Trek Bicycle Corporation, headquartered in nearby Waterloo, recently distanced itself from multiple Tour de France-winning cyclist Lance Armstrong. In regard to performance-enhancing drugs, I will pose you a question someone once asked me while drunk:
“What if doing drugs to get ahead in sports was required”?
Of course, this notion is silly, but it’s not too far from the truth. Frankly, I don’t care if Lance Armstrong engaged in doping to get ahead. Performance-enhancing drugs are, at heart, technological innovations.
Like building a better bicycle – as Trek strives to do – drugs only have the power to help an athlete with proper training and natural skill. Even if I went out and bought the best bike I could afford and pumped myself full of erythropoietin, I would probably never win the Tour de France.
In this way, better technology, be it growth hormones or superior gears, is just one way athletes can give themselves a leg up. There is no magic bullet in sports, and pretending doping can guarantee a win is foolish.
Furthermore, there is a long tradition of performance-enhancing drugs in cycling. “It’s a great rarity today for someone to achieve athletic success who doesn’t take drugs,” a certain retired track coach said in 1971. For cycling, this may not be so wrong. Bjarne Riis, winner of the Tour de France in 1996, tested positive for EPO and still retains the title. Even dating back to the 1800s, cyclists mixed up amphetamine concoctions to keep them awake on the road, reported Scientific American.
My point on performance-enhancing drugs: Get over it. Using drugs to get ahead in sports is as old as sports itself and should be treated as any other developing technology. When we make such a big deal about “doping,” we sound like an uptight high school principal from the 1950s who is also very concerned about that devil music, rock n’ roll.
Taylor Nye ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in biology, archaeology and Latin American studies.