Drugs cause 100-bike pileup

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer January 29, 2013 08:50 am

OK, Lance Armstrong is yesterday’s news. Armstrong, who late last week appeared on a two-part confessional on the O network, located on the TV dial somewhere near the military history channel and the jewelry channel, disappeared behind headlines screaming the latest on Notre Dame’s love-lost linebacker, Manti Te’o (pronounced “idiot”).

Te’o, you might recall, is the guy who was annointed a national hero. He almost won the most coveted award in college football, the Heisman Trophy, in part due to sympathy over losing a girlfriend to leukemia early in the season.

Turns out, the girlfriend was fabricated. Depending on who you listen to, or believe, it was part of a nasty Catfishing hoax of which Te’o was not aware.

He had never met this online girlfriend in person. In fact, she did not exist.

In today’s 24-hour news cycle, the big story of today is tomorrow’s chicken feed.

It’s a sign of the national attention span being shortened to approximately the time it takes to eat a chicken nugget.

The Te’o story washed another American “hero,” seven-time Tour d’ France winner Armstrong, a survivor of testicular cancer, into media no-man’s land. Still, the Armstrong story is worth a second look. It seems that even after confessing to the high priestess of television, Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong’s sins have not been forgiven.

The top prize in the Tour de France is supposed to be for bike racing, not compulsive lying. In fact, the tour trophy has become as useless as a saddle on a dead horse.

Level playing field is a myth

But here’s the rub. Armstrong argues he was just trying to level the playing field. If you haven’t paid attention, and most of us have more important things to do, like rearranging lawn ornaments, bike racing is a big deal in Europe. There, every week of a 200-day season, you’ll see grown men squeezed into a too-tight outfits turbocharging their way up the Alps and down the Pyrenees.

Bike racing, though, is more than washboard abs running amok. It reveals the darker side of human nature and what lengths people will go to, to win.

In bike racer’s defense, if you race at 25 mph for 120 miles a day for 200 days a year, you might need drugs too. The laws of physics say most of us would be a bundle of wrecked humanity after one day on tour, much less a whole season.

Drugs are not just a European thing. Think back to Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and all the other andostenedoine-enhanced baseball sluggers that turned America’s game into a joke.

Maybe it’s true. Maybe the top 100 bike racers all were racing thanks as much to performance-enhancing chemicals as to physical gifts and training.

The point is, the playing field will never be level. Life isn’t fair. Never will be. None of us can defy the laws of physics without some help. And laws of physics apply to heroes teetering on pedestals.