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The USADA will release its doping evidence against Lance Armstrong later today, and we will finally learn the specifics of what the Tour de France winner is alleged to have done.But not everyone is as gung-ho to prosecute Lance as the USADA is.
Malcolm Gladwell was on the BS Report podcast with Bill Simmons last week, and he took the stance that Armstrong was simply better at doing what everyone else in cycling was doing at the time.
Gladwell argued that we should think about cycling the same way we think about auto racing — where teams should be rewarded for using science and bending the rules to their breaking point to succeed.
“When you look at what Lance is alleged to have done. Basically he was better than everyone else at using PEDs,” Gladwell said. “He was the guy who sat down and was rigorous and focused and thoughtful and intelligent and cutting edge in how to use them, and apply them and make himself better. Like, I don’t know, so is that a bad thing?”
Many people have pointed out that most the guys who will inherit Armstrong’s vacated Tour de France titles have also been a part of doping scandals in recent years. But hearing it in the signature Gladwell-ian style is still pretty great.
Here’s the full transcript of what he said:
“Here’s my thing about Lance, and that is, our paradigm is wrong for biking. What if we thought about bicycling as just the equivalent of auto racing. It’s Formula 1.
“What is Formula 1? It’s the combination of a car, so an instrument. A driver, and the driver’s skill. And science. So Formula 1 teams compete on these three levels simultaneously. We compete to see who has the fastest driver, we compete to see who has the best car, and we also compete in our ability to innovate within the rules, to use science to further the performance of our driver within those constraints.
“So, what if we thought about Lance and competitive cycling as auto racing. It’s on three levels: you got a bike, you got a driver, and you got science. When you look at what Lance is alleged to have done, basically he was better than everyone else at using PEDs. He was the guy who sat down and was rigorous and focused and thoughtful and intelligent and cutting edge in how to use them, and apply them and make himself better. Like, I don’t know, so is that a bad thing? He’s being rewarded for being the best at his game. It was an element in the competition, and he used that element better than anyone else.
“Why don’t we just make that a part of the definition of what it means to be a great bicyclist?”
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