CW: An inflamed day for cycling

You have watched the videos.

Heard the testimonials.

Read the books. Floyd’s was a little sketchy, but the frankness and details of Tyler’s connected the dots.

You re-watched the videos. How could he ride those guys off his wheel so easily?

You still aren’t convinced. You want to believe, which of course is a normal human instinct.

Something clicks in your brain and you recall that speech Lance gave on the podium in Paris after one of his seven Tour wins. It was something along the lines of shame on you non-believers.

You search around for more data. The PhD types speak of impossible average watt outputs and vertical ascent rates.

The damn videos are so incriminating. While you watch Lance demolish the world’s best climbers, you hear Phil and Paul speculate that the cancer made him stronger and lighter. That’s pretty amazing. They’ve obviously not been on too many oncology units.

Today’s news shredded the remaining 0.01% chance that Lance and the US Postal Service cycling team were not guilty of doping. The chance of his innocence in my mind is now zero.

But yet the vehement denials continue. Check out this sentence for descriptive details:

[Armstrong] attorney, Tim Herman, called the report “a one-sided hatchet job — a taxpayer funded tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat-induced stories.”

What angle am I taking on this matter?

It’s not that systematic doping has dogged professional cycling for years. I knew this all along. All bike racers knew. It’s because we know normal.

It’s not that professional cyclists are human and flawed. I like my athletes to be human. It’s more interesting this way.

And it’s not that other sports, like baseball and football, are equally (or more) infiltrated with performance enhancing chemicals.

My angle here? The common denominator of a heart disease blog:

Inflammation.

Lance’s approach to this debacle exudes excess inflammation. The truth here would be like a salve. It would burn a little once applied, but then it would sooth the festering irritation.

I hate to witness inflammation. For a heart rhythm doctor, it’s akin to watching patients succumb to a preventable disease. ‘Come on,’ you think to yourself.

I see it everyday in the office. Constant worry, anxiety, pessimism and vitriol wreak havoc on the human heart.

Cycling is going to be okay. It’s a resilient and beautiful sport that will surely survive this scandal. Plus, we’ve already seen evidence that riders are cleaner. My friends and I enjoy the sport more than ever.

It’s the inflammation inherent in the scandal that’s so hard to watch. My heart aches for these guys. I really do try to look away.

For the truth-tellers, the sting will soon subside. For the deniers, the inflammation continues.

That’s hard to watch. It almost causes my heart to palpitate.

JMM

6 comments

  1. The other very interesting take on this story is the issue of denial. Not just the sputtering denial of Armstrong et al, but the abject unwillingness of so many fans to believe the truth about their hero despite the growing body of clear evidence. (Kind of like the concept of “unwarranted certainty” that Jerome Groopman discusses in his book, “How Doctors Think”).

    One wonders how much more damning evidence his supporters (and Armstrong himself) need to hear before applying that soothing balm of truth?

  2. Great post Dr John. I’m with you. I hate to see it, it turns my stomach. Lance Armstrong is the reason I got into cycling. He’s the reason I developed this passion for the bike and inspired me to ride for charity to fight cancer and all sorts of other causes. But I know he cheated. I know the others did too but, as you said “it’s the inflammation”, …and I hate it.

  3. This guy received a quantity of chemo that would leave many people with their hearts or lungs too ruined to live normal lives, much less compete in international athletics. You would think it probably had some effect on his performance. I have always halfway felt that if he did use steroids to compensate, you can’t blame him. Is that wrong?

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