We in this squalid little corner of the Internet choose not to condemn Floyd Landis, or the millions of people who feel like complete and utter Charlies for falling in love with his improbable triumph.
|Think Floyd Landis used? You wouldn't have to guess if everyone else did. (AP)|
But unlike you breast-beaters and heartbroken romantics and Thursday morning bike-seat quarterbacks, we have a solution. It is one we have suggested for years without getting much traction from the sporting powers that be, but one that must now be revisited if we are to regain any measure of trust for what we see, read or hear.
Mandatory drugs for the athletes.
Not mandatory drug testing. Mandatory drugs. Steroids, blood doping, EPO, HGH, all of Hell’s Alpha Bits. If someone makes it, a professional athlete has to take it, with a doctor’s supervision, with a league official standing nearby to make sure that the payload has been properly delivered. Keister or thigh, arm or eye, we don’t care. We can’t know that our athletes are clean, so we may as well know that they aren’t.
The last time we suggested this, the reaction was sure and immediate. "Very funny, you cynical little twerp. Har har har-de-har har. Now write something about Tiger Woods and stop trying to dazzle us with your faux-brilliance there, Chins Aplenty."
But we were right then, and we are even more right now. Bicycling has now been reduced to pro wrestling with prettier tights. Baseball is a festival of suspicion, to the point where Hall of Fame voters who used to rely on statistics are now literally pulling off their own heads. Football is better at hiding the goods, but worse at making people think the goods don’t exist.
In short, we buy nothing any more. Only the militantly naïve still want to believe, and the reason they want to believe is because, well, they just want to, OK?
Well, this is the only way to get that trust back. No more of that "You think he might be dosing?" without the quick retort, "Of course he is. He has to. It’s in the collective bargaining agreement. In fact, I saw it on TV the other day."
Our original supposition was that we could use the guinea p ... er, athletes as test groups to see what works, what doesn’t, and what scares the hell out of the doctors. We thought it might be helpful if a shortstop exploded right there in the middle of an inning and showered the crowd with torn bits of uniform and flesh.
We no longer believe that, however. We have abandoned any hope of making this work for science. We just don’t want to wonder any more. If we can’t know that what we’re seeing is genuine, we should be able to know that what we’re seeing is. .. well, unambiguous.
Trust, you see, isn’t as important as the complete absence of trust, and while the Tour de France is now ruined, people still want to believe that some things are still as they see them. Well, they don’t get to have that any more because of Floyd Landis. Hell, if you can’t trust a guy named Floyd ...
So let’s work this from the other angle. You want competitive certainty, this is the only way to get it. Turn the whole thing into Needle Park. Romance is fine and all, but how many hearts and dreams must we see broken before we finally deduce that sports isn’t where to look for that any more?
The answer to that last question is zero. It’s time to face facts, kids, and the fact here is that you will never know who’s clean and who isn’t. So you may as well get cost certainty on the flipside.
Now if you’re a player, you might not want to be chased out of your sport by a needle. And well, that will suck for you. But you can thank your glow-in-the-dark compatriots for this one. As little regard as you might have for the fans, they still determine how much TV time you get, even in this indiscriminate viewing climate. In other words, they are the beast which must always be fed, and they want a better diet than this glop.
So let the needles be uncapped. Let the cream flow, and the clear be detected and stamped “Approved.” Break down the latex wall. At these prices, it’s the least they could do.
And God knows how doing the least appeals to them.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.