Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Cheater pants! Make that cheater bicycle pants.

Somehow, I suspect that since the first die was cast, cheating - big cheating, little cheating - has plagued sports. Let's face it. People want to win. And a lot of them will do anything to get a check mark in the W column.

Thus, we see corked bats and hair goop on baseballs. Deflated footballs and - thank you Aaron Rodgers - inflated footballs. Point shaving scandals, and hockey players hooking the other guys skates with their sticks. And, of course, junk that athletes put in their bodies to make them run faster, see clearer, jump higher, pedal faster...

Cheating is, of course, on a long continuum.

On one end, there's poor sportsmanship - like encouraging your fans to make a ruckus behind the net when someone on the opposing team's at the foul line.

Then there's small-c cheating as in breaking a rule, which may or may not cost you a penalty, and which may or may not even be considered cheating. The rule of thumb: if someone on the other team does it, it's cheating. If someone on your team does it, well, it's all in the game, and they came to play.

And then there's BIG-C Cheating, like throwing a game, taking a dive, bribing a judge.

We may just be hearing so much more about cheating these days because there's 24/7 demand for news. So 50 years ago, something might have been mentioned in a small half column, buried in the back pages of the sports section. Local edition only. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Back in the day, it would take something of the magnitude of the Chicago Black Sox or the college basketball point shaving scandals of the 1950's to make it onto the front page, screaming headlines, national coverage.

And we may also be hearing so much more about cheating these days because there is, in fact, more of it. And there may be more of it because the stakes are so high. There's an awful lot of $$$ on the line these days. Even in sports like professional cycling.

If it weren't for the Tour de France and/or the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong, I would hazard a guess that most Americans wouldn't even been aware that you could make a living as a bicyclist.

But, indeed, you can.

Thus, you hear the grumblings that, while Lance Armstrong may have been caught, there are plenty of others in the sport who try to get the racer's edge via doping.

But to me, the tawdriness of the doping scandals ain't nothing when compared to the latest tour de farce: motors hidden in bicycles  to give the riders an extra little oopmh.

The person who stands - or sits - accused is Femke Van den Driessche, a 19-year old Belgian women who was found to have a motorized bike among the multiple bikes she had with her.

She claims that she never rode it, it wasn't hers, it belongs to a friend, all blue bicycles look alike. Which may all be true, but I would guess that her future in professional cycling is not quite as shiny as it was a couple of weeks ago. You've come al ong way, baby. (Not!)

A motor in your bicycle? Wouldn't that make it a motorcycle? And don't they have a professional racing body of their own?

I don't know why having motor in your bicycle seems more heinous than other forms of cheating. Worse than bat-corking. Worse than PEDs. But it just does. 

I mean, isn't the entire point of bicycle racing about body as engine? Yes, I know that there's science and strategy and teams and pelotons and increasingly fancy-arsed equipment. But, but, but...isn't it kinda-sorta be "pure" sport. Like track. And decathalon. And stuff like that.

Shocked, I'm shocked that there's cheating going on here? Well, no I'm not. 

But there is something particularly nasty about putting a motor in your bike and pretending that pedal power is getting you where you want to go.

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