Yesterday, Bruce Schneier suprised us with a post about security of a different sort -- one that had to do with the doping scandal surrounding Floyd Landis. Landis crossed the finish line in the Tour de France with the best time of all the riders but his urine samples which tested positive for inhuman testosterone levels have cast an immense shadow of doubt over his victory as well as the sport of cycling, if not all of professional sports. Wrote Schneier:
Drug testing is a security issue. Various sports federations around the world do their best to detect illegal doping, and players do their best to evade the tests. It's a classic security arms race: improvements in detection technologies lead to improvements in drug detection evasion, which in turn spur the development of better detection capabilities. Right now, it seems that the drugs are winning; in places, these drug tests are described as "intelligence tests": if you can't get around them, you don't deserve to play.
I used to race bikes and although I was not a professional or in one of the top two elite classes of the US Cycling Federation, I was what racers refer to as a Cat 3 (Category 3). The competition was very intense, required an ungodly number of hours of training to stay competitive against other Cat 3's and even then, you were quite often thrown into the same race that the more elite racers competed in. On the racing brochure, this race would often be called the Pro/1/2/3 race.
Between training and racing, I got to hang around some athletes that were far more gifted and elite than I was and I'd like to think I still have a sense of how racers think. My last race took place in Attleboro, MA in July 2001. It was the day that I herniated three discs in my lower back when I bent over to pick up my bicycle pump. I haven't raced since and earlier this year, one of those discs ruptured, requiring surgery. I'm on the mend now, engaged in an intensive self-directed physical therapy program. A bad back can suck the joy of life right out of you and when you have one, no one but you and others that have been through it too can really appreciate the pain you're in. This is why I empathized with Pamela Jones over at Groklaw when I read how she hurt her back (a virtual hug to you Pamela... which right now, is better than the real thing because that would hurt too much).
Anyway, while the injury may have kept me out of the saddle (I hope to get back), it hasn't stopped me from being an avid cycling fan -- one who, even in the face of very incriminating evidence, isn't quite ready to join the court of public opinion that has rendered a guilty verdict against Landis.
Here's my response to Schneier's blog entry that explains why.