Friday, May 29, 2009

Giro and Dolomites - more on myth and the Atlantic question?

This story was written a year ago, the characters then gods, now possibly fall into the category discussed previously in this blog. The story may address the question, quite possibly, as to why Europe had better things to care about?

Giro and Dolomites


Emanuele Sella comes from Vicenza, like Pozzato, like the Olympic Theatre of Palladio; Riccardo Riccò comes from Modena, like Ferrari, like balsamic vinegar. Beautiful, unique and tragic. Italians, like the feather on the Tyrolian hat of alpine hunters, like the pink pages of the “Gazzetta dello Sport”.

For almost five centuries the “Oedipus King” of Sophocles has been played in the same theatre, on the same stage, with the same decorations – the scene of the four streets of the city of Tebas, built with plaster and stucco; and for five centuries, although its plot and its dialogues have not changed at all, the representation of the tragedy of the killer and incestuous king keeps on moving the same, the catharsis that comes with Yocasta’s suicide, mother and wife of Oedipus, with the blindness of the hero condemned by the Gods, keeps purifying the spectators.

Dante wrote at the door of hell, “those who enter this way shall abandon all hope”; half completed the Marmolada, the cyclists haunting its hills are taken in by another legend painted in the asphalt, “manca poco”, you are almost there. The ignorant will want to read the sentence as a gasp of hope, there is not much suffering left; the well-read, the Italians, will look for its Dantesque sense, hell is close: the final catharsis, the shudder, the sigh, the liberating shout, when crossing the finish, it does not stop from being the sign of the tragedy. The Marmolada, the Dolomite, have been nailed down to the North of Italy, in the border with Austria, for millions of years. For the last century, in this immutable scenario, in the great circus of the Giro of Italy, every month of May the drama of the common man is represented – the cyclist so human that even looks like us when he tries to put his raincoat on when clumsily climbing a hill--, transformed into tragic hero, destined by the gods to fight on his bicycle against their human limits to pursue a fate they are doomed to, from which they cannot escape, to clean their error.

Afore time, before the big war, the Italian cyclists crossing the Alps to participate in the Tour of France were only worried about one thing, to learn to say “push me” in French, “pousse moi”. “Pusmuá”, they would say puffed with great effort when they saw their strength disappear in the middle of the mountain pass, “pusmuá”, they would repeat to the spectators in the gutters, moved by their suffering. In Italy, during the Giro, the spectators do not need the riders to ask to be pushed – they know the poor domestic cannot use all of their strength in one day, because the day after their boss will ask for their effort again.

In Spain some fans, apart from taking out flags, they give cokes to the racers; in France, in the Alpe d’Huez, in Belgium, in the “Kappelmuur”, the course of the cyclists is the perfect excuse to get drunk in the ditch and to organise a party in public. In Italy, the beings that populate the gutters are not passive spectators waiting for the fleeting action that moves them, touches them, but they are part of its representation. They are the choir, they are the council of the ancients called by Sophocles to emphasise the disgrace of the hero, his solitude. Their cries, their pushing, their only presence in a lonely slope, their cameras, despite their ugly posture forced by the digital devices, the cell phones – the arm forward, the look concentrated in a small screen that moves them away from reality, that makes it a television broadcast; give a sense to the penuries of the protagonist and a meaning to all of their gestures.

Shakespeare, to announce the bursting of the drama in his tragedies, would make a thunderstorm start, would make the sky darken, fall off the streets. In Italy, in the Dolomites, the rain, the lightening bolts, the extraordinary cold of the end of May do not belong to the scene, neither remain only in a Shakespearean presage; they mainly create dread in the racer’s soul and force him to go further beyond to transcend, to survive. Riccò stops then being the helpless little boy, so thin, with his little bird legs. And Sella, from Vicenza, understanding better than anybody else the art of the touching representation, flies over his limits. When the play has ended, the curtain has fallen, nobody really will care how they did it. That is a matter of the gods.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

'Whilst the onomania lasted, bickerings and divisions endured.'

