Drugs are bad, mkay: why I still care about dope in cycling

In Paul Fournel’s wonderful essay on doping in Need for the Bike (Trans. A. Stoeckl, 2003: 123-125) he notes that it is doping that often makes racing hard, rather than the opposite, and that the effect of doping on onlookers can be more potent than its effect on competitors. Fournel is pretty agnostic on a personal level: for him, doping is too embedded in the sport to ever go away.

Whilst I agree with some of Fournel’s analysis, my own views have evolved in a rather different direction. I have written on this blog about the psychology of anti-doping, about the boundaries between forbidden performance enhancement and what is acceptable (in relation to music), and about our perceptions of doping and their relationship with notions of truth. It has become clear to me that doping matters to me in a way it does not to Fournel, and in this essay I will try to explain why. Continue reading

Who will profit from the Tour of Beijing: what does the I Ching say?

Many learned minds have been debating the implications for professional cycling of the of the forthcoming Tour of Beijing. David Millar (@millarmind) suggested on twitter that some of the discussion was lacking Asian context:

@TheRaceRadio @Vaughters This discussion is very western.

Some discussion with @accidentobizaro led us to attempt to divine who will profit using the ancient Chinese oracle, the I Ching, and hence redress this ethnocentrism.  I stroke my long white beard of wisdom… Continue reading

Bicycle racing, doping and crucifixion: Alfred Jarry revisited

The Passion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race

When Alfred Jarry wrote his interpretation of Jesus’ crucifixion it must have seemed a neat metaphor: the self-imposed yet stage-managed torture of the hill-climb is an apposite image to evoke self-sacrifice. Jarry also accentuates the technical and media-saturated aspect of this crucifixion: the crown of thorns becomes an advert for a puncture proof tire.

Of course, what with Lady Gaga, Madonna and Lloyd-Webber, the representation and artistic co-option of religious themes has become so commonplace as to evoke ennui; although of course some can still get overheated by a Piss Christ or Jerry Springer the Opera. As the juggernaut reaches ever closer to Armstrong and his cohorts and facilitators we seem to desire a quasi-religious cleansing (or stoning). Jarry’s essay serves to remind us that we should recognise the absurdity of such reactions, their atavism. Cheats and dopers deserve to be punished. But we deserve the same (oh, yes) if we don’t recognise our own complicity in this spectacle of the absurd.

For an antidote visit the wonderful world of Rainer Ganahl, such as this gem of mountain performance (with cowbells): The Passion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race or I wanna be Alfred Jarry, 1903 / 2011 or if you don’t have 16 minutes, ALFRED JARRY’S CALL OF NATURE.