What’s Wrong With Cyclists Taking Drugs?
What’s wrong with cyclists taking drugs?
I don’t do either – cycling or drugs that is – and for a pretty similar reason. Balance: lack of.
Cycling is simply out of the question as any speed at which I can feel the wind in my hair (you may laugh but I have very sensitive follicles) causes me to faint in sheer terror. Obviously, losing consciousness whilst in charge of a moving vehicle is perilous, especially a vehicle with no independent means of maintaining an upright stance, and since stabilisers are considered unbecoming in a man of my age and social standing, I am best giving cycling a miss.
Same goes for drugs. Reality is upsetting enough without having to deal with any chemical interference with my cognitive stability. I prefer to retain my mental balance. Call me boring but I’m quite happy with the meagre mind and muscles nature gave me.
Still, I have no ethical objections to other people indulging in either pastime. Separately, or even, if they so choose, at the same time. (Yes, I am aware of the legal issues; this is simply a thought experiment, a little philosophical tease, and not intended in any way as practical encouragement or endorsement.)
Whenever I talk to cycling enthusiasts they say they want their sport to be “clean”. They argue that “performance enhancing” products are cheating. I’m not convinced. Or maybe I just don’t understand, which is a distinct possibility.
Let’s take an area of culture that I understand a little better, say popular music and literature. Imagine arguing for the eradication of performance enhancing drugs here. Imagine Bob Marley without his herb; what the heck would “clean Reggae” be like? Or 80’s rave music without the influence of MDMA or the sixties sans hallucinogens … would you really think that would have been an improvement? I’m having doubts.
As for literature, the only readable poems I know were written under the influence of of some intoxicant or other. Half the stuff they made you recite in school assembly was written by hopeless junkies. Wordsworth, wandering lonely as a cloud? Yeah, on his way to meet his dealer. Novels, short stories, essays? All my heroes were regularly off their tits. One of my favourite books ever, Confessions of an English Opium Eater – a magnificently written, massively influential, gloriously individual story – was written by a guy (Thomas de Quincey) who could have snorted the Hacienda bare and still been able to medicine Liam Gallagher under the table. Then there’s Poe and Burroughs and Thompson and … well, most of them who put pen to paper really. Are we saying that we’d really they hadn’t? Their books would have been a hell of a lot more tedious if they’d been clean.
So, why if we can tolerate the idea that drugs aren’t always bad in culture, then why not in cycling? Why are drugs necessarily dirty?
Performance enhancing? Yes, just like that bike frame you pay several thousands of pounds for, the lycra onesie, and the funny hat … if we were serious about the performance enhancing argument we’d put all professional cyclists on the same bike and limit it to three gears – four or more is just showing off, surely? Oh, and we’d make ‘em all eat the same stuff. Wouldn’t want special diets giving someone an advantage now, would we?
Surely, in the end it’s not about the substances, it’s about the individual talent. Spike me with the contents of Lance Armstrong’s and I’m unlikely to go zipping up Beeston Hill in thirty seconds flat; most likely I’d be curled in a foetal position, dribbling out of the corner of my mouth and rambling incoherently about the space bugs speaking to me out of the telly. Similarly, I could smoke a heap of ganja and still not make it as a Wailer.
What do people think? Is there an ethical principle (as opposed to legal sanction) why drugs are wrong in a sport such as cycling?