It's July. Must be time for doping scandals at the Tour de France. This week has been especially devastating to cycling fans the world over - at least the ones that aren't already so jaded and cynical that they've written the sport off. I decided long ago that I wouldn't get into doping discussions on this blog since there are many, many others that do a much better job of that than I ever could. As luck would have it, I got into racing just last year - on the eve of Operacion Puerto. I watched my first-ever Tour de France last year as well. And found a new hero in Floyd Landis.
So let's not go there.
Suffice it to say that I'm definitely in the anti-doping crowd. That's an easy place to be. Problem for me is - how do you know who's doping? I must admit I don't have much faith in the current system of testing. And as an attorney, the process for adjudicating these things really disturbs me.
Like I said - I don't really want to discuss or debate it. But no matter what your position or beliefs, I think we can all agree there's one question that we ALL ask - why would any cyclist even THINK of doping, knowing the risks involved and the liklihood of getting caught?
The Tour paints a very vivid and plausible picture of how a pure and previously uncorruptible racer named Ben Barnes can consider the unthinkable. We all - at least those of us that race - think we know what we'd do when confronted with an invitation to take performance enhancing drugs for an event. Shields does a remarkable job of showing just how difficult an anti-doping stand can be to maintain in the midst of intense pressure - from within, as well as outside, the peloton. He conveys the nuances of the tough decisions many racers - especially pros - must make every day. And how easily good intentions can be twisted and manipulated. The strongest part of the book was that it really made me put myself in Barnes' shoes and face the same decisions. Would I have made the same choices he did?
The Tour is the sequel to Shields' first book The Race, but you don't have to have read The Race - The Tour stands on its own. And it's particularly timely - almost prescient. It was published in April, 2006 - long before this week's scandals. Even before Operacion Puerto. But it reads like it could have come from this morning's VeloNews website.
So if you're wondering what the %$^& Vino, Rasmussen and the others were thinking (if they actually did the deed), read this book. It will give you a small taste of what may be on the minds many racers in the Tour.