Sunday, June 9, 2013

You Cannot Prove a Negative: Why Cycling (and Other Sports) Will Never Be Dope-free

Team Sky cyclist Chris Froome claims (here) that his results, including his general classification victory in the Dauhpine today, "prove" that professional cycling has changed since the days of Lance Armstrong's US Postal Service Team (all those many years ago?). I guess we'll just have to take his word for it. Just like we accepted claims that cycling changed completely after the Team Festina affair in 1998 (see here and here).

Perhaps I'm overly skeptical, but doping will never leave cycling or every other major sport until the money and glory go away. In fact, the fewer the number of dopers the more incentive there is for a few cyclists (or athletes in any other sport) to take dope to gain an edge, so long as the marginal value of that edge exceeds the probability of detection multiplied by the magnitude of the punishment. And if a few successfully dope, then others will come under greater pressure to follow suit. That's why I would expect doping to cycle (no pun intended) in waves. We may be at low ebb right now in cycling (though reason exists to doubt that), but the tide always comes back in.

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