Just some thoughts on a topic that’s big in the sports world
Just some thoughts on a topic that’s big in the sports world
Swizcore: So Steve, I figured that since we had an off-week form the series and I was gifted a legit repose from writing Swizcorner, why not collaborate on a little stream of conscious, email style?
The obvious first issue is a very topical one in main stream sports today. With the recent whistle blowing on yet another instance of steroid use by Alex Rodriguez, PED’s will have less of a chance of falling from the forefront of MX bench racing than ever. As an aside, we often hear the term EPO used when discussing blood doping and I often wondered what EPO stood for. Well it’s no wonder why no one uses the actual word, try this on: Erythropoietin. Take it slow, it’s not too bad when you get through it once.
But what does it do? Quite simply, it improves oxygen delivery to muscles, which directly improves their endurance capacity. So certainly that sounds like something that would lend itself greatly to athletes in this sport; a sport which has long been considered runner-up to only swimming for most physically demanding on the most muscle groups in the human body. Here’s the scary part, with as much as we hear about rumored “enhancement” in the sport, you’d think there was an insane amount of money up for grabs to benefit from the physical gains. In reality, the elite of the sport are working with say $5-$10 million annually, all-in. Alex Rodriguez himself signed a contract 10 years ago for $252 million dollars! Now THAT is some motivation to get a leg up and prove your worth. Imagine collecting a $2 million dollar check every other week! Now imagine if you can, what would happen to Pro Moto if the racers really did make what they are worth in terms of risk, skill and entertainment. We’d be in the same boat as every other sport. After all, the number one rule in baseball is “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”
I fully believe that the racers are underpaid but without question, when the reward increases, so too do the temptations to cheat and find any advantage possible. Perhaps there are some who have already taken the step over that line and that’s unfortunate but until the infrastructure of the sport can support worthy testing, increasing reward would only serve to sabotage it.
Matthes: Sadly Swizzle, my Twitter timeline and email inbox fills up with PED questions quite a bit. And I can’t blame people for asking that stuff. Seems like every few weeks an NFL’er gets four game suspension for testing positive and of course, every motocrosser’s hero Lance Armstrong is a total disgrace in his sport (although he was the dirtiest in a dirty field and was that so bad? could be argued) and baseball, well we all know what’s going on in that sport. And oh yeah, did you hear the one where track and field star Rudy Gay got busted for PED’s? Gay was actually ON a anti-doping program where he spoke to kids about the joys of running clean.
You can’t make this stuff up.
So the subject is there and it’s popular to talk about with fans of every sport. So our sport, one of the toughest there is, is ripe to have people who want to try PED’s and why not? There’s no testing of any sort (the FIM does have testing for SX but it’s pretty lax) and the rewards for using them are big. There are millions of dollars at stake in terms of bonuses and salaries and you’re telling me that every rider is just going by the honor system?
But Feld and Mx Sports deserve some of the blame for this, they haven’t kept up with the times and they don’t have a program in place that makes anyone feel confident of anything. And so, when we see feats of incredible endurance and strength each week we begin to get suspicious. And make no mistake about it, it’s hard to look in the mirror and admit that you’re just not that good but it’s easy to say that you’re losing because someone else is getting an illegal edge. So there’s that. In no way do I feel the PED use in the pits is as rampant as some of the losing team managers and trainers think it is. But it’s got to be there- we’ve learned that from every other sport right? There have to be some users in the pits. I mean, getting an IV is illegal but if you don’t think that’s going on in the motorhomes in-between motos, well you’re really naive.
Swizcore: It’s absolutely a slippery slope. As you said, all it takes is one competitor to settle on the excuse that they are being beaten because their opponent is doping. After that, it’s the cliche we hear when we are 4 years old, “two wrongs don’t make a right” but in the sporting world, competitors are living by the bastardized belief that two wrongs indeed make an even playing field, therefore, a right.
I find it hard to blame MX Sports or Feld due solely to a fact that I cite often regarding our little sport: Its niche. Being niche comes with certain limitations, the greatest of which being income flowing around it. We all know testing for PED’s, testing done PROPERLY, with an eye on the future that is, is so cost-prohibitive, I can’t blame them for not even beginning to approach the subject. Even the frigging NFL can’t keep up with the technology involved with keeping a yard stick on the next era of these drugs.
The honor system? Pardon me while I cough up a lung laughing… This is 2013 and sadly integrity, honor and pride have taken a back seat long ago to public recognition and the spoils that come along with victories, wins and standing atop the heap. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying those spoils, this 20th century common belief that “winning by any means necessary” absolutely disgusts me. That probably makes me sound self righteous but I don’t give a shit. I have two sons and another child on the way and the main principles I insist on saturating them with is honesty, and pride in working hard toward a goal accomplished. Sacrificing moral fiber for any gains, especially monetary or social-stature should always be looked upon as reprehensible. When it no longer is, we are going to hell in a hand basket.
Matthes: You’re right, it IS expensive and time consuming. As well how many guys actually get caught using PED’s in other sports? It’s more like the pissed off buddy or trainers that have done in the baseball guys in the BALCO or Barry Bonds trial. The actual real drug testing didn’t catch these guys.
But still, you’ve gotta try man. We’ve got to be doing something in our sport to at least put out the perception that you may be caught. Yes, the doctors are always one step ahead of the dopers but can we at least start with random motorhome checks for any IV silliness? That’s easy and a good place to start. You ever see someone who was wiped out and then got an IV? They’re pretty much ready to go out and do another moto. And that’s where all these PED’s have their big advantage. It’s the recovery that’s key. The sooner the athlete can get back out there and give it 100%, the redline for when they start feeling it gets higher and higher each time.
It sucks for us in the media because there’s a segment of fans that are “You guys know this is going on and you’re pussies because you’re not talking about it”. Well, yeah there’s probably some child molesters in the pits also and I’m not out there trying to find them either. What can we do? None of us are inside the inner circles of these guys where the stuff is being used. Besides, any smart doctors probably don’t even tell their riders what they’re taking. it’s just “Here’s a shot” and “Here’s a pill” and the rider is none the wiser. This way they’re not living in a river called de nile. In short, we as the media better be 100% DAMM sure we know someone is on PED’s before writing about it and accusing anyone because the retraction for a fact that was wrong is rarely heard as loudly as the accusation. I wouldn’t want someone to falsely accuse me of libel; in fact I’d be really pissed.
We have to look to the promoters, the sanctioning bodies, an outside company hired by the teams (Ha!) someone to try SOMETHING other than what’s going on right now. I really hope it doesn’t take a death or some massive scandal to break it all open because no one wins in that deal. Not even the clean riders.