Every day, sports provides an "Aha!" moment that really isn't. Randy Moss going back to the Minnesota Vikings is one of those. You think this changes the Vikings because it gives Brett Favre closure and because great players never grow old.
|Aha! Lance Armstrong did the impossible seven times. (AP)|
"People know in cycling that's it's not possible to win the Tour de France without [doping]," Kohl said at an anti-doping symposium in Virginia. "It's three weeks, 3,000 km and you climb [the equivalent of] Mount Everest four times. That's just not possible [at current speeds]."
This means Lance Armstrong has done the impossible seven times, and somewhere his lawyers twitch, waiting for the next "aha!" moment to drop.
But not from Kohl, who got caught on the wrong of Needle Park in 2008. This would be the part where Armstrong's defenders would be declaring, "Jealousy!" if Kohn had mentioned Armstrong's name, which he hadn't. He did say Alberto Contador's name, though, the latest in a long line of TDF winners to be found with smoking blood.
"Floyd Landis won the Tour de France and his average speed was 40 kph," he said. "This year it was Contador and it was also about 40. It was nearly the same average speed. Landis was doped."
If this sounds like conclusion-jumping, it is. But it is conclusion-jumping based on crushing evidence, such that Kohl, who is eligible to return to riding after a two-year suspension, said he decided to retire because competing in the sport without doping is essentially a waste of time.
And not only that, he wouldn't be asked back anyway.
"I can never come back," Kohl told Perez. "It's not possible if you say the truth."
Now that's aha!
There is no sport in which a whistle-blower who isn't wearing an official's uniform is welcomed back, not as an active athlete. Mark McGwire is so much an exception because Tony La Russa prizes personal loyalty to such an extraordinary (or outlandish, if you prefer) extent.
And that alone is one of the reasons why the culture of rule-bending is strong as ever. Whether it's buying players and doing business with agents (college football and basketball), salary-cap skullduggery (any sport with a salary cap), illegal drug use (any sport with humans), bribery, game-fixing, even swapping teams to make a surreptitious buck (our soccer-playing friends in Togo) -- it all pays too well, and it is accepted so happily that the ones who get shamed are the ones who admit their sins.
Those who deny all in the face of overwhelming evidence and simple laws of physics always manage to survive, because they know (a) that the only thing most people want is for their heroes to cheat well enough to beat someone else's hero/cheaters, and (b) that accusers who don't have the money and motivation to pursue someone for years usually give up out of exhaustion.
And that's why Kohn's aha! moment, while valuable, will fade like all the others. He speaks an obvious truth -- the Tour de France cannot be performed at these speeds in these conditions without significant and persistent doping -- and the Tour will be run again next year as though it were as pure as the Rose Parade.
Ultimately, cycling becomes nothing more than a guilty pleasure, like figure skating or boxing or MMA or college athletics or football or baseball or ... well, you get the deal. If one of those is your favorite, you follow it knowing it has a seamy, dangerous and perhaps even out-and-out illegal side to it, and you have decided that it doesn't matter. It doesn't make you evil; it makes you a fan.
But this is the aha! moment for the rest of us. The realization that you accept the rule that there are no rules that someone isn't trying to break. When someone complains about the size of the NCAA rulebook, the answer is that it wouldn't be that thick if someone hadn't figured out a way to surreptitiously shred the previous edition.
And for cycling, it is that its signature event cannot be performed without sneering at the rules that the event is only now trying to defend.
One more self-evident truth polished up and ready for ignoring. Points to Bernard Kohn, no question, but he should be aware that for most of the people he spent most of his adult life with, being right is being wrong.
Aha. No exclamation point.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area