A paper to be delivered at FOUCAULT: 25 YEARS ON CONFERENCE - UNI SA , 25 JUNE 2009.

From Barthes to Foucault and beyond – Cycling in the Age of Empire.

Martin Hardie
May 2009

'Whilst the onomania lasted, bickerings and divisions endured.'

Barthes is right in that he tells us that there is an onomastics of the Tour.

But in the time since Barthes, in a manner the semiotician may not have envisaged, that onomastics has descended from the heights of myth and epic having the status of Greek gods. They have descended from being these lofty signs of the valor of the ordeal, of beings signs of old European ways and ethnicity – Brankart le Franc, Bobet le Francien, Robic le Celte, Ruiz l’Ibere, Darrigade le Gascon; to being patronymics of the biopolitical, of homo sacer and the spectacle that sustains Empire.

Although Barthes' idea of an onomastics of the Tour still holds fast, sadly, in the time in which we live, Barthes' classic piece on the Tour de France as Epic no longer depicts the essence of events such as la Grande Boucle.

Cycling, entangled in the process of its own globalisation, is a game in flux. It is no longer the pure myth or epic as Roland Barthes wrote. Mont Ventoux remains a moonscape, bare, barren, rising out of the lavender plains of Provence and on this landscape those playing this game are no longer heroes of epic proportions but bare life, homo sacer.

The precarity of existence better depicts the state of the peloton today: Free as the birds to soar to the greatest heights – Pantani, Rasmussen, Dajka, Valverde, Vinnicombe, Vinokourov … the list is endless; but unlike those Greek gods of the time of Barthes in this age they are free to be shot down at a whim.

The onomastics of the Tour today is an onomastics of criminality.

Cycling has always been an assemblage and a line of flight – from the factory, the farm, from the peloton itself. Cycling finds itself in the eye of the storm as the processes of globalisation seek to reform it in their own image. On the frontline is the very body of the cyclist – this is the object of control.

Can we contextualise the globalisation of professional cycling in the age of Armstrong, the successive doping crises and the responses to them as events which signify the coming of Empire and the permanent state of exception?

A few brief scattered observations might provide some signposts for future work and thinking about sport, doping and control in the society of the spectacle that is Empire. There are a number of ways in which Foucault, and of those that have come since, might provide us with the tools to rethink what is at play.

How is cycling situated in the state of exception? What relation does it have to the management and administration of bodies through discipline and control? What can the position of these cyclists tell us about the condition of homo sacer?

A few events for example:

* Operacion Puerto and its onomastics is not related to heroics, but to bags of frozen blood, and the mystery of their identity and the performances they produced - Names such as Birillo, Amigo de Birillo, USA, Hijo de Rudicio, and Piti, treatments such as Siberia, Vino, Alubias, Pelas, and Polvos de la Madre de Celestina, events such as San Isidrio, San Fermines and Vendimia;

* Puerto and noology, or the distance between the discursive processes of the media and the material process of 'tardy' (i.e. dysfunctional) Spanish justice and the manner in which in the spectacle it has been played out, so that the old ways and law of old Europe and ideas like the rule of law have become expedient and are forgotten so that 'law' simply becomes a servant of the pure functionality of preserving the integrity of the investment of state and capital;

* Of Pantani, Dajka and Rasmussen, all appear deemed to be lives no longer worthy of living. In Rasmussen's case of becoming unnameable. None failed a positive doping test set forth by the rules, but all were banished for, respectively, failing a health test, or for not telling the truth. Cases of the law being tossed aside in the name of pure functionality. Cases of death by media, Pantani and Dajka's horrible, slow, real deaths and in Rasmussen's case a living death; or

* The issue of surveillance, the Whereabouts system, of tracking bodies by Blackberries and Biological Passports and the proposed final solution of a 24 hour a day GPS-based surveillance of athletes.

