As a cyclist, I’m often asked why authorities will not stop investigating Lance. It’s over and done with. It’s all in the past. What’s more, if they took his Tour titles away whom would they give them to? Most of his rivals have either admitted doping or been busted. Let’s be in the moment and look forward with optimism.
This is what a lot of people say.
That’s one way of looking at it.
But then there are the David Anthony’s of the world. His story makes you think about dishonesty in sport in another way.
In what world would you ever think that a Category 3 (low-level amateur) cyclist would test positive for EPO (erythropoietin) after a touring event—no, it wasn’t even a race? The painful-to-read Velonews story chronicles the story of a man who hung way too much of his self-esteem on the cycling peg. He succumbed to the part of the brain that likes being lied to.
Anybody who has ever had a good day on a bike has felt it. It’s an amazing feeling. You turn the pedals with ease while your competitors grimace. A word comes to mind—intoxicating. I remember the day after I got a cortisone shot. I felt invincible, never tired. It was so good. You could get used to that sensation.
Only it wasn’t real, nor lasting.
Besides self-validation, do you know what Cat 3 cyclists race for on Saturday? Socks, or water bottles, or in the richest cases, 25 dollars. EPO? Human growth hormone?
I know what you are thinking: crazy cyclists. They will do anything–even cheat. They are not a representative sample. Well then…what about high school kids who inject steroids? Or smart kids who boost their smarts with ADHD meds? Or rich folks who fudge tax returns?
These stories of cheating and illusion-seeking paint a gloomy picture. Sport is supposed to be real. David Anthony fell prey to the illusions he saw on TV. He watched Tour champions spin circles, while their competitors pedaled squares. Then he tasted the sweetness of success and he wanted more.
Why is it always more? When do we have enough? When is the body thin enough, fast enough, or smart enough? When is our house big enough? Our cars fancy enough?
Which poofs yet another word into my brain–inflammation.
Let me tell you a story on the other pole from Mr. Anthony’s. She was a middle-aged AF patient who told me that she had no stress. She had enough money; she loved her husband and family; she was happy with herself and she even slept well. It must have been the look on my face, because she reiterated, “really, I am perfectly happy…I don’t want for anything.” I about fell off my chair. The computer screen flickered when I dictated this into the mic.
As a doctor who bears witness to the effects of inflammation wrought by the chasing of excess, I’ve come to be impressed with those unusual individuals who have found balance. These healthy souls stand out in the crowd. They are okay with non-EPO speed on the bike, or non-ADHD prose on their blog; or just a good salary. Maybe it’s simply the skewed view of a heart rhythm doctor, but sometimes I wonder whether the societal ebb in contentment and rise in heart problems are more than just associated in time.
Back to Mr Anthony and the illusion that is cheating.
At least this story ends on an optimistic note. Mr. Anthony wisely chose the low inflammation out. He told the truth and accepted responsibility for his action. He simply could not live with the chronic inflammation. The acute pain was more tolerable than living with the lie.
Mr. Anthony told his story in the hope that it might help others. He wants us to learn–from the greatest tool that we have: our mistakes.
Good on him.