We, the childless Froomes

July 3, 2018 § 20 Comments

You could see the glimmer of hope, first when Hinault said that the riders should refuse to start with Froome on the line, and then, blossoming into a rather stronger beam, when the Turdy France organizers invoked Article 28 to ban Froome from the race.

Of course the glimmer was plunged into eternal night a few hours later when the UCI, taking a nod from WADA, threw the whole thing into the dumpster. As the protesters howled, WADA shrugged and said that it wasn’t practical to design a test to catch a guy who was doping, even though he’d already been caught, and even though past salbutamol cases had been easily, handily, and quickly processed.

As usual, the dead sport of cycling turned to doper, dope peddler, fraudster, and convicted felon Floyd Landis for insight, with suspected-but-unproven doper Chris Horner chiming in. This, then, is the state of things: The only people who have anything meaningful to say are people who have left the sport in disgrace, or under a dumping tropical storm of suspicion.

Trump and Froome

Everything, of course, comes back to Trump. Not because he is a cause, but because he is a symptom of the disease, just like the horrible tandem of Froome and Brailsford. Facts, truth, rules, and the moral spirit of fairness are completely dispensed with as the juggernaut of entertainment squashes everything in its path.

Politics, with its shouting, ignorant, unread participants on all sides, and cycling, with its shouting, less ignorant but still unread participants on all sides, have been co-opted by the corporatist state whose single-minded goal is returns to the shareholders no matter the social, environmental, or human costs. It isn’t capitalism run wild, it is human greed.

How did we get here?

The baby boom

The Greatest Generation in the U.S. was followed by the baby boom, which has now been followed by the baby bust. It is easy to see the boomers as the most despicable generation in the history of the species. They have taken everything, destroyed everything, given nothing. They have presided over the death of the environment, the veritable melting of the earth itself. And what have we given in return for all that we have taken? Trump, the last lobsterman.

I say lobsterman because many years ago, when the Maine fisheries were on the brink of collapse and regulators were trying to keep it alive, a reporter asked a crusty old lobsterman why he so bitterly opposed the fishing limits even though it would mean that in the long term his occupation would survive. “I’m a lobsterman,” he said. “And if the fishery is gonna die, I’m gonna catch the last damn one.”

That is Trump, that is Frooomesford, that is every local crit that keeps raping its dwindling loyal racers for a dollar a minute, or less, to ride around in circles. “The sport may die, but I’m gonna get the last fucking entry fee from the last damned rider.”

The boomers never seriously asked why the fishery has to die, or why the sport had to collapse. Why the hell is that?

The baby bust

The developed world is staring down the maw of its own cultural and human extinction. The replacement rate for a human population is 2.1 live births per woman. The most recent data for the U.S. pegged the 2017 fertility rate at 1.75, far below what is needed to maintain growth, joining Western Europe, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Korea, and China as nations whose populations are swirling the drain.

Some people think that’s a bad thing because without a stable base of young people, there will be no one to do the work, pay the taxes, and be generally fucked around by the old folks. Other people think that a declining population, at least in the short term, is a good thing. Automation, robot dogs, algorithms that think for you, Viagra, and not having to pay for grandbaby college tuition is pretty much nirvana, they say.

Regardless of who’s right, the baby busters have some ugly facts in their corner. The first is that even countries like Finland, where maternity is supported at all levels by the state, have been no more successful in boosting fertility rates than places like Japan, where women are actively punished for making full natural use of their vaginas. Pregnant? You’re fired.

The numbers aren’t lying, and how could they? Childbearing sucks, even when you get a check from the government, generous maternity leave, free childcare, and you have a husband who really does share the housework.

You may be able to convince a few women to have a kid, a bunch less to have two kids, but it is a dead letter trying to get women to have three. They have birth control, thank you very much, and no matter how illegal you make abortion, the might and main of women on earth have figured out how to keep from getting pregnant in the first place. People point to economic factors, social factors, and factor-factors, but I point to the obvious: Pregnancy and childbirth suck.

Hope is the future, the future is hope

Every morning I listen to Falter Radio, a magnificent broadcast from Vienna that tackles all of the hard questions. Much of its analysis focuses on the upending of liberal social democracy in Europe, and tries to make sense out of why countries that have so profoundly benefited from it are now turning hard right and harvesting radical right wing racism in the process. The shuddering is at its most intense when they talk about America. If America is abandoning its democratic ideals, what hope is there for the rest of the world? China, where there’s a video surveillance camera every 200 feet, and where people are scored on a social reliability index that allows or prohibits access to things like buses and subways?

The folks at Falter can’t figure it out, but I can, and I have.

Our complete reversal away from fairness, law, democracy, and liberty is simply one — maybe the most important — manifestation of our collapsing birth rate. Every country in Europe that has turned hard right has a plunging fertility rate. Poland, 1.32%. Hungary, 1.44%. Austria, 1.47%. Germany, 1.50%. Italy, 1.37%.