Beyond Epic, beyond Foucault:

The old notions of law based upon a definable state, its boundaries, its people and its sovereignty seem to have vanished before our eyes. What is at stake in politics is the very control of the body, where the cyclist can be killed but not sacrificed.

The current moral panic surrounding doping in cycling is complete with its own Sonderkommando leading these bodies off to the slaughter [What role does the South Australian of the Year play here?]. Lynch mobs bring to the fore the question as to what actually is at stake in the game? What is the role of sport today and why do we put so much effort into being so vigilant about maintaining the apparitions of fairness and normalcy? Is this moment of normalcy, as Agamben asks, the true horror of our times?

Why the moral panic and crusades to ensure that sport is made to seem to be fair, to the point that in the United States more is spent by the Government on anti doping than is spent on research into blood diseases? What is the link between this focus on the body and a society founded upon immaterial labour where possibly the only use that the body is now put to is that of sport and sex?

These are questions for contemplation as the season of the Tours are upon us, while we try and recall the heroics that were played out in the day of Barthes. It is not a question of trying to return to those days of grandeur. But it is necessary to contemplate those days so that we can try and understand the processes currently occurring, to situate the debates about sports, drugs, of sports people and their behaviours.

Can we learn from the way 'law' is played out in the game of cycling in order to inform our understanding of what law is about within the broader parameters of Empire? All I can hope to point to are problems which this intersection of theory and sport throw into the air.

I do not claim cycling is unique, only that here we find the exception attenuated - is it the vanguard, so to speak, of the times in which we live? If law no longer is that thing that we believed it to be in those more certain times of Barthes. And if my hunch is correct, and cycling and the problematic of doping are symptoms of the state of exception, what must be addressed in the end is the 'age old' Foucauldian problem, as to whether the the door to justice in our times is 'more law' or whether is it an ethics of life? What does it mean if it is correct that life should no longer be lived looking above to the barren peak of Mont Ventoux for an answer, but should be made in the village, situated in the Vaucluse, below?

The starting point in all of this should be an examination of the way the Tour and it's participants are no longer the epic or mythical heroes they were once viewed in pre Foucauldian times. It brings us back to the state and the changes that have been wrought upon its integrity.

A few briefs words about the role of the Tours:

In those times the Grand Tours played a role in marking out and defining the territory, the nation and the people. Unlike any other sporting events the three Tours of the year embody the dramatics of life played out over a full three weeks. To those involved they seem to be a lifetime. These races embody all the aspects of life in such a way that they are so much more than sporting events. They are above all human dramas of an intense, immense stature. Each is part and parcel of the consciousness of societies, and a search for some truth and meaning to the human condition. All are built upon an idea of moulding the individual, the land, and people through a spectacle of involving superhuman figures that seek to mark out their own territories and conquer the boundaries of their precarious existence.

In their marking out of a territory, of a nation and of a people, the Tours were as much a part of creating the Europe of the 20th century as was the documentation and administration of life as Foucault so very well describes in his lectures entitled of 'Society Must be Defended' – the people, customs, fetes, fairs and fiestas, each day complete with the local version of cheese, chorizo and champagne. The Tours were created and maintained by an alliance of the state, industrial capital and the media. [In France, the Tour was started by the newspaper L'Equipe, its impetus to sell more editions of a motoring magazine, putting cycling to work in the pay of an intersection of the car and newspaper industries. With its resumption after the Civil War in 1941 Spain's La Vuelta covered the longest route in its history demarcating the victor's territory across the country and particularly the former Republican strongholds. For some years it was restricted by Franco to only Spanish participants.] In modernity these races all played their role in reinforcing the status of a unified territory, a people, a nation and its capital.

The Tours have also been the place that traditionally have allowed Europe to think of itself as the place where subjectivity could still 'do' rather than the place where subjectivity was simply relegated to 'being'. The Tours were centres of action in lands that might otherwise be petrified into museums of the old world amongst the chaos of the new world and modernity. [Is this the problem with the American?]

