Blood Doping & Ironmen (Published January 8, 2008)

Dane sent me an email today and posed an interesting question that I've touched on briefly. I'd mentioned how happy I was that Roger Clemens got caught for doping, which he's vehemently denied. Regardless, his name was involved and it's bad press even if he's exonerated. If he's truly clean, I hope he can prove it. But if Andy Petitte testifies to Congress like they want him to, and Clemens' name comes up, he'll have a tough time denying his so-called best friend.

So anyway, Dane wondered if I thought that a lot of Ironman athletes were dopers. His intonation (if you can infer that from an email), suggested that he thought they did. 

Anyway, without further ado, here is the email reply that I sent to him:

I'm not sure about your Ironman question. I think based on my experience with that Luke guy and the couple athletes I met last year in New Zealand that I'm inclined to say it's way less than most major sports. There is just not enough money and publicity in the sport, or team pressure for that matter, to do it. Luke won that event in NZ, and nobody cared. It's one thing to win the Tour de France, but even Ironman Hawaii, the holy grail, is pretty much unnoticed. And these athletes are not making tons of money or living like even cyclists do. He was there by himself, no team, not even a coach, staying in a hostel with normal people like me, eating Cocoa Puffs. His pre-race meal the night before was a massive t-bone steak and a local wheat beer...I ate with him. And he was the skinniest punk I've ever seen in my life. Now I know he could have been blood-doping, and you wouldn't know from appearance, but based on the lifestyle, the lack of money and lack of notoriety, I don't think there is as much motivation to dope. He could probably be a successful cyclist, even on a ProTour team, and could dope there. But I think Ironmen are a different breed of athlete and are more intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically. I still think some do it, but I don't think it's as much as cycling or baseball. I am being optimistic of course, and basing most of my idea on the fact that I met one dude and he was friendly and just didn't seem like a doper. But I think I make a valid point. Sorry for the long-winded response. 

One think that I think is missing from the doping coverage in the media is how it affects the average athlete that only competes for fun. Major athletes can dope all they want to...I'm still going to cycle, and run and compete and have no desire whatsoever to dope. I enjoy following cycling and triathlon as a professional sport, but I enjoy it more as a participant, and in that way I have control over whether or not I dope. I think the average person makes heros out of professional athletes and are crushed and angered when their perfect beings, their heros are caught cheating. But for me, I'm more concerned with myself than with what my favorite athletes do. I'd be upset if Lance ever was caught doping...he's provided lots of motivation for my own athletics. But ultimately it's still me that has to get up in the morning to exercise if i want to compete, even if only for fun. So I think the media and the  average person makes way too big a deal about doping, because they get too caught up in sports as an escape. I 'escape' the mundane, as you said, by going for a two-hour run; not by watching someone else run on the tv, only to find out they've been helped along by taking drugs.