A case of ‘roid rage on Government Trail
I was riding my mountain bike home on Government Trail the other evening. I’ve ridden that trail about a million times so I have no explanation for what happened. I guess I was all wrapped up in the hype about Le Tour de France, pretending to be one of the racers, going for a breakaway with my head down, and I took a wrong turn.I ended up in what looked like a small European village with a whole lot of commotion going on. Funny-looking American flags flew everywhere. I noticed a group of other Lycra-clad riders standing around talking with what looked like reporters holding tiny microphones and electronic notepads.I nudged a guy standing next to me. “What’s going on here?””You muzt be keeding,” he says. “Zis is ze eighteeenth ztage of ze 2027 Tour de Fronce. Loook over zere! Eeet iz Vance Legstrong of ze powerful Paraguay Postal team. He iz trying to vin heez zeventh tour zis year.”I look over and see the man in the yellow jersey finishing up his postrace interviews. To my amazement he walks toward me and pulls up a chair at a street-side café table right in front of me. He looks at me straddling my brand-new Turner F Spot.”Where’d you get that thing?” he asks. “It looks like mint condition. I love antique bikes.” It’s a nice icebreaker, and he motions for me to take a seat with him. A team trainer joins us, and Vance straightens out his arm on the table while he sips a bottle of Antarctica Springs bottled water. The trainer opens up a medical bag full of vials and syringes. He pulls out a tourniquet and wraps it around Vance’s bicep. He draws some liquid into a syringe and sticks the needle into the bulging vein in Vance’s forearm.I cringe a little and forget my manners. “What the heck is that?””Calm down man,” he says. “It’s just a THG injection. I know it’s a little old-fashioned, but it works as well as any of the new synthetic steroids they’ve developed.””STEROIDS!” I exclaim. “Are you nuts? You’re on the verge of winning your seventh Tour and you’re risking steroids?” I look quickly all around in a near panic.”Well, sure,” Vance says. “Like anyone could ride this beast of a race without drugs, much less win it?””But aren’t you afraid of getting caught?” I ask.”Don’t be ridiculous,” he says. “These are prescribed by a doctor. They’re totally legal. I hope you’re not implying that I got them from some spam operator on the Internet?”I’m totally bummed out at this. “So, they haven’t figured out how to get rid of spam yet?” I mutter to myself.The trainer sticks another syringe in Vance’s arm. Vance looks at me as if reading my mind. “HGH,” he says. “You’re taking Human Growth Hormone too?” I ask.”Who isn’t?” he replies. “Are you telling me this stuff is all totally legal now?””Where have you been?” he says. “It’s been legal for the past 20 years. Remember your history. Does BALCO ring a bell? It was back in 2004 when a grand jury investigated steroid distribution by an outfit called BALCO. Well, that investigation implicated one athlete after another until it became apparent that there weren’t many top athletes not taking performance-enhancing drugs.”The major sports governing bodies were forced to admit that drug testing was ineffective and likely always would be. Besides, none of them really had an interest in busting a ‘Barry Bonds’ or ‘Lance Armstrong.’ The sports that were generating big money would have been ruined if they did. But, on the other hand, fans were becoming disillusioned with all of the lying and cheating in athletics. Organizers were in a jam. It was all about economics. The only solution was to legalize the drugs with the condition that all athletes be monitored by a doctor.”The trainer reappeared and stuck another needle in Vance’s other arm. This time the trainer looked at me. “EPO,” he said.”What about the kids who look up to you? What does the legalized use of these powerful drugs say to the children? How has it affected their health?” I ask.”It’s actually really helped,” Vance tells me. “We are honest about the use of these drugs now. That alone is a good example if nothing else. “Also, we constantly preach the dangers of using them. The information is better and kids know more. We tell them about the hazards of liver damage, tumor growth, body acne and gonad shrinkage that we are exposed to every day. We tell them about bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts the chemicals provoke in us. The public can see that the risks are real and they can assess them better for themselves. “Chances are now, if kids are still interested in using performance-enhancing drugs, they are talking with their doctors, coaches, trainers, parents and each other about it. The black markets for these substances have been greatly diminished.” “Very interesting,” I replied. “But, are athletes today just going nuts with this stuff? Are world records falling like riders on cobblestone streets? How are things different from, say, 2004 in the peloton?” Vance chuckles slyly. “Nothing’s different there.””What about other illegal drugs though? Should heroin be legalized because rock stars are taking it?””I don’t think so. That group never lied about or tried to hide their drug use. The dangers, damage and health risks from using those kinds of drugs are well-known, documented and discussed.” At that moment I spot a familiar site across the square – the head of the Aerobic Nightmare trail. Not wanting to miss my opportunity to pedal backward to my own time again, I get up and quickly excuse myself.”Just one last question, Vance. If you are a Paraguayan rider, why all of the American flags hanging around?””That’s the host country’s flag.””You mean…””Yep, after Luxemburg threatened them, France begged to become the fifty-first state.”I had lots to ponder the rest of the way home.Roger Marolt wonders why professional athletes don’t harshly deride competitors who are caught using drugs. Test your theory at firstname.lastname@example.org
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