18 May 2016

"Like Doping In The Tour De France"

As a writer and someone who teaches English, I find it interesting that people use so many sports metaphors in their everyday communication. In particular, I am struck by the fact that so many people who use those metaphors aren't aware of their origins--or don't care about sports.

How many times have you heard someone refer to being "on the ball"?  As I understand, the expression originated with American GIs returning from World War II, mainly those who fought in Europe.  Many of them attended football (soccer) matches for the first, and only times, in their lives.  To them, the best players always seemed to be "on the ball".

Here in the US, we often say that someone who's succeeded at something has "hit a home run".  Or we might say that someone who equivocates, delays or simply sloughs something off is "punting".

And who hasn't talked about "winning (or losing) the game" in reference to some endeavor that has nothing to do with sports or games?  Or referred to doing something difficult as "pedaling uphill" or "pedaling against the wind", or having an easy time as "coasting" or "pedaling with the wind at your back"?

Well, now it seems that another cycling metaphor--with more negative connotations--is entering the everyday lexicon.

Cartoon by Gary Barker.

Lately, I've heard people--who, to my knowledge, aren't cyclists--say that some negative practice or another is "like doping in the Tour de France".  And, just today, I came across someone who used that phrase in reference to test prep centers in China and other countries who help students in getting high scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, which improves their chances of getting into the most competitive American colleges and universities. 

It seems that for years, the College Board, which administers the SAT, has been administering tests abroad after they have been used in the US.  In my day, some kids might talk about some of the questions afterward, but now they discuss them in online fora.  We all know that once something is posted online, anyone with a computer can gain access to it, no matter where in the world he or she happens to be.

That, it seems, is what the test prep centers in China and other places have been doing.  The operators of those centers know that "the only way to survive in the industry is to have a copy of the test" in advance of a sitting. So says Ben Heisler, who offers test-prep and college-consulting services in South Korea.  "It's like doping in the Tour de France," he opines.  "If you don't do it, someone else will."

Hmm... Could "doping in the Tour de France" be the new way of saying "doing what ya gotta do"?



  1. I just finished watching "The Armstrong Lie" and it shows just how pervasive lying has become. I would also suggest that "doping in the Tour de France" is akin to Nero saying that "Rome is burning!" and not even Caesar has noticed until someone speaks up.

  2. Rene--I like your analogy with Nero and Caesar. Could the next new phrase be "lying like Armstrong?