The Politics of Doping – Twitter as Judge, Jury and Executioner

What annoys me most about Frank Schleck’s positive test for Xipamide is not the test in itself, but more the media reaction to it. I’ve no problem with outlets who have been covering the Tour for two an a half weeks reporting it, even if they do push it above the actual race in importance, but when some paper which hasn’t even bothered reporting the Tour just smashes out some drivel about cycling cheats to appease its readership’s preconceptions whilst simultaneously lauding footballers as the pinnacle of sportsmanship, then that’s a bit rich. Unfortunately, cyclist’s who get a positive test are now ruined, regardless of the truth, thanks to the internet and media.

Frank in better days.

As far as I’m aware, for all other sports, when a athlete gets an A-sample positive, their name is not released, and they are asked if they want the B-sample looked at or not. They can decline, which means they accept they have tested positive, and can admit it if they want, or they can accept the B-sample analysis, and if that is also positive, their name can be announced as testing positive. In some cases, athletes have remained anonymous throughout the entire ajudication process of some months.

Suddenly everyone’s an expert on this. It could be sugar for all I know.

Cycling has decided however to air its dirty linen in public, and so announces the A-samples as if that was the be-all and end all, which on the plus side manages to get anyone out of the race who has failed a test, but also destroys their and cycling’s reputation in the same breath. It’s not a very good system, and unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way for them to stop it without actually bothering to stick to their own rules.

Of course, once a test is announced these days, the internet goes into overdrive to give its collective pronoucment. As we saw with Frank Schleck, Twitter quickly picked up the story, and his name became the trending topic of the day as everyone managed to become instant experts in diuretics and Xipamide, a name I still cannot even pronounce (Ex-ip-a-mide?!), and angrily shouted down anyone who dared ask what it was as if it was common knowledge (That oddly enough was word for word from Wikipedia) . Que lots of swearing and ‘factual’ statements about doping amid long explanations of what exactly Schleck has covered up etc, which was impressive given they had but read about it.

This is the whole problem with positive tests these days – with the net, everyone becomes an ‘instant expert’ on everything they want based on some skim reading, and more worryingly, simply judge whether or not the person is guilty on whether they like them or not. Because Schleck is not liked for various reasons, he’s guilty. Simple as that apparently.

Such judgement will be why the Armstrong case will roll on forever regardless of the result of the latest inquiry. Opinion is already decided and polarised between what the other side christen the ‘Fanboys’ and ‘Haters’ in what often resembles a rather pathetic playground spat. Nicknames a seven year old would be ashamed to use are often bandied around, including ‘Pharmstrong’, ‘LieStrong’ etc, and the opposing opinion is simply sworn at and treated with an air of gleaming egotistical biggotry. For instance, when Jeff Notvizky began an investigation, the ‘Haters’ were in uproar, claiming this was the ‘beginning of the end’ (it always seems to be), giving their new hero the moniker ‘Uncle Jeff’ and gloating that their new family member could not be bought and would destroy the hated ‘Pharmstrong.’

‘Unbuyable Uncle Jeff/Bought bastard’ depending on the day of the week.

It was thus very weird to see what happenned when the investigation was dropped. The unbuyable ‘Uncle Jeff’ suddenly became just Notvizky again, and had been bought by Armstrong, the establishment and whoever else the people writing disliked that particular day. Apart from highlighting the ficklness and immaturity of people online (and don’t be fooled into thinking its just from the ‘Hater’ side either) , this demonstrates that regardless of what happens in that case, no one is going to admit they are wrong, as opinions have been too deeply entrenched and it would simply be too big a blow to their egos. So look forward to that rolling on forever – I honestly couldnt care or even claim to have an idea of the truth anymore given the convoluted nature of the whole thing.

But the same principle applies to Schleck – especially given the Armstrong connection, given Brunyeel now runs RadioShack. This of course meant Schleck was guilty as sin, whilst amongst the same people, Contador, as someone who had beaten Armstrong, was either involved in some conspiracy (Involving Armstrong, of course) or the beef defence and ludicrous legal argument he produced (‘You can’t prove I didn’t eat the salbutamol in the beef, thus I must have’…) was a sound defence apparently. People who didn’t like Contador of course saw this as utter nonsense.

The cause of so much hatred?

As you can see, there’s barely any point trying to argue a corner anymore, unless you have a particular penchant for being abused by someone who think swearing and puns and the highest forms of wit and think they’re such a hard man sitting behing a computer on the internet. So my advice would be to wait for the B-sample, see what that says, process the result, then return your attention to the people who really deserve it – the clean cyclists who are constantly overshadowed and underdiscussed whenever drugs rear their ugly head. It’s sport. Enjoy it.

What we should really be interested in.

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