The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 26, 2012

Mike Pound: Why waste cheating on bicycle racing?

By Mike Pound

— I never really cared much about cycling.

When I was a kid I liked to ride a bike, but when I got to a certain age (Hint: When I could drive), I put my bike away and embraced my 1967 Chevy Impala — even though the car was pretty much the exact opposite of a chick magnet.

I got the car after my first semester of college at Emporia State University. Before buying my car, I used a 10-speed bike to get to my job at Pizza Hut. I decided to buy a car because the idea of riding a bike to work in the winter in Emporia, Kan., did not appeal to me.

Young people may not know this, but there was a time before climate change when it actually used to get cold in the winter.

I’m not talking about the cold we get today: a couple of below-freezing days in a row mixed in with the occasional snow. Nope, there was a time when winter began in early November and didn’t end until late March. When I was younger and lived in Junction City, Kan., we would get our first snow in late December and it would be March before we would see that snow melt.

The reason I chose to purchase a 1967 Chevy Impala was because it was the only car I could afford. When I bought the Impala, it was only 7 years old but already looked like the sort of car my grandmother would drive if she drove a car, which she didn’t.

I remember when I brought it to Emporia for the first time. I gave a girl named Sharon, whom I had a huge crush on, a ride. When Sharon, who always tried to find something nice to say about everything, got into my car and shut the door, she looked around and said, “Well, it certainly is clean.”

I made a mental note to forget about asking Sharon for a date.

My point is, once I got a car, I figured I didn’t need a bike and I never much thought about bikes again. So, try as I might, I could never get into the whole Tour de France thing.

As far as I could tell, the Tour de France was basically a bunch of guys wearing ugly shorts riding through France while trying to avoid running into random sheep. Whenever I would watch any sort of television coverage of the Tour de France, the same question would run through my mind: Why?

That same question also ran through my mind when I started hearing about guys who were using performance-enhancing drugs to boost their chances of winning.

Why? I mean it’s one thing to cheat at something important, such as baseball or football. But, cheating in a bike race? Come on, grow up.

Besides, I always figured if the Tour de France guys wanted to make themselves go faster, they should do what we did when we were kids: clip playing cards to the spokes in their bike wheels.

I’m not sure the playing cards actually made our bikes faster. But they sure sounded faster.

According to what I have read recently, a lot of guys who have competed in the Tour de France cheated. And it turns out the biggest cheater of them all was Lance Armstrong. For the past decade or so the argument between the Tour de France folks looking for cheaters and Lance has gone pretty much like this: “You’re a cheater!” “Am not!” “Are too!” “Am not!” “Are too!”

But, in the past couple of weeks, the evidence has been so overwhelming against Lance that his argument has changed to: “Whatever.”

It’s really a tragic waste. Things might have turned out differently for Lance.

If only he had purchased a 1967 Chevy Impala. Heck, Sharon might have even gone out with him.