Drugs

A bad week of tedious sinus-induced intermittently searing tooth and jaw pain. I think it’s becoming a regular event, but this time around it’s late in the year because it’s aggravated by pollen, and spring is late. As a result, today’s was the first ride for a while and it was just a short one in the Sonning Common area to see how I felt – head and legs. Pleasingly, the weather was good enough to make a spin on a fixed wheel a sensible proposition.

Riding around and going surprisingly well, it occurred to me I was riding reasonably drugged-up – painkillers galore. And … it felt good! If at least some of the drugs the professional cyclists abuse are similar, I think I’m beginning to properly understand the appeal. ‘Performance enhancing’ doesn’t have to just be in the sense of making you go faster; having pain blotted out is also going to help. It’s obvious when you think about it and, indeed, experience it, even in a limited way, but thinking back, I’d always somehow assumed the drugs were just about speed.

The next time you’re trying to judge whether the sportsperson you’re watching is drugged-up, judge in terms of pain being endured as well as outright performance.

Colours in the fields

These colours are real, not drug induced!

Top-Level Sporty Types (Are Just A Distraction)

A decent-length ride circumnavigating Reading (Twyford, Aborfield, Theale, Pangbourne) and, in truth, it was fine – not much traffic, no wind to speak of, not that cold. However, it was unremittingly dull – that grim uniform grey sky that the Thames Valley in particular seems to do so well – and everywhere is soggy and starting to get a winter sheen of dirt on it. It’s not enticing.

An artist’s impression of today’s sky over Berkshire

An artist’s impression of today’s sky over Berkshire

The Lance Armstrong scandal about doping is raging at the moment. I suppose it’s understandable that people ask me what I think about doping in cycle racing because I ride a bike … but in reality it is of very little interest to me. Besides, in what way is a highly paid sports person cheating really news?

Even if there wasn’t a hint of drug taking in any sport, I can’t seen any top-level sports person as a good role model; they are almost by definition mono-maniacs; freaks, if you like. I can’t see what I’m going to usefully gain by taking an interest in them. You may or may not admire their ambition, their drive and their achievements, but don’t hold them up as people to ‘follow’ or emulate. Enough already – I’ve gone on about this before.

I guess that I get asked my views on doping in pro cycling is a reflection of how few cyclists many people actually know. In reality, it’s akin to asking any car driver his views on Formula One racing drivers: no-one assumes every car driver will automatically have something to say on that front. I don’t mind being asked, it’s just a misplaced thing for people to do and a sad reflection on how relatively rare cycling still is.

Role Models

A good long ride largely south of Reading, essentially a round trip with an opening stint with a tailwind, a lengthy section into a stiff-ish headwind, a stretch with a favourable crosswind and then home again with a tailwind – not a bad way to spend 40-odd miles.

That said, once you get south of Reading it’s not that attractive as countryside goes; it seems the area has more than its fair share of the unsightly – derelict former industry; run-down barely surviving light industry; regularly fly-tipping-strewn side-roads and so-on.

Even as you get beyond that fringe of the town, there’s something, too, about a fair swathe of North Hampshire that I can’t get enthusiastic about; I can see there are aspects to appreciate but somehow it lacks much geographic identity. Perhaps it just needs exploring at a more micro-level.

Near Aborfield I came across a fairly large group of cyclists. I might be wholly wrong and apologies to them if I am, but it struck me as a mixed-ability but perhaps not that experienced group of older riders, largely men, being led by a younger and, presumably, experienced lady.

It struck me that that’s the kind of sporting activity that needs supporting, funding, promoting … it’s likely to have far more positive consequences than anything ‘Olympic’.

The list of what’s wrong with the London Olympics is long and still growing. There are plenty of commentators out there who are explaining all the failings and I won’t repeat the whole sorry litany. The headline aspects of the whole grim spectacle aside though, what I can’t escape is the underlying fallacy of the entire Olympic-sporting ideal.

Elite sports people, of any nationality, in any discipline, have to be policed to the Nth degree. If they’re not they will cheat. They will cheat by any means available – ‘professional fouls’ anyone? – not least drugs. Yes, there are ‘clean’ athletes but that we have to hold them up as shining examples says all you need to know about the rest. And you have to ask, too, whether these shining examples would be ‘clean’ if they didn’t believe they might get caught.

Given that that’s what elite sportspeople are like – to hold them up in any way as some kind of role models to aspire to is quite ludicrous.

Even if I’m being unfair and there are plenty of genuine sporting sports people among the elite, even if 99.9% of them would never cheat in any way, they are nevertheless an elite and, in essence, freaks. They have to have mentalities that are not commonplace. They are no more useful as role models for Joe and Josephine Public as any other freak, any other exception.

If there was to be a genuine Olympic legacy to benefit real people, it would be no more Olympics and the fall of the charade of an Olympian Ideal. It would be the showing-up of elite sports – any and all of them – for what they really are. It would be a new culture of sport engaged in by amateurs for pleasure, happily. It would be money wasted on Olympics spent on grass roots sports. And I can whistle in the wind for all that.

The skip, tired of being so foully treated, evolved into a sentient being

The skip, tired of being so foully treated, evolved into a sentient being and threw out all the rubbish that had been dumped on it.