Like Punxsutawney Phil, who will be dragged out of hibernation in about 4 weeks time in order to see his shadow under the klieg lights, thereby ensuring only 6 more weeks of winter, this blog is waking from its deep sleep, if only temporarily.

Turns out that today’s New York Times has a piece that suggests the Baseball Hall of Fame voters are going a bit squishy on whether or not to admit Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens into the Cooperstown shrine. David Waldstein reports that:

baseball writers who vote to decide who should be inducted into the Hall, and who should not, appear to be backing away from their punitive approach to Bonds and Clemens, and perhaps others as well.

It appears that some of the writers feel that if Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner who did precious little (read: nothing) to address the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport, and Tony La Russa, one of many managers whose teams benefited by players using such drugs, can somehow be enshrined in the museum, then Bonds and Clemens should, too.

All of it “just kind of struck a nerve with me,” said Kevin Cooney, a voter from The Courier Times in Bucks County, Pa.

“To me, it would be hypocritical to put the commissioner of the steroid era and a manager who had connections with the steroid era in and leave out the greatest pitcher and the greatest hitter of that time,” Cooney said in explaining why he had now decided to vote for Bonds and Clemens.

As another sportswriter puts it:

Steve Buckley of The Boston Herald said he pictured himself sitting in the audience at Cooperstown for future induction ceremonies and looking out at Selig and La Russa and others who he said benefited from the steroid era and wondering why the two best players of the time were barred.

“I’m not saying Bud turned a blind eye to it or that he knew it was happening,” Buckley said of the drug use under Selig’s watch. “I’m simply saying that Clemens and Bonds and others took the performance-enhancing drugs and did the steroids and all those evil things, and at the end of the day, the game did prosper, and they are on the outside looking in, and I have an issue with that.”

Ultimately, though, from my perspective, the issue is pretty cut-and-dried. Gordon Wittenmyer of The Chicago Sun-Times sums it up well:

[Wittenmyer] recalled that before his first vote a few years ago, when another tainted slugger, Mark McGwire, was still on the ballot, he described the voting process to his son, who was 12 at the time. Wittenmyer described each player’s biography and what he had seen from them up close as a writer. Then he explained the steroid issue.

“His response was, ‘Well, Dad, isn’t that cheating?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, it was,’” Wittenmyer said. “If that’s the easy conclusion a 12-year-old draws, it really is that simple.”

If I had a vote, I’d vote the way Wittenmyer votes. Without the steroids, Bonds’ and Clemens’ accomplishments would not have been nearly so great, and very likely wouldn’t have elevated them to Hall of Fame status (though that is an entirely debatable point, I’ll concede).

So instead of electing these players to the Baseball Hall of Fame, I propose that an entirely new organization be set up — The Pharmaceutically Induced Sports Superiority Hall of Fame, or PISSHOF (pronounced “piss off”).

Best of all, this could be for all sports. So there would be a baseball division, professional cycling, football (both real football, which you know as “soccer,” and the American sport), track and field, and of course weightlifting and body building (of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a charter member). That’s the Hall of Fame we need. And Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens would be perfect candidates for that honor.

Oh, and for those who are still wondering, this blog coming out of hibernation right now has no effect on how long winter lasts. So get ready for 10 more weeks of cold, snowy weather (unless you live in warmer climes).

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Chase Car Doping

by Rant on July 8, 2015 · 5 comments

in Cycling, Tour de France

Time flies. So it’s been six months since the last post, give or take a few days. After a while, what new is there to say about doping? I suppose I could write about every story that comes along — which would make updating the old book easier — but after a while it just seems like it’s all the same. Different names, different days, pretty much the same story.

Until, that is, one of my English cousins sent me this article. Seems it’s possible to gain an aerodynamic advantage, let’s call it “chase car doping,” from a follow vehicle. And if you think about it a bit, it eventually makes some sense.

After posting on my Facebook page, I got a few responses that pretty much say, “Yeah, we know that. Been done for years. And the UCI generally ignores anything but the most egregious violations.”

What I find interesting is that someone did the research and actually quantified what type of advantage could be gained. As Marcus Woo’s article on BusinessInsider explains:

Using computer simulations, [Bert] Blocken [of Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands] discovered [in 2012] that during a race, the rear cyclist can reduce the aerodynamic drag on the one in front by as much as 2.5 percent. That’s a lot, considering that 90 percent of a cyclist’s total resistance results from drag.

In general, a cyclist feels drag while speeding along. That’s because air gets pushed forward and squeezed into a small region of high pressure, leaving a pocket of low pressure in the wake behind the bicycle. The high-pressure region pushes back on the cyclist while the low-pressure region pulls, creating resistance.

But the simulations showed that a second cyclist close behind would sweep air forward, filling the gap that the first cyclist created. The air pressure behind the first cyclist isn’t as low anymore, so the wake pulls on the first cyclist less, decreasing the aerodynamic drag.

Pretty interesting stuff. Blocken and a graduate student named Yasin Toparlar did some more tests and found:

[I]f a car is within 10 meters (about 33 feet) of the cyclist during a typical time trial that is 50 km (about 31 miles) long, and if they are traveling at a speed of 54 km/h (about 33 mph), then the car would shave 3.9 seconds off the cyclist’s time. If the car were within 5 meters (about 16 feet), the cyclist would save 24.1 seconds.

These numbers only apply for individual time trials, when a car directly follows a lone cyclist. But when the total time difference between winning and losing is often mere seconds, a trailing car could offer riders a big advantage. “With this information,” Blocken said, “you could influence the outcome of the race.”

Now, if everyone is doing this, it’s not much of an advantage. And truth be told, most time trials aren’t in a straight line, so the effect won’t be as strong. Still, it’s food for thought.

Makes you wonder, as the article concludes, just how much aerodynamic assistance does a breakaway or a lone rider get from the motorcycles that zip along with race officials and cameramen. Might be time for some new rules about chase cars, motorcycles and other support vehicles during pro cycling races.

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Je suis Charlie et Ahmed

by Rant January 13, 2015

Yes, dear regular reader, I know what you’re thinking. “What? This isn’t about doping in sports?” And you’re right, it isn’t. Not at all. It’s about something much bigger and more important. As you might know, I started my professional life as a journalist, after graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of […]

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Don’t Let the Door Knob Hit Ya

by Rant December 17, 2014

Not that often that working journalists covering a particular beat will pen what is, essentially, an opinion piece. But The New York Times’ Juliet Macur does just that, with her latest article about the pending departure of USA Cycling’s (current) CEO, Steve Johnson. I say finally — and hooray — because it is high time […]

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Waking Up

by Rant December 11, 2014

Wow. Had no idea that I’ve been gone from this space for almost six months until I stopped by to check something in WordPress for a friend. I was going to post a video of the Tour going by my grandparents’ house in Leeds back in July, after one of my cousins sent me his […]

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Hello? Is Anybody Home?

by Rant June 19, 2014

Yep, it’s been a while. A long while. Even longer than the last interval between posts — I think. Sorry folks. Haven’t really known what to say. There’s a whole lot going on. But at the same time, it’s a whole lot of the same old, same old. Lance Armstrong keeps trying to outmaneuver his […]

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