But with the coming of the age of Empire, things changed. It was with the coming of those from outside continental Europe that the practices of the peloton and in particular doping first becomes problematised.

It is with Simpson's death – the Englishman who helps start the process of globalising the Tours - that doping first becomes a political matter. Still it remains an internal issue, something for the sport to deal with. [The mid sixties also coincide with the demise of national teams and the introduction of what are known as the Trade Teams.] The late 1990's marks the point at which it becomes a matter for the sovereign – it is here with the 'Festina Tour', with borders being crossed that we see doping becoming criminalised. It is here that we first see cyclists being taken from their bikes to the jail cells. But it is in the age of Empire, an age that arrives with the American, [a Texan no less] that things really start to escape their bounds.

The State of Exception:

Agamben tells us when writing of the camp as nomos [his is a concept not to be forgotten, here in Adelaide where young cyclists enter a camp – the AIS; at an early age, either to emerge 'victorious' or on the scrapheap] that it is at the point when the modern nation-state enters into a lasting crisis that the sovereign decides to assume directly the care of biological life as one of its proper (or quite possibly its principal) tasks. This nation state had been founded upon the functional nexus of a determinate territory, a determinate order, and a determinate people.

It is when the Tours begin to exceed their national boundaries, both by entering into foreign territory and by bringing those from outside Europe into its ranks on a permanent basis that we see the body of the cyclist becoming an issue for the sovereign. And it is at precisely this point, when the body becomes the focus of politics, that the old rules of law and justice no longer seem to apply.

It is at this point – and this is what is at issue since Pantani, with Rasmussen, Valverde and Dajka; that the those who have taken it as their task to undertake the administration of doping, and to ensure the fairness of sport, the normalcy of the game, no longer orientate themselves according to a rule or a situation of fact. The decision maker no longer needs to decide whether a given fact falls within the rule. What is decided at once is a rule and a criterion – what becomes 'natural' is a rule that decides the fact and decides upon its own application without reference to any norm other that of preserving the integrity of the investment in the spectacle. As the coming of the Biological Passport tells us, the law of doping is neither now definable as a rule nor as a breach but upon what is said to be 'natural' or 'normal' values - in the world of cycling the formation and the execution of the rule are indistinguishable moments.

There is one thing (well many in fact) that I have missed here and it relates to the double sided nature, or the two faces of homo sacer itself. Is it a matter again that may relate to the problem of the American? In describing the relation between homo sacer and the sovereign, Agamben introduces the wolf man (a subject also taken up in another vein in A Thousand Plateaus), the one subject to the ban and its special proximity to the sovereign. Does this proximity help us understand in any way the problem of the political interest in the body of the cyclist? - 'this animal has wits and intelligence/ … I will give my peace to the beast/ and for today I will hunt no more'. For today not only is the cyclist subject to the banishment of which I have alluded, at one and the same time, he is also brought in from the cold to live with the sovereign – even it seems to be the sovereign. As we saw in Adelaide this last January, with the third coming of the American, this proximity is such, that it may be, that now it is not the wolf that licks the feet of the sovereign, but that, in some cases, it is the sovereign that comes to lick the feet of the wolf.


Agamben, G 1998, Homo Sacer, Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Agamben, G 2005, State of Exception, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.

Agamben, G 2002, Remnants of Auschwitz, The Witness and the Archive, Zone Books, New York.

Barthes, R 1997, The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London.

Barthes R 2007, What is Sport? Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Brohm J-M 1978, Sport, A Prison of Measured Time, Ink Links, London.

Debord, G 1995 , The Society of the Spectacle, Zone Books, New York.

Deleuze, G & Guattari, F 1987, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Deleuze, G 1988, Foucault, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Foucault, M 2003, Society Must be Defended, Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, London.

Foucault, M 1998, The Will to Knowledge, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1, Penguin Books, London.

