Friday, May 18, 2007

Through a Glass Darkly

This isn't about Mizzou sports or college sports or really any sport that I care much about, but the drama surrounding the arbitration hearing in the case of Floyd Landis's positive doping test is riveting.

Today's bombshell is a stunner. Landis's manager threatened to reveal that Greg LeMond was sexually abused as a child in an effort to stifle the former Tour de France champ's testimony. LeMond responded in the most effective way possible - he revealed the secret himself at the hearing and testified about Will Geoghegan's blackmail efforts. LeMond's testimony prompted an admission and apology by Geoghegan, and led to the manager's on-the-spot firing.

The drug scandals are bad enough in baseball, where a dominant player entering the age of decline turned to chemistry, became the greatest hitter of all-time, and now stands to break the game’s most mythic record. But it’s nothing compared to cycling, where the problem is so pervasive that everyone seems to be presumed guilty even without the mountains of evidence that have proved Barry’s duplicity. Where some small part of you, no matter how much you want to believe, can’t help but wonder how a man recovers from near-fatal cancer to become an unbreakable, unbeatable champion. Where excellence alone seems to be damning evidence.

How a sport can continue on with such a crisis of credibility is beyond me. Perhaps the most honest thing to do would be to rename the Tour de France “PedalMania,” paint the riders’ faces and give them ominous-sounding names like Ascent and The Accelerator. The public is willing to accept a fantasy as long as they believe there’s some honesty behind the fa├žade.