The Cerebral Vortex
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For all those who are disenfranchised with the sport of cycling a story has come out of France which helps ground us in the true meaning of why we pursue our athletic endeavors. For those who decide to look past all the majesty and athleticism of this sport with such a rich history and fierce competition to look only at the fully-documented instances of doping, it is an event in which no times will be kept which illuminates the true depth of what sports can achieve. Next month, nearly two-hundred convicts will become the literal embodiment of Albert Londres??? famous quip about Le For??ats de la Route (???The Convicts of the Road???) as they travel 1400 miles through France by bicycle.

 

Sylvie Marion, a spokeswoman for the French prison authorities, told the press, ???This project aims to help these men reintegrate into society by fostering values like effort, teamwork and self-esteem. We want to show them that with some training, you can achieve your goals and start a new life.??? The 196 cyclo-convicts will ride in one peloton, accompanied by another 124 guards and prison sports instructors. Breakaways, ubiquitous in the professional Tour de France, will naturally not be allowed. Ankle-bracelet GPS devices will ensure that all of the prisoners are accounted for along the route. And there will be no maillot jaune, the idea to instill unity rather than competition.

 

So many of our youth, whether in the United States or elsewhere around the world, would be so lucky to enjoy such a philosophy. Too often the prison-industrial complex centers its philosophy not around rehabilitating its charges for a fruitful return to society but rather around allowing minds and bodies to rot and vengeful thoughts to fester, resulting in little more than recidivism. Here???s to hoping this pilot program pays dividends for the French, for sports has the ability to do many wonderful things beyond dazzling us as spectators.

 

We can all learn something from every party in this story. The forward thinking of the French prison authorities is laudable. The courage of the convicts, and their willingness to tackle such an arduous bicycle tour, should be commended. Some voices in cyberspace find this little more than a joke, arguing that time behind bars should be spent behind bars. But just as no two snowflakes are alike, neither are two crimes. For those who are incarcerated for non-violent crimes, the punishment often goes beyond reason. A healthy experience borne of teamwork and cooperation could be just the ticket to keep people out of a repeat trip to the penitentiary. Obviously the current system isn???t doing the trick, here or overseas...

 

If that didn???t seem absurd enough as you first read it -- ???Convicts to Get Their Own Tour de France??? -- yet another story from France is indeed even harder to fathom:...

 

 

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