Saturday, November 13, 2004

The Times Doesn't Know Cycling

The New York Times has an odd human interest story of the cyclist Tyler Hamilton's positive tests for blood transfusion. Odd because he is obviously guilty: he has tested positive twice -- once at the Olympics -- and the only reason he wasn't stripped of his gold at the Olympics was because of a screw-up in lab procedure. So why does the Times have to paint him in such a positive light. Why is the story "oh poor Tyler, victimized by some unknown force," rather than, "damn, Tyler is a cheat. The asshole!" as it should be. This is normal for the Times' cycling coverage: Samuel Abt, who covers the Tour for the Times, makes stupid little errors of fact, or in interpretation of strategy, and is also a bad writer. But how can they be so credulous: cycling is notorious for doping. At the competitive level any little physical advantage makes a huge difference and there are so many ways to get that advantage that it is probably safe to assume that everyone dopes -- some just do it better than others and some do it in legal ways (like using high altitude tents, as Armstrong does). Why do they give so much credibility to Hamilton's doubts about lab procedure? You know once someone learns a great deal about the minutiae of something that they obviously can't refute the conclusion, they just want to get away on a technicality. Perhaps because he's an American and successful American cyclists are few and far between -- he may be a bastard, but he's our bastard? Yet that's such a stupid reason to write such a stupid story and yet, I fear, that it's true.

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