2015 Genie: Three wishes for the year

03 Jan 2015 Posted by
This was originally a post I threw onto Facebook in a hurry yesterday afternoon, but it seemed to get some traction, so I’m repeating it, with a few expansions here.  It is my wishlist for 2015 – none are likely, but 2015 would be better for them (in my opinion!)

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1.  A big name doping positive from a sport other than cycling

A positive drugs test from a big-name football player in one of Europe’s big leagues is my first wish.  I’m thinking Spain, England, maybe Germany. Just to burst the bubble and make people question general perceptions of cycling and athletics as the only dirty sports. Of course, football fans are likely to care even less than the governing bodies of the leagues and sport, but still.

The same could be said for tennis, or rugby.  Given the team-environment in football and rugby, the money and the easily recognized importance of size, speed and power, you cannot make a case that these sports are dope-free, and so if even a portion of the anti-doping spotlight that has shone on cycling (and to a lesser extent, track and field) were to be cast on these sports, they’d show up a few ugly scars.

Might 2015 be the year?  I doubt it…

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2.  Less avoidance dancing, more head-to-head matchups

Specifically referring to track and field, I’d love to see more between the very best athletes, rather than the bizarre avoidance-dance that characterizes athletics in particular. Oleg Tinkov of cycling may say some radical things, but he wasn’t wrong when he pointed out that one of tennis’ great strengths was the regularity with which it puts it four great players in direct competition against one another.  That was the driver behind his proposed Three Grand Tour challenge, and while the calendar probably makes that impossible, the concept is right – sport thrives on rivalry.  Not too often, because scarcity creates value as well, but we need to see more direct contests.

When Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Justin Gatlin play hide-and-seek in full view of one another, track and field manages to achieve the exact opposite. Barring injury, 2015 will provide at least two direct contests at the World Champs. A few more would be nice.  So too would a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight – not that I’m a boxing fan, but at least the hide-and-seek will be over.

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3. I’d like to be force fed fewer cherries, with less extremism

Away from competitive sport, and in science-media communication, I’d like to see less cherry-picked extreme science, when it comes to just about any subject – talent ID, specialization, fatigue, and most of all, diet. I wish that 2015 could be the year that swallows up the obnoxious extremism of people who believe that because their diet worked for them, carbs are evil and everyone else is wrong.  While I’m on it, I’d like not to be accused of lacking courage to attend a conference

Just because you ate doesn’t mean world hunger doesn’t exist, and just because you cut out certain foods, it doesn’t mean a) everyone else should, or b) that you’ve even proven the “why?”, or the mechanism.  There is no question that a good many people are succeeding from this diet.  There is also no question that many fail, and that the collection of evidence, outside of your basket of cherries, says that adherence is the best predictor of success, not one specific diet.  And so just as barefoot running taught us not to adopt the furthest counter-position possible, it doesn’t pay to swing from one extreme to the other.

If you’re in a position of authority (which is to say, you have some letters before or after your name), stop pulling rank based on who has more letters (or more publications – they’re not necessarily better thinkers on that basis), and stop being cavalier with the advice you dispense in a battle nobody else is fighting against you.  How can you not learn from a past, when the passage of time has revealed a previously held extreme position to be false, yet we move into yet another extreme position?  Surely the burden (or reward) of knowledge and experience should be circumspection and respect for complexity and nuance?

To the media and evangelists, stop offering easy, simple answers just because they’re compelling and attractive, and aim for more education, and less advocacy.

So whether it’s your explanation for fatigue being “ALL” psychological or physiological, whether you think performance is genes OR training, or whether you think carbs are the devil, I’d like to hear less from you this year. Or find some common sense and join a constructive, nuanced debate.

Ross