01 January 2011

Appendix: Appendicitis

An appendix to parts one and two.

"But Fredo", you splutter with a mixture of disbelief, indignation and possibly the onset of a nasty virus of some sort (you really should get that checked out), "you mention in part one the various druggy shenanigans that have been a part of Tour lore over the years, and then go on to describe in gratuitously loving detail the contest between Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck in the 2010 edition, in particular stages 14 and 17. Yet I’ve read through the whole thing (even the second part which … well, the less said and all that) and you neglect to bring up Contador’s positive dope test, which not only occurred during the Tour (though it was only made public afterwards), but occurred in between the two stages you blah on about. What gives? And where can I get a refund on my subscription?”

Hilarious, bud. But in response to your first question: doping isn’t what the post was about, but you make a good point. I wish I could say that it’s a story for another day, but it’s a story for every day, of course, and not just in cycling. My ambivalence on doping was clear enough, I hope (although “clear” is not really the apt word, is it?). I went into this ambivalence in greater detail way back in 2009; it’s there in a different form in this post written a few months later. My view on the matter has, if anything, become slightly more complicated since. By Contador’s positive, I feel let down, but not surprised; I feel disappointed, but in the full knowledge that I had full knowledge of what I was getting into. And still, after everything (it should be mentioned that the Contador case is still sub judice), my memory of the summer’s events remains a happy one. But how many more such episodes will it take to convince me (me, me) to call it quits?

Here’s something Matt Rendell wrote towards the end of his Tour history Blazing Saddles:
... much of the problem (perhaps most of it) lies with us, the sporting public. We enjoy our sport because dynamic movement induces a physiological and emotional response in us: it thrills us. If the dynamism is supercharged by effective doping products, the chemistry of emotional contagion produces even greater euphoria. The athlete is doped, we are doped at one remove — and it feels fantastic! Like any other drug-induced thrill, we don’t want to kick it — we want another fix ...

In this sense, doping is great news for the viewing public: the movement is more vigorous and dynamic, there are fewer dead moments when athletes are recovering. And what’s good for the spectacle is presumably good for viewing figures. which means sponsorship, funding and the whole sporting machine working like a dream.
Rendell concludes with something that is applicable to all sport:
The Tour may be a story that can’t be told, but it’s a great story and a deeply human one. So it will remain, as long as it exists.


Anonymous,  1/1/11 5:57 PM  

"As long as it exists" - Yes, time is the great bugbear in art and sport, completely misunderstood as to its 'role' and importance.

I, too, shall quote myself:

Aesthetic experience will always remain as long as we are recognisably human, – and will be manifested no doubt in an ever-increasing number of ways – but Art has to admit what was always true, that these values have never belonged exclusively to Art. ‘Art’ as aesthetics is a quality that can be experienced in countless ways – sport, for just one example. It is life; it cannot be identified with any institution. Taking this point at the other extreme, Warhol’s Lex Luthor-like blending of art with business was later, paradoxically, the proof of this. Art has no dignity to lose, being simply “une abstraction écrémée à la surface des beautés diverses.”

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