The Tour de France is currently underway and with it comes that annual flicker of cycling interest beyond nations bordering the Mediterranean Sea. With the sullied Lance Armstrong years no longer a part of the sport’s proverbial peloton, thankfully the focus can be reset on the athletes and the historic competition. The only problem: The most interesting part of cycling is the creativity that goes into cheating at cycling.
After years of unheeded rumors of steroid-fueled foul play in the sport, all rumors are at least mulled before being shrugged off as the work of the crazies. On Thursday, three-time Tour winner American Greg LeMond—presumably of sound mind and body—dropped a doozy of a cheat allegation to the Associated Press even by cycling standards:
“Greg LeMond says some riders have put motors in their bikes to cheat in cycling's biggest races, including the Tour de France.”
Motors! I thought we had another name for bicycles with motors. At some point, you have to think, if you’re just going to put a motor on your bicycle to win the Tour de France, why not just sign up for Little League and rob a bank while you’re at it. The social contract has been annihilated. Nothing is sacred. It’s like getting your point guard to wear stilts during the playoffs to make him 6’10 in hopes it will bring home a championship. It’s like a pitcher funneling balls into a pitching machine from the mound rather than throwing the balls himself. I’m sure there are other (better) analogies, but I’ll stop there.
This sounds totally absurd, you say. You’re thinking: Perhaps Greg LeMond has just a touch of Bobby Fischer in him? Fear not, the International Cycling Union responded, not with outrage, but reassurance: The body says it totally checked the bikes for motors at the Tour de France and the field came up clean. They CHECKED for motors? Meaning Greg LeMond isn’t crazy, he just happened upon a million dollar idea? “Mechanical doping,” as it’s called, is apparently possible and tested for, but only sporadically. Because no one's ever been caught. LeMond thinks more needs to be done (via the Washington Post):
“It’s simple to check for, much easier than doping,” he told CyclingNews.com in May. “You need a thermal heat gun, you can use it in the race. It can be seen from meters away if there a difference in the heat in the bottom bracket. I’d recommend that to the [Cycling Union].”
"Thermal heat guns?" To make sure cyclists are riding bicycles during a bicycle race? Creative cycling subterfuge, it’s a special thing.