- Y'know how I said yesterday that Boonen's supporters would be out today coming up with plausible stories, denying away his coke snorting? I was only being half facetious. It didn't take long:
Lefevere made an effort to distinguish his star rider’s behavior from the "real doping problems," which have occurred in the Tour in recent years, noting that Boonen’s difficulties were of a "private" nature.It's always rough when life imitates some fool blogger's crude jokes.
And Prudhomme agreed that the positive was "not a case of performances being improved; this is something that has happened in a social sphere well outside of sport."
Now here's the sad part about it: Boonen committed a couple serious crimes and I'm getting so jaded about all this that I'm one of the people who almost doesn't care. This is screwed up because it shows that my own values system is getting eroded here by watching these guys in action and thinking about them.
People say culture doesn't matter. But it does matter. If I think it's no big deal for Boonen to be a coke-snorting, underage skirt-chasing, drunk driving fool, then it's hard for me to maintain the distinction in my own life, to raise my own kid properly, to impart to him that it's a big deal to break those rules.
Why does it matter to keep up these standards? Because there's a serious cost for not doing so. I lost three friends in the space of about 18 months to coke addiction; it's not harmless, not if you look at their truncated lives, and the disaster situations they bequeathed to their families. One of my best friends and the best man at my wedding was killed by a drunk driver, two days before my friend was to take the bar. He was an exemplary Army officer, law student and human being, and had his life stolen (from himself, his family and friends) by a guy who had enough money to be drunk to three times the legal limit, but not enough money to call a $10 cab to get home. We're not talking about having two drinks then driving, we're talking 15. Totally trampling on the law & social stigma.
Those social stigmas and laws are in place for a reason; it's because violating them causes harm, sometimes immediate, sometimes with wide ranging consequences. We should uphold them.
If Boonen gets sanctioned, it's a reminder that this is not VietNam*; there are rules here. It's easier for me to tell my kid to stay away from destructive drugs, to not dope for sports, to call me rather than drive home drunk. If Boonen isn't punished, then it's one more guy getting away with it, one more argument in favor of the rule of "Who gives a damn anyhow."
Don't get me wrong - I've nothing against *you* destroying your life with dangerous and illegal drugs. That's your problem if you do, but I would ask that you don't damage the social fabric and the people in your life and neighborhood and town while you do it. I expect the same thing of sports stars. If they are going to destroy themselves, they should do it quietly, and not set a bad example for the kids and the rest of us. Even asking us to be non-judgmental and tolerate their bullshit is wrong, because it sends the message that even though it's very wrong, it oughtta be tolerated. Thing is, if we tolerate it, how wrong can it be?
I sure hope Tom Boonen wises up; he's an immense talent and beloved rider, and it would be a shame to see him go the way of Pantani and van den Broucke. I am going to hate seeing him lose any of his career, but he has done some bad things, and he needs to pay for them, for his own good and for ours.
*There were rules in VietNam too. Walter Sobchack was a caricature of a deranged, Deer-Hunter-esque cartoon of a VietNam veteran, a very funny character at that. The vast majority of troops in that era displayed the sense of duty and adherence to the rules, at least the important ones, that we traditionally expect of our military, media portrayals notwithstanding.