Thursday, August 23, 2007
Professional cycling indeed has a drug problem…a problem exemplified by a notable lack of characters pushing the envelope of gratuitous pharmaceutical ingestion simply for pharmaceutical ingestion’s sake. Take a look at the chemical yawn-fest cycling fans have had to endure: testosterone, EPO, illicit blood transfusions, out-of-wack T/E ratios, blood thinners, cortisone. Where’s the fun in shooting yourself full of that stuff. All it does is ensure your body can endure increased bouts of physical misery on the bike. Sure, the peloton can claim some diminutive Italians dabbling with cocaine (Daniele Pontoni, Gilberto “Candy” Simoni, Salvatore “Hey, this blow isn’t mine” Commesso) and one has to mildly applaud Michel Pollentier’s (failed) ingenuity regarding avoiding a TdF drug test. But cycling is still light years away from approaching professional baseball’s Dock Ellis who has set the bar pretty damned high. The man pitched a no-hitter on June 12, 1970 against the San Diego Padres while tripping on acid.
From Keven McAlester’s detailed account of Ellis’s career, particularly the LSD episode. This is just freakin’ remarkable:
Thirty-five years ago, on June 12, 1970, Pittsburgh Pirate and future Texas Rangers pitcher Dock Ellis found himself in the Los Angeles home of a childhood friend named Al Rambo. Two days earlier, he’d flown with the Pirates to San Diego for a four-game series with the Padres. He immediately rented a car and drove to L.A. to see Rambo and his girlfriend Mitzi. The next 12 hours were a fog of conversation, screwdrivers, marijuana, and, for Ellis, amphetamines. He went to sleep in the early morning, woke up sometime after noon and immediately took a dose of Purple Haze acid. Ellis would frequently drop acid on off days and weekends; he had a room in his basement christened “The Dungeon,” in which he’d lock himself and listen to Jimi Hendrix or Iron Butterfly “for days.”
A bit later, how long exactly he can’t recall, he came across Mitzi flipping through a newspaper. She scanned for a moment, then noticed something.
“Dock,” she said. “You’re supposed to pitch today.”
Ellis focused his mind. No. Friday. He wasn’t pitching until Friday. He was sure.
“Baby,” she replied. “It is Friday. You slept through Thursday.”
Here’s what Ellis remembers about the trip from Los Angeles to San Diego: not a goddamn thing. Apparently he got to the airport, boarded one of the San Diego shuttles that left every half-hour, flew for 22 minutes and landed. The first thing he recalls is sitting in a taxi, telling the driver to “get to the fucking stadium. I got to play.” Next thing, he’s sitting in the locker room. 5 p.m. By that point, Ellis had enough experience with LSD to know that it wouldn’t be wearing off anytime soon; as a, uh, “precautionary measure,” he took somewhere between four and eight amphetamines and drank some water. He walked to the railing at Jack Murphy Stadium where, each time he played in San Diego, a female acquaintance would bring him a handful of Benzedrine. White Crosses. He took a handful of those and went to the bullpen to warm up…
…What’s weird is that sometimes it felt like a balloon. Sometimes it felt like a golf ball. But he could always get it to the plate. Getting it over the plate was another matter entirely. Sometimes he couldn’t see the hitter. Sometimes he couldn’t see the catcher. But if he could see the hitter, he’d guess where the catcher was. And he had a great catcher back there. Jerry May. You could make mistakes with him, and he would compensate. He’d know if he called for a curveball, he could look at the follow-through of your arm and see if you were gonna hang it. So he’d get ready to slide and block. Also, he had this reflective tape on his fingers that was by far the easiest thing to see.
Ellis had no idea what the score was, and he knew he’d been wild–he ended with eight walks, one hit batsman and the bases loaded at least twice–but here it was, bottom of the seventh, and he was still in the game.
The hardest part was between innings. He was sure his teammates knew something was up. They had all been acting strange since the game began. Solution: Do not look at teammates. Do not look at scoreboard. Must not make eye contact. His spikes–that’s what he concentrated on. Pick up tongue depressor, scrape the mud, repeat. Must. Clean. Spikes.
One has to wonder if Vinokourov wasn’t dabbling with LSD during the most recent Tour de France. Talk about erratic, bizarre behavior: senseless crashes, TT victory, relegated to the autobus, victory, then booted for easily detectable blood doping. One has to wonder if the peloton was seeing scenery like this, while Vinokourov was grappling with a more perplexing panorama. Maybe somebody should ask him. Or how about Zabriskie…just watch all of his 2007 Tour de France Velonews video interviews in succession and provide some sort of explanation (other than acid) for his demeanor.
I actually knew somebody who inexplicably did try to combine bike racing and acid. He popped some LSD at a raucous party at about 3am on a Saturday morning…slept for a few hours…remembered he had a race that afternoon…drove a mere 10 miles along the NYS Thruway in an attempt to attend said race…then promptly exited the Thruway at the first rest area to spend the rest of Saturday and a good chunk of Sunday parked in his car enjoying an acid induced light show in lieu of racing.