Foucault M, 1986, The Care of the Self, The History of Sexuality, Volume 3, Vintage Books, New York.

Hardt, M & Negri, A 2001, Empire, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Waterworth, W 1854, England and Rome, Burns & Lambert, London.

Monday, May 18, 2009

La Via Horrillo

Today we should salute Di Luca and Armstrong.

And of course Horrillo.

Whatever may be said about the old and the new ways of cycling, on thing is certain and that is that cycling has always had an ethic of its own. An ethic were the slaves of the route, and the older and the wiser of the sport have not been afraid to take a stand. It seems that sometimes those of the new way forgets this ethic.

Finally, despite the attempts of Armstrong, who again went to the front to slow down the speed, the agreement for Rabobank to win was ignored by the scabs and it was a sprint. Cavendish won.

Below another gem hurriedly translated from the work of Carlos Arribas of El Pais.

La Via Horrillo

A statue of Father Pio and a small cavern with a saint, both images buried under flowers, surprise walkers in a courtyard of the hospital in Bergamo. A bad omen for relatives of patients who need to pray for them to recover, as if they don't trust doctors, you might think this if you forget that you are in Bergamo, Lombardy, and Lombardy is Italy, the country where all the miracles are possible. And Pedro Horrillo knows this all too well. Yesterday at dawn, he opened his eyes, and spontaneously came out from the induced coma, as if he had been woken by the morning song of the birds in the garden. Moving his limbs, he could speak, breathe better now despite the pneumothorax and the two holes in his lungs. Less than 18 hours earlier had been rescued from the bottom of a ravine 80 metres deep. "I did not expect to find him alive," said Sergio Levi, the doctor who found him. But he did not break his neck, nor his spine. His neurological system is running smoothly.

Yesterday, to Lorena, his wife, who had come with her father, spoke Mohammed Amer, the doctor on duty in the ICU Bergamo, he did not talk of life-threatening, but of the struggle of recovering all his functions, the work to rebuild his left leg, his knee mashed into the femur, with an open fracture of 18 centimeters. "We have to operate, to stabalise the femur" spoke, Angelo Fracassetti the doctor . "There is danger of infection, embolism, the hemorrhage is a continuous and all transfusions don't seem top stop them ...". Only after stabalising the femur, can, within two months Horrillo be operated on again, to insert a screw and repair his lungs. Horrillo may return to Spain in 10 to 15 days. The operation yesterday to insert a titanium bridge went well.

To Lorena, who had left the children, Abai, adopted in Ethiopia, almost four years old, and Hori 13 months old, at home with their Grandma, spoke the Rabobank doctor, Geert Leinders, looking into her eyes. "The most important thing is that his head is fine, he is going to be the same Pedro that we all love still. I know of many cases where people have fallen and it has changed them ... Pedro will ride a bike again, although not as a professional. " Horrillo will be again be the same, promised the good Dutch doctor, that is, he will again be unique.

In the Tour, 1951, Wim van Est, the first Dutch yellow jersey fell from a cliff on the Aubisque He was rescued 70 metres down. He was uninjured. A miracle. In the 1960 Tour, Roger Riviére broke his spine in a ravine on the Perjuret. It was a fall of 10 metres that left him in a wheelchair. He committed suicide not long after, a morphine addict. In the 1995 Tour, Fabio Casartelli never made it off the edge into the ravine descending the Aspet. He hit a pillar. He died on the spot. But Horrillo, with his 80 metres of flight, did not suffer a similar fate, like the great mountaineers of history, he opened his own path, la via Horrillo. He did so on Saturday in his fall, and he has done so throughout his career.

"Horrillo don't think so much, riders only have a head to carry a helmet," said Javier Mínguezhis first director, but he, headstrong, strove to keep using his head and he got away with it. He, a man who loves the adventure of the great outdoors, could not submit to the old unwritten law of the group, which makes the riders into sheep. He almost finished his philosophy degree and continued his career as a professional cyclist to be indispensable to all his teams, always on the side of Oscar Freire, who demanded him as a fellow team room. Like Menchov, who also wanted him always at his side, especially for his conversation, his generosity, his way of being.

