Why Lance Shouldn’t Be Banned from Strava

There were, yesterday, a few articles about Lance Armstrong posting rides on Strava and concern going around about how people were upset and wanted him kicked off. It’s not that I don’t understand why they’re upset. I can sort of get it: someone’s crashing your party and you don’t want them there. But, I don’t know that it was ever an invite-only party.

If you want to race against people in a regulated, structured environment governed by anti-doping rules, then do a race. Don’t post your rides on a website and then argue about who should be allowed on the internet.

Strava is an online site where people (mostly men) post bike rides (and runs, but really mostly rides) via their bike computers and GPSs. Segments are created, times compared, and winners declared. It’s like ‘I caught a bigger fish than you’ but with data. To some degree I think the whole point was supposed to be: How would I stack up? Could I beat the pros? Could I beat my friends? And to that end, it seems to me that Levi or Lance being on there and posting rides is exactly the point. If the real reason to post rides isn’t the “winning” or bragging rights, but to find out how you stack up against other cyclists, then wouldn’t you want to know? Why does it matter other than your pride?

I can see why it’d be fun. Steve made me an account and I looked at it. Every guy I know uses it. But, I don’t really. I just haven’t gotten into the whole pseudo-race thing. I also don’t love racing people on group rides or at Masters. This isn’t a firm stance on Strava, but more that it simply hasn’t appealed to me for whatever reason.

The other, sort of larger, problem I have with Strava, though, is that it creates a race scenario without the parameters of a race. Races come with permits and safety precautions and rules and agreements. And, there’s a reason for that.

Sure, it’s fine if you and your buddy want to see who can climb Bolinas-Fairfax faster. It’s fine if a group of you want to, but at some point that group starts to get dangerous. There’s no middle line on that road and cars descending often come close to hitting cyclists on their way up. At some point, encouraging people to go out and race sections of road on any random day is going to reach a mass where it’s just not a good idea. In most areas, Strava probably isn’t at that point yet, but around here it’s getting close.

Yes, Strava has a terms of use that says don’t break the law (the same terms of use that people are now saying should force out Lance or Levi). And, I don’t believe the company is liable for accidents or deaths as a result people choosing to break those laws. It’s always the person’s choice. But, that doesn’t mean everyone around the Bay Area hasn’t seen dozens of Strava douches doing stupid shit trying to take KOMs (King of the Mountain titles). People take parts off their bikes to make them lighter. They get decked out in aero gear and race wheels — perhaps that is why I’ve been seeing more race wheels on the roads lately — in order to ‘win’ some random stretch of road. They race, only not everyone on the road knows it’s a race.

Ignoring the fact that if you wanted Lance thrown off the site for doping, you really ought to prove that he is currently doping, since Strava certainly isn’t governed by USADA lifetime bans; ignoring the fact that you can’t argue doping is automatically breaking the law, because not all performance enhancing drugs are actually against the law, they are simply against the rules of certain sports (which Strava also isn’t necessarily governed by and which you well know); ignoring the fact that if you want to throw people off the site for some kind of law-breaking, you ought to throw off those actually endangering their lives and others; ignoring all that, it’s hard to take seriously the arguments that Lance cycling on public roads and posting that information on a website violates anything other than your sense of pride.

People seem to want to argue that Lance doped, he’s a cheater, his times and KOMs and leaderboards on Strava don’t count. Of course it doesn’t count. It’s a bunch of boys playing games on a website. None of it counts.

4 thoughts on “Why Lance Shouldn’t Be Banned from Strava

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