Friday 9 December 2016

The right response to cycling cheats? On yer bike!

Published 05/03/2011 | 05:00

Hello, and welcome to a politics-free zone. For one week at least, while the spoils of power are divvied up, we're completely ignoring all things electoral.

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We're going to look instead at Jimmy Magee: broadcasting legend and commentator extraordinaire. Anyone my age with a passing interest in sport grew up listening to the Louth man's distinctive voice; he was part of our experiences, watching the World Cup or Olympics or GAA or boxing on telly.

Magee always had a lovely turn of phrase and an obvious enthusiasm that was almost childish (and that's meant in the best possible sense). What a disappointment, then, to hear him seemingly defend the use of performance-enhancing drugs on Newstalk's Breakfast show.

Here's a direct transcript, for clarity: Ivan Yates asked, "Has (cycling) been discredited by drugs?" Jimmy responded, "Nah. I don't think so ... I wouldn't condone drugs, not at all. But investigative journalists have been chasing Lance Armstrong now for a few years and they're really hounding him, and I suppose eventually they'll get him. And they might get (Sean) Kelly too, and they might get (Stephen) Roche. But what does it serve? I think if everybody was on something ... "

Yates cut in, "It's cheating, Jimmy", to which Magee responded: "It is cheating . . . But: you have a car. You drive to the petrol station and somebody says, 'That petrol we have in tank 7 is better than tank 6, it'll give it a bit of a gee-up.' If you put that in your car, you're cheating."

A sceptical-sounding Yates countered, "Yeah . . . There's a difference between leisure driving and competitive sport."

Jimmy finished, "Ah no, no . . . I'm not going to get involved in this."

This is nonsensical and scarcely believable coming from a man who undoubtedly loves sport. Surely the use of biology-warping drugs makes a mockery of competition? They render it literally meaningless.

Which brings us to Arena (Radio 1) and the 50th anniversary of Joseph Heller's famous anti-war satire Catch-22. US academic Steve Whitfield spoke to Sean Rocks about this masterpiece of inspired nonsense, illogicality and paradox.

I studied Catch-22 in college and wasn't that fond of it. But it was nice to revisit all the same, and Whitfield was an informative guide. And at least there were no elections. Or competitive sports.

dmcmanus@independent.ie

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