‘If We Were Riding’ is a weekly triathlon-ish newsletter written by Kelly O’Mara and produced by Live Feisty MediaSubscribe to get it in your inbox every Wednesday morning. You can also read past issues. This episode is from May 30, 2018.

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Did you take the long weekend to weekend or to train? I tried to do both. Hard runs and long rides and wine tasting and sleeping and food and movies. If we were riding, there are a lot of things in the news bothering me and a lot of things I’m not sure about. But, if we were riding, I would try to just ride, because sometimes that’s all you can do.

Is everybody else doping?

Did you watch the Giro d’Italia this weekend? I didn’t. But as I understand it, Chris Froome rode away from everyone to win, despite outstanding questions still existing in the world about his salbutamol positive. And how you feel about his win is probably a litmus test for how you feel about cycling generally and doping specifically. Whether or not he is totally innocent of all wrong-doing aside, the larger questions about doping will continue to haunt our favorite sports for some time. If you believe in people, in our sports, in the possibility of what we’re capable of, then cycling (and running and triathlon and sports, generally) might just keep breaking your heart.

The photo above is from the age group start at Kona a few years ago. Looking around at the masses starting the world championships, we know some number of them are doping. It’s just odds. We know it’s a number greater than zero, but less than what? Less than 100%? And when we start seeing crazy performances and people doing extreme things, like at the Giro, it creeps into our heads: ‘Is everyone doping but me?’

Here’s the simple answer: No. And it’s dangerous to think otherwise.

Every person who has ever been found guilty of taking performance enhancing drugs starts their explanation with: “Everyone was doing it.” It’s a pretty short leap from that to: “I might as well cheat too.”

Lance Armstrong was one of the most well-known paranoid rationalizers in this school of thought. Yet, the interesting thing about Lance is that maybe his paranoia simply begat itself. When the 1999 urine samples from the Tour de France were tested years later, after a test for EPO was developed, yes, 20 of the 84 samples were positive. BUT MOST OF THOSE WERE FROM LANCE, HIMSELF. Maybe everybody else wasn’t really doing it after all?

A similar anonymous study at the 2011 Track and Field World Championships found 29% of the athletes admitted they were doping. And most of them thought everybody else definitely was.

Yes, that’s a lot of people. Yes, we have a doping problem. Yes, triathlon is not immune (though I will continue to argue that the way triathlon is structuredmakes it slightly less susceptible). But, most importantly, that number is a lot of people, but it is not *all* the people.

There are many issues that need to be resolved, but one of the biggest problem I see is the lack of faith we have in the system. That lack of faith erodes itself. We need to believe, and we need to be given a reason to believe.

LISTEN: Ironman’s anti-doping head on the Ironwomen podcast Part I and II

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Ironman buys more stuff

This past week news came out that Ironman is in talks to buy the Breck Epic six-day mountain race in Colorado. I’m still not sure what I think about this (besides the obvious things, like ‘oooh man, should Ironman really be buying *more* stuff?’ and ‘hope they don’t ruin it’). But a couple of things stood out in the proposal:

  1. Ironman apparently already owns the massive mountain bike race Cape Epic in South Africa. Which I guess I should have known, but I didn’t. And they want to use the Breckenridge race as the start of a sort of qualifying system to Cape Epic—which they’re calling the Kona of Mountain Biking, btw.
  2. The company presented a proposal to the town council this week, which included a three- to five-year contract, a cash component with a 3% inflation escalator, and a long list of things the city has to help with. (It’s a fairly standard Ironman contract, but probably legitimately raises the question: Is it worth it for the town?)
  3. And this is the big one: Wanda Group, which owns World Triathlon Corporation/Ironman, continues to trim its non-core (ie. not real estate) businesses and sell off assets to settle its debts. And there persists the rumor that Wanda will be doing an IPO for its sports arm—which includes Ironman. The company already sold its stake in Atletico Madrid.
SO HOW DOES THIS END?
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If We Were Riding’ is a weekly triathlon-ish newsletter written by Kelly O’Mara and produced by Live Feisty Media. Subscribe to get it in your inbox every Wednesday morning. You can also read past issues or listen to the semi-related podcast of the same name on Fridays. Press reply to tell Kelly what you think. And press forward to send to a friend.

Subscribe to the ‘If We Were Riding’ podcast: Stitcher | iTunes | Soundcloud

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