But the one with whom he shared the most joy about his trade was with Juan Antonio Flecha, a fellow lover of the Northern Classics. Flecha imitated him and also began to write and he also gave him confidence that perhaps told him lately that it was time to leave. Talking about the fatigue that was caused by being a cyclist, of their children, of every night connected on skype from tacky, anonymous hotel lobbies, of the mountains, of crazy hiking in the Pyrenees, walking with a backpack, of the disenchantment they lived, of the sadness of not being able to say more in public, of the pride that he was a cyclist . "I do not understand," Horrillo confessed a couple of days ago. "Spain is precisely the place where we least love cyclists."

Protest fear

Horrillo had been dropped on the climb and, bound by his responsibility to get back Menchov, accelerated in the descent to reach the group. So it was only because of this that nobody saw him fall, but his fall invisible, his miraculous rescue, his hospitalization, so shocked the peloton, that shortly after leaving the circuit race in Milan, from where the first Giro left in 1909, they decided not to slow down and not take any more risks.

The decision of the peloton was led by the Maglia Rosa Di Luca, and by Lance Armstrong. It was decisively influenced by the 20 falls in the first of the 11 of the scheduled 15 km laps. The riders were open to traffic coming in the opposite direction, with cars parked in the middle of the streets, crossing tram tracks, dangers that were simply marked with cones.

It was the straw that broke the camel's back. Armstrong went back to the car of the commissiares, and it was he who negotiated the neutralisation of the stage in respect of the general classification. Five big names, Basso, Di Luca, Armstrong, Voigt and Rogers went to the front and slowed down the speed to to 30 kilometres per hour. "One of Rabobank was meant to win, that is what we had decided, but someone broke the pact," said Di Luca afterwards.

To explain to the public Di Luca stood at the finish line and took a microphone and said: "The circuit is not secure, so we will go slowly." The slow march didn't last too long. The owner of Lampre called Cunego, he threw a tantrum and forced him to accelerate. All of the team went to the front. Behind them more scabs. The picked up the speed.

Finally, despite the attempts of Armstrong, who again went to the front to slow down the speed, the agreement for Rabobank to win was ignored by the scabs and it was a sprint. Cavendish won. Almost four minutes later, came the group of favorites, no risk. Armstrong was the last. "They have got an own goal," said the organizer, Angelo Zomegnan. "It was more the fear and the memory of Horrillo than a protest," said Basso. "On Sunday, at the end of the Giro I will get home safe and sound, not like Horrillo," said Di Luca.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Me chiamo Pedro" (My name is Pedro)

Not a story about doping, but a story, translated from El Pais, about our good friend Pedro Horrillo.

If we had more people like Pedro in cycling, and the world, we wouldn't be in the mess we are in.

"Me chiamo Pedro" (My name is Pedro)

By Carlos Arribas

Pedro Horrillo, a cyclist of 34 years, married with two young children, jumped on his bike in Morbegno, healthy and strong, a bull, at 12.08, at 14.08, he missed a left hand curve on the swift descent that finishes in di San Pietro and fell down a ravine, a vertical wall of 80 meters, at 1545, he arrived by helicopter, body wrecked, casing, unconscious, immobilized, his head surrounded by a splint, at the hospital in Bergamo, where he was admitted, in a medically induced coma into intensive care with a tube in his lungs.

In his long, infinite fall -80 metres the equivalent to a 30-story building; slowed by tree branches, which continually beat him, he broke his femur and right knee. Horrillo received a strong blow to the head which left him stunned, he broke countless ribs which were nailed to his lungs, causing pneumothorax. At no time did he stop breathing. Nor did his heart stop, his heart is heavy and big. Nor did he lose consciousness. After making three Cat scans -head, thorax and abdomen, the director of the resuscitation unit, Mariano Marchesi reserved prognosis. "Fortunately," he said, "the head injury is not as serious as we would have thought, there is no bruising or swelling, but the chest injury is very serious. He also has small fractures of vertebrae, but his is not much."

