Sunday, July 20, 2008

Nobody here but us cyclists, boss

For the third time in three years, the Tour de France was thrown into turmoil Thursday as one of its leaders failed a drug test in midrace. Riccardo Riccò, an Italian rider who has already won two stages this year, was escorted away from the start of the 12th stage by the French police. He was the third cyclist to have tested positive for the banned blood-boosting drug EPO this year. The team he rode for, Saunier Duval-Scott, immediately withdrew from the race.(...) Riccò's disqualification came on the 10th anniversary of the Festina scandal, when institutionalized doping among cycling teams came to the forefront with the arrest at the 1998 Tour of a team director with a car full of performance-enhancing drugs. IHT

"The rest of the Tour de France may offer a bizarre new form of excitement, with people watching to see who the latest is to get snared by the EPO test. (...)The self-importance with which Ricco answered critical questions over the last several days begs comparison with other riders (Lance Armstrong and Michael Rasmussen, for example), who have responded in a similarly arrogant way. … Stock in cyclist credibility has taken a steep dive in value. And an up-to-date EPO-test won't be able to help that much, either." Neue Zürcher Zeitung (courtesy Der Spiegel - english)

"No se puede esperar de los seres humanos facultades sobrenaturales." "You can't expect human beings to have supernatural powers." Fidel Castro, Julio 14 de 2008
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We have been seeing an increasing number of doping scandals in every sport where doping is relevant, which would leave out, maybe, bridge.

Right now the Tour de France, perhaps sport's most demanding event, is the center of morbid attention and even the victories, or especially the victories of recent multiple Tour winners, Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong are suspect. Suspect, because before their amazing strings of Tour wins, little had been heard from either Armstrong or Indurain, therefore cynics believe that their doping was as record breaking in its sophistication as their later deeds on the bike.

Testing science has been playing catchup.

The lesson here is that science is perfectible, creating ever harder to detect dope and simultaneously creating ever more ingenious tests for detecting said dope. What passed inspection a few years ago, won't pass this year: wait till next.

We might call this period that we live in, "the age of optimization": everything is being tweaked and fine tuned constantly.

Anyone who is reading this blog needs a computer to do it and must be conscious of how much the computer has sped up their lives: how much more productive each of us has become with this tool in our hands, and with the Internet added, multiplying that productivity by a magnitude.

However, at some point this pressure to perfection, this process of optimization, of greater and greater productivity, becomes somewhat oppressive and the feeling of fraternity (sorority?) and solidarity with the battery chicken occurs in the more empathetic among us.

We too, like the cyclists and the chickens, are being tweaked and optimized and it appears that we are as helpless in the face of it all as the chickens, if not the cyclists, are. DS

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