Summer is generally a time for escape. For confirmation, look at the typical line-up for movie goers. Action/Adventure films are generally released in the summer while serious Oscar contenders are released towards year-end. Barnes and Noble will greet you with shelves full of brain candy moving the more serious works of literature towards the back.
I can’t say I wasn’t a little concerned when my copy of Dope: A History of Performance Enhancement in Sports from the Nineteenth Century to Today arrived. I am a big fan of the author, Dan Rosen and his blog so I knew it would be well researched and well written. Would my brain be ready? Would it come off like a medical textbook?
I put the book aside until the Tour was over. Not for any of the above concerns but I was enjoying the Tour and did not want to be reminded of the darker side of the sport. So it waited until the Monday after Carlos Sastre crossed the line in Paris.
What I found was an engaging story that took me through the history of doping in sports. All sports, not just cycling. Some of the stories, I knew some I didn’t. Throughout, Dan told me enough science to allow me to understand the story. Never more.
Dan shows us how doping was originally encouraged by governments and governing bodies. Even as testing came into play, official counter measures were put into place to circumvent the tests. As the war raged on, governing entities turned a blind eye to any practices in the ultimate “Don’t ask Don’t Tell” policy. Finally, most organizations have taken up the fight. What is more astonishing is how recently we have come from empty platitudes against doping to where we sit today.
Dan tells us all this in a non-judgmental manner that allows us to form our own opinions. Heck, even Dick Pound has his good points. The story is well told and well documented.
Forgetting what I said at the beginning of this post, I actually feel the timing is great as the Summer Olympics are upon us and we are already seeing reports of altered passports of gymnasts and other formalized slights of hand that tells me we still have a long way to go.
This book is a must read for any sports fan, not just cyclists. If you enjoy professional sports, Olympic sports, or just fair play, you will not be disappointed in the time spent reading Dope. My only negative is Dan used a photo of my pecs for the cover of his book without my permission.