Not Normal

Whatever your thoughts on Lance, you’d have to be quite a hater to miss the fact that he has a great sense of humor. An example from Tyler’s book being his use of “not normal” to describe the performances of his competition. 

One of the sad things about losing confidence in a situation is the filter that it places over the actions, and performances, of individuals. Lance says “not normal.” My favorite observation is “improved nutrition.”

Since reading Tyler’s book, I’ve been chuckling to myself as a lot of “not normal” incidents come back to me. It can take take an established pro years to get their nutrition “just right.” It’s healthier to laugh than to get bitter or angry!

In private, I’m often asked to name names when the topic of doping comes up. I’m very reluctant to do so. Across many years of hanging with triathletes and cyclists, I’ve only had two buddies admit to doping (but plenty that point the finger, usually at foreigners). That said, I have a good strategic mind and have been putting the pieces together.

What does a very sad situation in cycling tell us about the structure of a corrupt society? What’s “not normal” in triathlon, or any sport we love? Jot a few names down beside each of these bullets then connect the dots…

  • Athletes that test positive
  • Athletes that trained with teams that had a culture of doping
  • Athletes based close to centers of doping
  • Performances that defy human physiology
  • Cheat on their significant others and break business contracts
  • Cut courses
  • Lie about their backgrounds
  • Doctors and coaches with criminal convictions
  • Sudden, and large, performance jumps when previously well trained
  • Train abroad, far away from doping controls

For the group above, expand to include:

  • Closest training partners
  • Spouses and significant others
  • Athletes that dominated the people you think cheated

I don’t name names because the list above includes most my friends, some of my coaches and myself. The tough thing about losing confidence is my entire reality of elite sport crumbles. For my wife, Vino’s (of Astana) positive was her vomit moment. My vomit moments have hit far closer to home.

For the exercise physiology alone, at what level should we pitch our definition of normal? Pre-EPO (80s)? Pre-anabolics (70s)? Pre-amphetamines (60s)? Cyclists were blood doping at the 1984 Olympics, why wouldn’t triathletes? It’s too complicated so I opt out.

Tyler’s book gives a clear example of what happens when everybody loses confidence in their peers – you can’t have a good day without people thinking you’re a cheat. Corruption sucks the enjoyment out of life.

This brings me to the central truth about personal ethics… …if you are straight then you are the only person that will ever know. Do your work, stand back and be satisfied with your best. 

It is difficult, and unhealthy, to go through life thinking that everyone’s screwing you. Far easier to trust folks and avoid corrupt societies. This isn’t about a teenager’s “right” to be an elite athlete – we will each have to make the call in our own lives – at work, with friends, in our marriages and with our kids.

Most people choose to remain silent.