Gary Williams is a good egg. Gary is the head of History at school, and just this week he offered to lend me Tyler Hamilton’s book “The Secret Race”. This book is one of the things which revealed the extent of cheating that was going on in the Tour de France in the late 90s and early noughties, in particular among the highly successful US Postal team Gary knew that this would be my sort of thing for a couple of reasons. Firstly he knows that I’ve been a huge armchair fan of the Tour since Channel 4 showed daily highlights of Bernard Hinault’s epic 5th win in 1985. I was amongst the crowd in London a few years ago when the Prologue took place there, and one of my ambitions is one year, when I’ve finished teaching, to take a camper van and follow the tour around for a couple of weeks.
The other reason was that he thought that I’d be interested in the ‘cheat’s eye view’ the book gives you. Gary has heard my rants about phone cheats in quizzes on more than one occasion. Now, while I admit it’s ridiculous to compare one of the most remarkable feats of sporting prowess and endurance with the Thursday night quiz in Aberavon Rugby club I still couldn’t prevent my mind from straying along this path. I’m simplifying things a huge deal here. but in summary, a great many riders cheated in this period with EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions for a number of reasons – namely
* Because they couldn’t compete unless they did so
* Because the opposition was doing it
* Because they could get away with it.
Maybe there is a comparison to be made here. In an average pub quiz a team of social quizzers probably can’t often really compete against a team with at least one serious regular quizzer. In the rugby club, if we take results over the last five years, the vast majority of quizzes have been won by two very strong teams. As for the second point, well I have seen other teams using their phones to cheat before, but only really on the New Year quiz. Two other teams have been trying to use books for years though, with no real benefit. The third point, because they can get away with it definitely applies. After all they knew that the chances of anyone actually calling them out and naming names were virtually non existent.
I’ll tell you why I made the comparison in the first place. I wondered at the time when I posted about the last bouts of phone cheating after my return from Spain whether by some strange twisted logic the MDNs (Morally Deficient Numpties ) who were doing it actually thought that they weren’t really cheating at all. Tyler Hamilton himself in his book admits that many of the riders involved thought that cheating was so necessary, and so widespread within the sport, that they weren’t really cheating at all. He explains how he bought into this so clearly that he was actually able to pass a lie detector test himself as part of his attempts to defend himself the first time he was caught for doping offences. Not that it stopped him getting banned.
You can only take the comparison so far. Riders like Tyler Hamilton were out to make the best living and best future for themselves and their families in an often brutal sport where they were never more than one bad crash away from career ending injury. Pressure to cheat came from a variety of sources. Thankfully , quizzing isn’t like that. Gotta be honest, if I had to cheat to have a chance of winning, so that I’d never know how much I achieved was due to me, and how much was due to the cheating methods I’d employed, then I think I’d rather lose. And I hate losing.