If you aren’t following the Tour de France you’re not alone. Without Lance and those yellow bracelets there’s little interest (even though an American sits in third place). So instead of following what is quite possibly the most difficult athletic endeavor known to man, Americans are instead fixated on baseball, on Barry Bonds, in his quest to do what only one man has ever done.
Both feats are mired in controversy, and by controversy I mean doping shitstorms. In two years, the Tour went from having an American seven-time, cancer-surviving, positive-drug-test free champion in Lance Armstrong to last year having “winner” Floyd Landis still disputed by his positive tests for elevated testosterone (the results of which he’s opened up to a wiki-jury to vindicate himself), to this year’s catastrophe.
Only four days from the finish of the three-week, 2,500 mile race, and just after the deciding day in the Pyrenees, race leader, Dane Michael Rasmussen, was booted today for mysteriously disappearing during testing days this spring. And earlier this week another favorite failed a drug test, which revealed he had had a blood transfusion before a stage he ended up winning.
And then there’s Barry. A man who has hit 753 home runs—an astounding number. Three more and he’ll eclipse Hank Aaron’s record. Of course, Bonds has hit many of those while on performance-enhancing drugs, drugs that we are now seeing to be so prevalent that the pitchers he is facing may be as juiced up as he is.
Sports are awash with doping scandals. It ain’t good for kids to watch Rasmussen sail up a grueling, 10-mile mountain road in the morning and find out he’s a champion because of drugs in the afternoon. But let’s be honest, drugs are a technological advance that feeds into the frenzy that is not only sports, but our entire culture.
Tiger Woods has laser eye surgery to improve his game. Actors have plastic surgery to extend their lucrative careers. We invent Teflon to keep our food from sticking to cookware. Cars that go faster, or that use less gas, do so because of science, the same science used to dope athletes.
We like advances that make life easier, better, more exciting. And we want to see winners, bikers chugging up mountains, men hitting baseballs unfathomable distances. After all, it distracts us from what we are losing, soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, hearts and minds everywhere. Win at all costs, isn’t that the American Way?