in a trip to the hospital or ever worse, death (death is bad). Plus, they will have the added challenge of not knowing if the discount drugs they are taking are legit. They could be counterfeits, or they could be sourced from countries that make children's toys covered in paint so lethal that one lick can stunt not only a child's growth, but the growth of those around them. Trust me, you don't want to inject something that looks like it has backwash, bit of twigs and hair floating in it.
You don't want to be the first sport that goes full drugs
Sponsors want to look good. Granted they may be a heartless multi-national corporation with factories staffed by youngsters all over the world, but that doesn't mean they still don't want to seem like they care. This is why they sponsor charities, community events and sporting teams. They want to put a positive image out in the public eye. What they don't want to do is be the company that sponsors a sport that allows its participants to explore the pharmaceutical world for athletic betterment. Let some other sport go first. Cycling has taken enough hits, and if cycling decides to go full drugs, the sponsors will jump ship faster than teenagers at a busted keg party.
This issue is, athletes don't dope because they have a love of thick, thick blood, they dope because they think they need to keep up or they dope because they want an unfair advantage over their competitors. If you legalize the drugs athletes take now, they will simply become part of the program necessary for competing. This will prompt athletes who are willing to take risks with their health to search for drugs that no one else has, resulting in a pharmaceutical brinksmanship, where those willing to take the biggest risks get the biggest rewards. The fact is even if you allow doping, you will still have to monitor it (so people don't die), which doesn't save any effort, and for teams it adds another program that they have to finance. The effort and money it would take to monitor legal doping could easily be spent on monitoring whether the riders were clean or not.
I realize that people are already cheating the current doping controls in the sport and that stinks, but as of now it's considered wrong. People will always cheat to get ahead, but if you stop trying to catch them you don't make something not wrong; you just choose to ignore it.
Well, that's enough preaching; we have tedious and monotonous training numbers to look at. And here they are: I've ridden indoors on my trainer for an hour at midday for almost every day this week, which makes me crabby and in the mood to write sanctimonious internet rebuttals. And I'm getting fatter.