Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Passive Doping

Passive doping refers to the theory that “clean” sportsmen can do measurable harm to their health by overcompensating in an effort to match competitors who race with the benefit of illegal performance enhancing drugs. For many readers, the idea of passive doping conjures-up images of physical exhaustion, but the phenomena involves a psychological component as well, and it's no less serious.

Today I spoke with a good friend who competes professionally at the Pro Continental level - he is deciding who to sign with for 2011, and is considering whether or not he wants to race in Europe with a top-level team, or back in his home country. To the best of my knowledge, my friend competes drug-free, and he's never failed a doping control. And yet he's a victim of passive doping.

I revealed to my friend that one of his rivals has been up to his eyeballs in doping and is facing sanction. My friend was shocked, and he wrote to me in a text, "I'm pretty gutted over him man. I would be really hard on myself when he blew out a result."

Instead of physical pain, my friend suffered psychologically as a result of the passive doping. When his competitor achieved successes that were seemingly not possible for my friend - who is a more naturally-talented rider - my buddy assumed that he wasn't training hard enough and that he was mentally weak and lacked discipline. But in reality, the simple fact is that for years, the other rider enjoyed a 10% advantage because of EPO. But my friend was beating himself up over this.

How much anxiety and self-loathing did he experience because he was judging himself against an unreasonable standard that was impossible for him to match cleanly? That's passive doping.

15 comments:

  1. Joe, someone needs to get you out on the speaking circuit! I love your posts man.

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  2. Thanks, Mike.

    Hope everyone else enjoyed this post, too.

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  3. Mike, you also recently asked me the following:

    "What are the performance enhancing traits of cathine? Outside of the line of reasoning that, "If it is on the list, cyclists should stay away from it," how does a cyclist benefit from taking it?"

    In the context that we were discussing, the presence in the urine of cathine is (to me) not notable for the potential performance-enhancement, but rather, that it signals either a lack of care on the part of the athlete, who is willing to allow banned substances into his system even to take an over the counter medicine (remember the concept of strict liability), or it indicates a predisposition to cheating with harder drugs...almost as if, "well, if we found cathine in his urine, there might have been EPO, too, if only we'd gotten here sooner." Just saying.

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  4. Oh let me get you a violin. It's nice to be the nice guy but we all know where they finish. I know its not right to "cheat" but live by morals and you will go no where.

    It's a sad part of our culture, but don't join the rat race only to complain about the long hours. Build your own business and run it as you seem fit. The fact is Joe, stop crying over spilt milk.

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  5. i raced pro here in the U.S. for two years back in 2002, 2003. and quit because my entire team would get dropped by one saturn rider in a local crit. he would lap us once or twice. if he wasn't there, we'd win. but - yeah, at that time there was mercury, prime alliance, and saturn doing the early stage races with no d/S there but with their doctor. by the end of the second year, almost all of us quit, except for BJM, AJM.... two guys on our team failed tests, they had some results, but i was better than either one of them talent wise- but they'd get raced and i was driving around to stupid norcal crits on my own dime. anyways, me and my crew were all demoralized. but some of us guys have been riding again lately and have done well again - so long as levi or someone doesn't show up.

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  6. @beingbrian
    wouldn't happen to be E W?

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  7. Not sure who beingbrian is, but best of luck to him on his comeback to riding, and to racing if he decides to throw-down for fun again.

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  8. Joe, something else..... (bit of toppic)
    Just read that Roy Sentjens (team Milram) quit cycling right away, after his positve EPO test from some days ago. He admitted use. See his webpage (dutch language). He said he was so eager to get a new contract for the next season that he stepped into the Epo use (was no problem for him to get it in Spain). Poor guy.

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  9. Yup, just saw that Roy Sentjens manned-up and admitted to what he'd done, which is admirable - especially after starting down the road of denial initially.

    For anyone wondering what we're talking about, there's detailed info in English here: http://is.gd/f4y81.

    In a sense, you can say that Sentjens was also a victim of passive doping, if in fact some of the riders who were beating him were cheating. If they weren't, then that's even more unfortunate in a sense, but if they were, it's slightly more understandable why Sentjens would travel to Spain. Understandable, but excusable no.

    Wonder what he'll do now to make a living...

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  10. Congrats on your efforts to fight doping, and your latest achievement getting one of your former collaborators banned for life.

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  11. Good post Joe. To pretend that doping somehow has no impact on riders who choose to race clean is a weird position to take but that is the way a lot of people handle the PED issue...

    I saw an article by a guy who I remember racing with down at the track here in San Jose a couple of years ago that said something similar.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-h-hibbard/the-ripple-effect-of-dopi_b_693078.html

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  12. Thanks for sharing the link, Anon, and t the other Anon, thanks for the kind words of congratulations. The cognitive dissonance one experiences trying to pretend that doping has no impact on riders who choose to race cleanly is definitely impressive. I'll try to post that link in the main body of the original post so that people can fire it up easily.

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  13. Please be aware that in the following comment, I don't refer to any athlete in particular:

    "In the context that we were discussing, the presence in the urine of cathine is (to me) not notable for the potential performance-enhancement, but rather, that it signals either a lack of care on the part of the athlete, who is willing to allow banned substances into his system even to take an over the counter medicine (remember the concept of strict liability), or it indicates a predisposition to cheating with harder drugs...almost as if, "well, if we found cathine in his urine, there might have been EPO, too, if only we'd gotten here sooner." Just saying."

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  14. Reading this post and thinking about Joe Papp and his duality... Well, whatever he did back then is one thing. What he needs to do now is be honest. He didn't make the life choices for those he's turning-in. He's doing them a favor, even if they don't know it yet. Papp (at least is doing this from a position of complete surrender and humility. Landis only began singing once he realized that he couldn't maintain his charade anymore. And he's not once ever expressed an iota of guilt. Landis comes from a place of anger. Papp comes from a place of complete and total submission. Papp's info will expose the wrongs of not only domestic pros, but also the fraud of your local egotistical masters assholes.

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