World leaders with developed economies who are also in the throes of demographic collapse happen to correlate well with repressive, anti-immigrant, neo-fascist, corporatist states. China, 1.57%, South Korea, 1.24%, Japan, 1.45%, and Russia, 1.75%.

Why should this be, and what does it have to do with Froomesford?

Well, the simplest explanation is that developed countries with a lot of kids have historically found a lot of common ground on social, economic, and political issues because the polity understands the concept of future as something that extends beyond their own lives. When a society is awash in kids, most people take an active stake in the future for the purely selfish reason that they don’t want their children to live in misery.

Even my racist, alcoholic, mean-spirited, tax-hating Republican grandfather believed in public education and health care because he had a kid.

If you think about it, that belief in the future is a big leap. The future is an imaginary construct that never really comes, whereas the present and the past are demonstrable moments in time. When a society comes together to make policy about the future, it is making policy about an imaginary time, and how far out you imagine that point has everything to do with the policies you commit to. People talk about a divided America and about the collapse of dialogue, but that’s horseshit. My grandfather hated liberals in 1963 just as violently as the average white, 60-ish Texas voter does today. The difference is that my grandfather knew that without education and some basic access to rights, his daughter wasn’t going to have much of a life.

What’s changed isn’t the political divide, but the fact that there aren’t enough kids to force people to find common ground. If the only future timeline that matters is my own life, it makes sense to tighten things up and make sure that less wealth is distributed, less opportunities are provided to others, and that more resources and rights are devoted to fewer (and older) people. Fuck the youth, and especially the immigrant ones.

Nowhere is this forfeiture of the future more apparent than in school shootings. Here we have a wholly preventable social phenomenon that preys on children in the most violent way. But on a political level, who cares? Children are not the future, they are a vestigial reminder of our own past and a nagging critique of our impending mortality, but they are not a precious resource to be treasured, grown, loved, educated, valued. Another group of children got shot up in school? Well, I got my problems, too. And what has any kid ever done for me?


You see this phenomenon of hopelessness play out in cycling as well. Even lower than the national fertility rate, few cyclists have 1.75 children, and most have less. Every now and again some cycling nut dad will get his kid into the sport and make a big deal about how the sport is collapsing and about how we have to do more for juniors and where are all the junior races and blah blah blah, but nothing ever happens, and not only because the kid hits puberty and discovers that bike racing is not nearly as much fun as ________ (fill in the blank with pretty much anything).

The main reason that nothing ever happens is because cycling, like Trumpist America, is dominated by aging, greedy, white men who do not give two broken fucks about junior racing. What they want is a prize list, a 45-minute crit, and a safe, unchallenging race that ends in time for them to prop up and watch the Big Game. And they don’t even represent the majority: The sport as a whole doesn’t even want racing on that pitiful level, it wants no racing at all.

As a whole, cycling is comprised of old white men who don’t want to race, unless you consider the Donut Ride, Strava, grand fondues, and grumpy grinders “racing.”

Without kids in the mix, there’s no reason to care about anything. That’s why even the angriest liberals look at what’s happening today and mostly shrug. By the time the true devastation of Trumpism blossoms, we will be dead or so close to it that it will have been worth it, or so we think. This is the only thing that explains the casual acceptance of the Froomesford scandal. Let ’em cheat. They’re only cheating themselves, I can choose not to watch it, and anyway, my kid’s not trying to make it in pro cycling, so what do I care?

I hate to break the news to you. You may not care. You may think that it’s okay to whore off the future to the slothful, insatiable, rapine greed of the present. But inside, the only thing that can ever make anyone feel good about life is the conviction that there is a future, and the knowledge that you’re doing something positive for it.

Froomesford is wrong. Trump is wrong. Xi is wrong. Kurz is wrong. Orban is wrong. Abe is wrong.

The little kids in the morgue are right.



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§ 20 Responses to We, the childless Froomes

  • Brian Keller says:

    That is a very heavy, and very well placed, load! I think you’re on to something here, sir.

    Is there a fix?

  • Vlad Luskin says:

    There’s still hope that a drunk Frenchman by the roadside will take justice into his own hands and do what WADA and UCI wouldn’t.

  • Note of clarification. The UCI writes its own rules for doping thresholds. Those rules are required to meet WADA’s published standards. WADA has zero authority, has never had any authority. They publish a standard and certify a sport’s rules meets those standards. That’s all.

    Like the UCI’s tireless support of Armstrong, this is the UCI fashioning an excuse using WADA compliant rules to keep Froome on the road. Other riders were treated with zero tolerance for the same offense.

    Also worth noting the majority of votes in WADA belong to permanently appointed sports federation officials. Sep Blatter and Liam Diack being two of the recent ones that had to leave only because their corruption started international law enforcement investigations that lead to arrests and prosecutions. (Not Diack’s or Blatter’s, other less important people.)

    In its current form WADA and NADOs are a lie used to cover the IOC sports corruption and doping. You can thank Craig Reedie.

