Thursday, August 16, 2012

One for the Andy-Schleck-loving-Contador-haters: Or Boonen wins again, and other ethical questions

There you go, you Andy-Schleck-loving-Contador-haters, have a go at Big Tom for exploiting an opportunity:

Belgian Road Championships 2012: Elite Men Results |
The race was decided by a move from Boonen at 40km from the finish line, exploiting a mechanical from co-favorite Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol).

We don't really know what was in Tom's mind, but he clearly gained advantage from the move. So what is the morality here? Does one wait? Or attack? It is, after all, a bike race, and anyone can have a mechanical, even Tom Boonen. But I'd hate to be his mechanic, post-race. Now if it was clear cut and perhaps enshrined in a universal rule then everything would be cut-and-dried and sweet. We'd probably do the "decent" or "sporting" thing and simply wait. But life - and racing - is not like that.

Sometimes mechanicals are purely random and unavoidable, and at other times it's caused by "rider or mechanic's error". If you contributed to your own demise, so be it. We can't expect everyone to wait whilst you get your act together. I think Andy Schleck's famous chain trouble was probably rider error, myself, and Contador was clearly not 100% sure what had happened. You could say he should have waited anyway, just to be sure; but it's not so cut-and-dried. Racing is complicated. You may wait, others may not. And here with Boonen, how's he to know what has caused his competitors to be delayed? Even if he did know, how is he to judge fault? Why should he assume it wasn't rider error? And if the tables were turned, would they wait for him?

There is no one supreme morality, is there? We all have our set of personal, individual rules, including a sense of what is "fair". And then we apply those rules. If we make our decisions based on our personal moral foundation and it's done "authentically" or in a way true to ourselves, then we have acted "ethically". Which will never stop others questioning our actions, of course.