Monday, October 29, 2012

Forgiveness and Hero-worship

It's been a while since I actively updated my blog, but it hasn't been because I haven't been doing anything.  It's been a busy summer for me, and the Hincapie Gran Fondo marked the end of my active cycling time, and the start of my training for the 2013 challenges I've set before myself.  I'm hoping to get more good miles in between now and the end of the year, but we'll have to see how the weather cooperates.

The Gran Fondo was a blast, but the bigger news this month has to swirl around the controversy of drugs in Pro Cycling.  At this point there is stated evidence that 20 out of 21 podium winners of the Tour de Fance from 1999 until 2005 were doping.  This number is staggering, and tells me that it's not just "Lance made me do it" or that the "USPS team were the only ones cheating".  It means it was a culture of evil that put the wins ahead of the riders safety for the benefit of the teams (and thus the sponsors).

For those that are not heavily into cycling, there have been 2 common ways that cyclists (and most endurance atheletes for that matter) can "cheat".  The first is to use blood transfusions of their own blood to replenish their red blood cell supply and recover faster.  For stage races where you are riding for 100+ miles a day for 3 weeks, this is a huge advantage.  The problem is that this is expensive to do, requires a lot of medical equipment and a lot more people involved.  It becomes a "scheme" or a "plot" not just "cheating".

The second commonly used tactic is to take Erythropoietin, or EPO.  This naturally occurring hormone in the human body increases your red blood cell count.  It's been synthesized since 1983 to be used by doctors to help heal patients.  More red blood cells means more Oxygen for your muscles, thus you can ride longer and harder.  The danger is that it also means a higher chance of developing blood clots.

The crux of this post wasn't for me to give a history lesson in doping in cycling, or to give a medical dissertation on EPO.  Both of those are easily found on the Interwebs by people much more suited to be experts in their fields of study (or their own minds).  The main point I'm getting to is about forgiveness, and how as fans of the sport as well as followers of Christ what we are called to do.  Again, for an actual bible study on forgiveness I'd defer to someone better trained than myself, but I wanted to state my feelings on the matter.

Several folks I have talked to have stated how much they dislike the cyclists who testified against Lance, either because their careers were a lie (because of cheating) or because they "turned on Lance".  For me personally, I've forgiven them in my heart for having to go through an extremely dark part of their life and having to relive it again years later in the public spotlight.  These are not "super human beings" that are supposed to be better than us.  They are people chasing a dream to ride with the best in the world and take on challenges that I cannot even fathom.  They spend more hours a week on a saddle (or as some folks like to say an ancient torture device) than I do in my comfy desk chair each week.  Just to earn a paycheck they have to keep healthy, injury and sickness free, and produce on a bicycle.  It's a level of stress that I cannot even start to imagine.  I ride to escape and enjoy God's splendor.  It calms my mind.

Some of these folks had a choice of walking away and being "disgraced", or facing what was happening int he sport.  They have been brave enough to come out, even if it took a major investigation.  When we are faced with our own demons, we tend to lie and avoid them.  This isn't something we have to be taught to do, as any parent of a toddler rightly knows.  These gentlemen, who had never been officially caught using drugs, had to summon up the courage to admit to what they were doing, and tell a federal Anti-Doping Agency what they had done.  There was, and is, a good chance that their careers could be over.  I still feel that Lance is stuck in a place where he cannot face those demons because of the web that has been spun around him.  The USADA gave anmesty to the folks that testified, giving them what amounts to slaps on the wrist for what they did.  To my knowledge, being an armchair investigator, Lance has no amnesty from the US Justice Department and the potential Perjury charges that he could be facing if he came clean.  When facing physical jailtime versus holding the line hoping it'll just go away, I can understand why he is still holding the line.  I think it's a natural human defense.

That said, Fat Cyclist probably summed it up well in his blog in regards to the Levi effect.  I will take it a bit further and say that for the folks staying in cycling, and trying to make things better, even after having to admit to doping, they come away as stronger individuals.  I don't need for them to personally apologize to anyone but to God, nor do any penance for what they've done.  It is obviously a very black part of the history of cycling, where the technology of cycling outstripped our ability to handle morality.  They were chasing a dream, and made a wrong turn.  They don't need our scorn and rejection, for more than likely they have been and will be facing their own inner demons for years to come.  They need our support and love, like any recovering individual.   Hopefully they have come to remember the joy of cycling without the drugs, and can continue to chase their dreams.

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