"It's a miracle," said Sergio Levi, the doctor who led the rescue. When you wake up and recover, Horrillo, lover of mountain and adventure, you will enjoy the story of Levi, "From the road we didn't see anything, but we knew someone had fallen because a bike was up against the guard rail. I tied a rope around my waist and I dropped 10 meters. We still do not see anything. Shortly afterwards came the five-member rescue team Alpine Val Brembo, with longer harnesses and ropes. we went down 60 meters, to a small sloping platform. Nothing, no trace, 'Come on, it is impossible to have fallen here, "I said to the rescue team, but one insisted on a going further and we descended 20 meters more. And they found him. On a small ridge two meters long and very narrow, lying, supine on the rocks, the cyclist. He was conscious, with neurological reflexes working, but confused and disoriented. 'What is your name? "I asked.' Me chiamo Peter. He responded in Italian ! A miracle! I do not understand how he did not stop falling earlier. He asked us to take him up, to to remove his helmet, it was suffocating him and he could not breathe. I did my resuscitation job and I waited for the arrival of the helicopter to take him out of there. Otherwise it was impossible. A few weeks ago I spoke in a rescue at Bardonecchia of a climber falling by 200 meters. It was much simpler than that. "

The doctors worked 27 minutes with Horrillo. They stabilized him, placed a tube in his lungs and opened up the pathways and induced a coma. They saved him.

On the road, the police found a long straight skid mark in the middle of the curve, the signal of his desperate braking. The director of career Babini Raffaele, who came to the hospital even before the one that won the stage, the Belarusian Siutsu, raised his arms and ordered that the music be stopped on the podium. "It is critical to the team," said his roommate, Colombian Mauricio Ardila as he held back tears. "Not only for his work on the bike but to help Menchov to make sure he is in the right group."

A writer as well as a cyclist, and habitual collaborator of the newspaper El Pais (and to this blog), Horrillo, a philosophy graduate, recently completed an autobiographical story for a book on cycling. In it he tells of a crisis of conscience, a few months in London with his friend Bruno, a start: "But I found that nothing gives me more pleasure in life than riding a bicycle. In that old steel bike that I rented from Bruno's brother I re-found the pleasure of pedaling aimlessly. No limits, no schedules, no one path to follow. That was freedom, and I am convinced that I never would have tasted it without that old bike. That old steel bike brought me back to cycling, it is true, but ironically I have never felt so full as a cyclist and in those days. Being a cyclist has little to do with it what you make of it as a profession. To be a cyclist is to find harmony between you, your bike and all that surrounds them. I found that in London, and in the years since then, only a few times have I tasted it with the same intensity. "

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Doping Dilemma and Game Theory

Article in April 2008 Scientific American Magazine entitled The Doping Dilemma

Shermer argues that Game theory helps to explain the pervasive abuse of drugs in cycling, baseball and other sports

Shermer's key points are that:

* An alarming number of sports—baseball, football, track and field, and especially cycling—have been shaken by doping scandals in recent years.
* Among the many banned drugs in the cycling pharmacopoeia, the most effective is recombinant erythropoietin (r-EPO), an artificial hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells, thereby delivering more oxygen to the muscles.
* Game theory highlights why it is rational for professional cyclists to dope: the drugs are extremely effective as well as difficult or impossible to detect; the payoffs for success are high; and as more riders use them, a “clean” rider may become so noncompetitive that he or she risks being cut from the team.
* The game theory analysis of cycling can readily be extended to other sports. The results show quantitatively how governing bodies and antidoping agencies can most effectively target efforts to clean up their sports.

More to come on this article shortly.