Monday, October 18, 2010

Alessandro Petacchi

Ale-Jet won't be attending the 2011 Tour de France route presentation. OK. That's understandable given the witch-hunt-like environment that's enveloped professional cycling and is making it impossible for riders even casually suggested to potentially be possibly connected to a situation tangentially related to doping to move about publicly without being subjected to sometimes-humiliating treatment at the hands of the "authorities" AND the fans. It's a shame, nevertheless, and is a discouraging example of how stakeholders in cycling have become experts at cutting off their noses to spite their own faces.

The idea that there can't be a middle ground between the kind of unquestioning support and blind loyalty demanded by an accused-doper like Lance Armstrong, and the savage abuse that is still heaped upon a convicted-doper like Riccardo Ricco is downright silly. When did professional cycling become an environment in which it was believed that corruption could not - would not - exist in a similar proportion to that which is found in business, politics, or even other sports? How is it that seemingly otherwise-rational, university-educated, wealthy, sophisticated fans lose all perspective when it comes to doping in cycling and take such great personal offense when it's revealed that the athlete who they idolized, lionized, dreamt about and even imitated (by shelling-out $200USD for a pair of team-issue bibs, jersey, gloves, socks and cotton cap) is doping in an effort to ride faster, often in the hope of making more money?

Of course it's disappointing, annoying, offensive, even, when our heroes are revealed to be mere mortal men, with the same little foibles as the rest of us. And yes, we're right to react with anger and cynicism when another positive anti-doping control is announced (or two, in the case of the Costa Brothers). And of course doping in sport must be fought aggressively. But who's to tell me that I can't celebrate Alessandro Petacchi as a rider and respect his palmares, even as I lament the possibility that his career may be terminated as a result of his own greed, stupidity, foolishness, etc.?

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