CFA, RIP & the Future of Cycling Blogs

After a self-imposed hiatus in protest of the UCI’s seemingly endless stalling over real disciplinary actions derived from the bio-passport system and a triumphant (albeit brief) return, it now appears that cyclingfansanonymous is again going silent….but this time for good. This is a shame as I really enjoyed CFA, particularly in its survey of cycling news in many, many different languages. The truth is, even in what seems like a golden era of mainstream interest in European professional road racing within the U.S., American reporting is not sufficient – and remains quite parochial, in my view. Although I cannot afford the subscription currently (!), the French magazine Velo remains the only thing worth subscribing to in the (two) languages I can read; I would guess that others who can read Italian or Spanish might come to a similar conclusion (with BiciSport or some Spanish mag substituted).

CFA is shutting down because of the author’s renewed disillusionment with pro cycling and doping. Although I was always impressed by CFA’s cosmopolitan flavor, I also found myself increasingly on a much different wavelength regarding doping. I agreed with CFA at least half the time, but usually for different reasons. CFA was, most fundamentally, anti-“doping” in its stance, but with particular emphasis on/disgust with the pervasive haze of hypocrisy, deception and bad faith that has accompanied the sport into its purportedly “post doping” era. Certainly the hypocrisy and, more fundamentally, bad faith rampant in the sport disgusts me as well. Lance Armstrong’s return to the sport really pushed me over the edge on this (as I’ve mentioned before).

Where I have increasingly parted ways with the CFA type of perspective is in the disgust with “doping” itself. Why am I bracketing the word doping each time? Largely because I don’t believe that “doping” actually exists! Of course, cyclists do all sorts of things to and with their bodies in the pursuit of competitive advantage, and some of these activities we define as doping. What determines which activities get labelled doping? Various criteria – some implicit and some explicit – all of which are essentially philosophical and ethical (and, as such, fundamentally normative).  Yes, we all know doping when we see it – transfusions, pills, needles and so forth – but we do so only because we carry around completely unquestioned common-sense notions of what is “fair” and “unfair” or, even worse, we completely reify extant anti-doping regulations by saying that “if it is banned, it is doping.”

Perhaps this is hoping for too much, but I’d far prefer to see discussions about preparation, training, the distribution of advantageous mental and physical attributes across the population, and the distribution of material resources (money, equipment, knowledge, social networks) that amplify or attenuate the importance of all of these factors in the world of pro cycling than the facile outrage of those who are shocked (just shocked!) by former heroes who have turned to the dark side. This is the usual fodder for what we might call “hipster nostalgist/romanticist” roadie blogs (Belgium Knee WarmersRed Kite Prayer“What’s New” at Competitive Cyclist, Embrocation Cycling Journal, and, the worst offender, Rouleur Magazine) In another post I will take aim more directly at the proliferation of these distinctly American “takes” on Euro cycling. For now, though, let me say that CFA had these all beat in prose, intelligence and global sweep. However, the very stance that I do/did not share with CFA is precisely the reason (s)he is getting out of the blogging biz. Thus, in future posts I’d like to spend some more time elaborating on my own notions of how a “post doping” pro cycling (and, it follows, cycling blogosphere) might look.



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