Froome & Drugs – Where to draw the line?

This is a controversial topic and one which I am sure will produce a range of opinions. Following last year’s revelations relating to Lance Armstrong, I've seen many bloggers and tweeters who do not want to believe in Froome only to have their hopes and beliefs in the sport dashed once again.

The flip side is that to truly enjoy and get behind riders many people want to believe in them; believe they are who they say they are and nothing else and most importantly they want to believe the riders are not cheating.

You could even see it as a form of a gamble. Is it worth the risk of believing in riders only to see it all eventually be revealed as illusion, all masterly covered up by an intricate tapestry of lies.

And of course there are those who can remain cynical and not believing and at the same time follow the sport with the same avid interest as any of the so called "believers".

I have seen some good points raised on the issue, Simon Barnes wrote an interesting piece on this in the Times recently, and for me there are a couple of things to consider:

First of all there is a point that in the current state of cycling there can be no winners if you have your cynical lens on; you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. I know that was very much how it was in the Armstrong era, but that does not alter the fact that you are either a loser or a cheat. It just seems like such a shame for riders to be stuck in such a predicament.

Barnes put very nicely that all sport is at last partly about the search for the outlier, the truly exceptional performer. Of course we watch the dull or lowly moment, follow the Tour Down Under and all that and you will know what I am talking about, but ultimately for many of us our peak memories are about those outliers. Remembering those remarkable performances which will define the sport for years to come.

These outliers take the sport so much farther than anybody else, Barnes quotes the Japanese Poet Matsuo Basho, who said "With a bit of madness in me. Which is poetry." When it comes to those outliers in sport there is often an unreachable quality about them, they show just how far sport can be taken, just that bit further than our imagination would have us believe. Sport is a case of the boundaries always getting pushed and that is what is so brilliant about it, those outliers who stand out and deliver performances which we could never have expected.

What would tennis be like without Roger Federer? Football without Lionel Messi? If you remove the outliers sport immediately loses a bit of what makes it extraordinary. It would be fun, but would be lacking that "bit of madness and poetry”.

So of course there are some outliers; Lance Armstrong for example and many others who are doping, but personally I am want to get rid of that aspect of the sport. To me, as Barnes put it, if you can no longer accept the possibility that certain sports can produce genuinely exceptional people a lot of the point goes out of the sport.

Likewise, as David Walsh recently wrote, “A terrific tour de France has delivered a great new champion in Chris Froome. Jeering crowds have accused him of doping. The same mob once idolised Lance Armstrong. They were wrong about him. And they are wrong about Froome.”

Only time will tell whether Froome’s yellow jersey ‘will stand the test of time’ but until some evidence appears, cycling fans will have to believe in ‘innocent until proven guilty’.  And if you think that a rise from unknown before the 2011 Vuelta to standing on the top of the rostrum a few days ago in Paris is enough of an indication that Froome is doping, maybe you should have a look at this:

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