Debate Left, 9/4

Bob Costas Puts Hammer to Nail

By Ben Tomkins

I’ll be real quick and then I’ll let Bob Costas close it out.

If you follow the top 10 riders in each Tour de France from Lance’s prime years, 1999 to 2005, you see an obvious trend: progressively more and more of them were sanctioned for doping later in their careers.  This culminated in 2005, Lance’s last Tour victory, where literally every single rider in the top 10 is now known to be a doper or associated with known dope doctors.  The one exception, Oscar Pereiro, was caught using Salbutamol during the race, an illegal medication that opens your bronchial tubes.  According to Oscar, he forgot to report his asthma prescription to Tour officials.  Yeah.  Asthma.  He came in ninth in the Tour, despite everyone else flying around like Superman on speedballs and he had a wicked bad case of asthma at the time.  Moving along.

If it is to be believed that Lance Armstrong was the only clean rider in the field, then he is quite literally the greatest athlete in the history of all time and eternity.  Over those seven years, he beat the rest of a dope-laden field by a combined 40+ minutes.  Also, virtually every single one of his teammates has been busted for doping.  Apparently Lance Armstrong deserves even greater accolades because he won those Tours despite being blind.

Look, if the guy were Ken Griffey Jr. and nobody ever said a word about him doping, I’m right there with you.  But if he were clean he should be living under the same shadow Griffey does.  Namely, Griffey is the best of his era and nobody even remembers that he’s a few homers shy of Willie Mays because of guys like Sammy Sosa.  Did you hear that?  That’s what doping does to sports in a nutshell.   It makes it possible for me to write a sentence that includes the names Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays…

And Sammy Sosa.

Now imagine what PED’s do to a born freak like Armstrong.  I could imagine a guy like that winning seven Tours.

And besides, he’s got a mountain of blood doping evidence against him, positive tests in samples that technology previously couldn’t detect, and every person he’s ever ridden with saying he’s dirty.  For what it’s worth, a friend of mine used to date a guy who rode with Lance on the Tour – you find these people in Colorado –  and he told her they used to pull the bus over with a “flat tire,” drop the shades while the driver stared at a jack for an hour, and change their blood right there on the side of the road.

Give it up.  Great story.  Seven tours, 73 home runs in a season, whatever.  It’s not real, and I’m sorry.  That’s why guys like Jack Nicklaus winning the 1986 Masters are so amazing. It’s real.  It’s rare.  It’s transcendent but for the fact that it’s right there in front of you.

Lastly, in regards to doping in sports and evidence, the best summary I’ve ever heard comes from Bob Costas talking about Barry Bonds.  I can’t do any better, so I’ll pass the mike to him to close this out.

Some Commentator:  Will we ever know for a fact that, yes, he indeed took steroids?

Bob:  You know, I think a lot of people watch too much CourtTV, and they think the only way that something is established as fact is if you have a DNA test or a confession.  Those things are helpful, but people have gone to jail, with no doubt, for long periods of time, without either of those two factors if you have enough other evidence that is substantial and convincing enough.  There is a mountain of said evidence against Barry Bonds.  If you’re a reasonable person, not a malicious person, not a person who’s not inclined to give the benefit of the doubt – there’s no doubt to give the benefit of – …and you’re not living in San Francisco and blinded by your own fandom, you already know.

Benjamin Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist, and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colo. He hates stupidity, and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of the issue. Reach Ben Tompkins at

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Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

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