    • fsethd says:

      Instead of thanking Mr. Reedle, is it okay if I just have another heavenly slice of Lisa Barnes’s sourdough bread?

  • Toronto says:

    Pro cycling remains propped up by toothpicks. The fear of collapse outweighs ethics and principles. It would be darkly humorous if it was not so pitiful. Theatre of the absurd material. No other sport struggles in this manner.

    The rest of your meditations are profoundly on point. Leave it to the inherent imperfection of man to fuck up the simple, basic and fundamental purpose of all living creatures; to procreate and improve the world for future generations.

    • fsethd says:

      This wound up in spam due to the “fuck,” just fished it out. Goodness knows I don’t mind profanity, but WordPress has a mind of its own sometimes.

  • When my wife and I talk about the injustices and life-threatening problems facing humanity, we talk about how they will affect our grandkids. After all, we’ll probably be gone before the worst of it hits.

    You wrote, “Think like you had grandkids.”. We do think that way, and that perspective guides our decisions.

    Thanks for very insightful thoughts, and best wishes to your grandkids.

  • fsethd says:

    Emailed in by a reader:

    I could not managed to log on to actually post, this, but what a great post today!!!

    It seems that in this instance the understandable hatred for doping tipped the scale. On the other side of the scale was what every lawyer knows: the rights of the innocent are protected by the lawyers for the guilty.

    Because some of your readers may not immediately get this. Take the so-called “exclusionary rule” which means that evidence obtained by the police in an invalid search cannot be used. It has been pointed out, of course, that this means that a person who is guilty will go free because of this rule if the evidence which would have convicted the person was obtained wrongly.

    But the larger point, is that its only the CRIMINALS, or alleged criminals, who have any incentive or basis to establish rights for the rest of us non-criminals. Until you are accused of a crime there is no case in which to raise arguments about constitutional rights. So, the rights of the innocent are protected by lawyers for the guilty.

    I looked at the Froome case that way. It seems to be that Froome was able to show that the test in question was not accurate enough for the finding to support the ban. By “accurate” I mean that the level of sambutamol detected was not directly correlated to how much you took.

    If this is the case, not only do I have no problem with the Froome decision, I applaud it. Because only someone with Froome’s resources could do so. Other riders would have to simply accept whatever finding was dished out.

    As to the other great point, I never thought about the connection between youth and selfishness. I will have to really mull that one over. Thanks as usual!

  • senna65 says:

    Damn, Wanker. Too late in the day for me to do more than skim through this post, but even a cursory glace says a lot about your level of commitment. The intensity and relentlessness you bring can’t be questioned. Don’t agree with you on everything, but whatever the measly fee I pay for this daily blog is well worth it.

  • Mike Hancock says:

    That was a dumpster fire of a post, and for some reason I couldn’t stop reading. Well done.

  • dangerstu says:

    I think you just earned a whole year’s subscription in one post. I read that the Dr who came up with the original standards for the tests supported froomesford, basically saying that because the original tests were only ever performed on swimmers, who were well hydrated. I don’t like this get as close to the line as possible cheating that TUE’s facilitates, but I do understand that it’s part of human nature to find a winning edge, look at formula 1 for example where the rules get regularly changed because teams have found a way to circumnavigate the huge body of rules already in place.
    On a positive note my friend Matthias is currently in Belgium helping out the velosport junior team while they race over there for a few weeks.

  • flehnerz says:

    Good stuff as always!

    I was slowly coming to a similar conclusion with coastal NIMBYland. Either the area is full of younger working people like me who aren’t interested in having kids because of career issues or money and this don’t participate in local politics or let along even vote in the midterms. Then they bitch and moan about why things are they way they are. Turns out #hashtags only go so far.
    Then there’s the angry grumpy “I already got mine, you can’t have a chance” NIMBYs who already had kids and no longer care about the system unless it benefits them.

    Personally I still want nothing to do with having children of my own but I’m more than happy to support my friends and family who choose to have children. Hopefully they can be left with a decent place to live after we all return to stardust status.

  • fsethd says:

    Another emailed in comment:

    I think you just earned a whole year’s subscription in one post. I read that the Dr who came up with the original standards for the tests supported froomesford, basically saying that because the original tests were only ever performed on swimmers, who were well hydrated. I don’t like this get as close to the line as possible cheating that TUE’s facilitates, but I do understand that it’s part of human nature to find a winning edge, look at formula 1 for example where the rules get regularly changed because teams have found a way to circumnavigate the huge body of rules already in place.

    On a positive note my friend Matthias is currently in Belgium helping out the velosport junior team while they race over there for a few weeks.

  • jowdog1 says:

    I’m gonna regurgitate your argument in future discussions and call it, “Why we don’t give a fuck”. Thanks, as always.

    • fsethd says:

      Hey, your comment got caught in spam due to the “fuck” work. I just fished it out. Sorry!

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