Elementary students play a game called “Heads up 7-Up” where seven students stand at the front of the classroom and the rest of the class sit at their desks with their heads down and their thumbs up. On “go”, the seven at the front get to walk around the class, each person touching one student’s thumb. Returning to the front, the teacher calls, “heads up seven up”. Then, you get to guess who touched your thumb. If you’re correct, they sit and you get to be one of the pickers.

It plays out as a popularity contest, as do most things in elementary school. Some kids never get picked. The girls will laugh as Becky and Susy just keep picking each other. Their heads will bob, shake and they’ll giggle.

Tee. Hee. Hee.

Otherwise you beg lie, steal and cheat your way through the game. If you can drift your head off the edge of the desk and peak at feet, that is one way. Setting your head at a bit of an angle so you can actually see around is another, but is pretty damned obvious. Kids get tricky and think one person will touch their thumb in a certain way, so some kids will quickly smack your thumb, or barely graze it. There becomes confusion when thumbs are touched so lightly that only six kids think they were picked.

This professional football season, Tom Brady gets to spend a little extra summer with his supermodel wife, after a multi-year legal battle with the NFL, wherein Brady was accused of deflating several game balls at some point during an AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens. Apparently, the ball becomes more difficult to manage at normal pressures when the ambient temperature is particularly cool. The NFL published a 243-page report (I have to include that detail just because of how ridiculous a 250-page paper about letting air out of footballs is) describing the allegations against Brady. He was suspended for four games, which he and the NFL have appealed and fought over for years, before he finally ate the suspension this year, after a United States Appeals Court had to get involved. The Second Circuit Appeals Court had to decide a playground argument about the air pressure of footballs.

Oh, Tom. Enjoy your time with Gisele and the kids.

Lance Armstrong is the greatest road cyclist that has ever thrown leg over top tube. Ever. In the history of our species, Lance rides in truly unattainable air. Armstrong is also one of the most diabolically, win-at-all-costs, trample-the-weak sociopaths who has ever done same. Armstrong used a horrific and tragic, stage four testicular cancer diagnosis as the smokescreen to shield his actions. He used his charitable activities to keep his drug use out of question. A man who had survived late-stage cancer is beyond reproach. Nobody who had lived to tell that tale would then continuously, methodically and continually inject themselves with drugs that increased the risk of cancer occurrence in the first place. Nobody would do that.

Except Armstrong.

There are those who would argue that Armstrong was not the greatest cyclist ever, citing his drug use as the reason. But doping predates Armstrong. The use of performance-enhancing drugs, PEDs, predates the Tour de France. Man invents bicycle. Man rides bicycle. Man races bicycle. Man uses drugs to race bicycle. The Tour didn’t happen for years after that.

Strychnine and nitroglycerine are among the earliest PEDs in cycling, the former supposedly tightened tired muscles (in very small doses) and the latter dilated arteries and improved blood flow and breathing. Cocaine came on the scene some years later, an obvious choice in a PED arsenal. Cocaine increases cardiac output, increases energy and numbs pain. It wakes you up, makes your heart work harder and makes it so these things don’t hurt.

Cocaine is a magnificent drug. It is a positive inotrope, making the heart contract harder. It is a positive chronotrope, making the heart beat faster. These effects ramp your cardiac output. The problem is that, while it is increasing your CO, it also causes vasoconstriction, particularly of cardiac vasculature, resulting in diminished blood flow at the same time the cardiac musculature is being forced into overdrive. In the setting of existing cardiovascular disease, this can be just what it takes to push a heart over the edge. This is why fat, white lawyers have heart attacks on Friday nights when they do a little blow. The drug finishes pinching off a coronary artery that their lifestyle had begun years prior.

Fast forward to the 1998 Tour de France. The entire Festina team was ejected, after a team car, filled to the brim with drugs and blood, was found crossing a French border. All riders confessed to using EPO and the team was expelled from the tour, along with riders from other teams in unrelated events.

Fast forward again, to Ricardo Ricco, an Italian rider known as a climbing professional at 5'8", 130. Ricco was the third rider ejected from the 2008 Tour de France following a positive test for CERA, an EPO analogue. The amazing thing about Ricco, and the reason I’m pointing to one rider of many who have been caught, is that he was treated in an Italian hospital some time after this incident for attempting to give himself an autologous blood transfusion in his apartment with blood he had stored for almost a month in his refrigerator. He was rushed to the hospital, septic, his kidneys shutting down, clogged from the clotted blood they had tried to filter…

That is reliance on cheating to a wonderfully ignorant extreme.

Some rumors say he’d stored the blood in a milk jug.

Using the search term, “drug testing” on the World Powerlifting Congress web page yields two results. I didn’t laugh till I saw the actual results. The entire goal of powerlifting is to get bigger and stronger. Steroids and other substances, HGH perhaps, help this to happen. They help the body recover and stimulate it to store more protein as muscle than Mother Nature originally intended. The cross-sectional area of muscle grows, and you get bigger and stronger. That’s just how it works. The WPC website returns two results — the same article, informing us that the only difference between the American Powerlifting Federation and the Amateur American Powerlifting Federation is that the amateur federation drug tests and the other does not.

I love that powerlifting doesn’t even pretend. Louie Simmons is a central figure in powerlifting, owning and training at a gym which has represented a very large number of world class, and world record-level powerlifters over the past 30 years, openly advocates for PED use. Simmons claims to have been using, personally, for decades. It’s right out there in the open. He is frank about it and makes the best argument I’ve ever heard from inside any sport about PED use. If it is your job, and the entire point is to move the most weight possible, of course you’re going to use. It would be illogical not to.

When something appears to good to be true, it usually is.

Barry Bonds, Mark Maguire, Roger Clemens… These guys had to testify to Congress about their PED use. These guys perjured themselves before Congress about their PED use. The cream, the clear. When they were finally forced into honesty, they couldn’t even say what they were taking, only that it made baseball easier.

Yikes.

Now, there is a sport whose goal is to get as fast and strong as possible. That is the only point. Ever more radical displays of power and fitness. To run the 5k like a track athlete and pull a deadlift like a powerlifter. A sport where drug testing is… Less than widespread.

Like Armstrong, this sport uses similar tactics. Skepticism is met with derision, hostility and vigorous rebuttal. It isn’t that there is anything wrong with the sport, the problem is you. The only problem is your jealousy. Like cycling, powerlifting, baseball and Heads up 7-Up, there are many, perhaps the majority, who play honestly.

The question becomes, did you get to the front of the class because you peaked?

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