Thursday, January 19, 2006


Recently, the World anti-doping chief Richard Pound has made accusations that professional cycling is rife with drug abuse and cheating. He accuses riders and teams, alike, that they have created a culture of deliberate cheating, according to Velonews. Since his out lash earlier this year, the cycling community has demanded an apology, which Pound refuses to give. He also accused the governing body of cycling, the International Cycling Union, of knowingly allowing drug abuse amongst all cyclists. According to Velonews, Pound said that the officials are blind to the abuse. He stated that “they should not be allowed outdoors without white canes and seeing-eye dogs."

His comments come at a very sensitive time when some of cycling’s most famous champions are facing trials and tribulations. Roberto Heras, the three time winner of the Giro De Italia, is currently fighting positive test results. Olympic champion Tyler Hamilton is now in court trying to have his race suspension ban lifted. Both of these cyclists have lost position in the world of cycling due to accusations and positive drug tests. Furthermore, Lance Armstrong, one of the greatest cyclists ever and 7 time winner of the Tour De France, has also tested positive for the drug EPO (the performance-enhancing drug erythropoietin). This finding came about during a test of his back-up samples, which were dated from his 1999 tour win.

So, why the scandal; why does the abuse persist? Is it a problem with the culture of cycling? Is the doping phenomenon part of a wider conspiracy? I decided to ask some of my closest friends who have strong ties to the professional cycling world what they think about doping. I’ve come up with a few surprises.

According to many of them, the professional playing field is NOT level. They’ve stated unequivocally that cyclists use drugs. They’ve commonly referred to the riders as “being on the sauce”, or “part of the pharmacy system”. They obtain the drugs through team doctors, or teammates. Now, we are generalizing. It isn’t that every professional cyclist is using copious amounts of narcotics. However, the system is against them. Beyond the world of the illicit drug trade, the marketing of sports enhancing products is overwhelming. I mean what is cheating? If someone comes across an ancient Chinese herb that helps with red cell production (like EPO), do you take it? Is a protein shake against the rules? It is a manufactured product, isn’t it? Let’s put it into perspective.

Imagine if you were a cyclist on the verge of winning a major event. Basically, you have the chance to secure another year of full sponsorship if you win this race. Otherwise, it’s back to the bike shop and $10.00 an hour. Then someone comes up to you and says take this pill and you’ll win. Hell, the labs may not even test you; there is that chance. What would you do?


Anonymous said...

You raise excellent points. There are many "natural" performance enhancer that are just fine. There are others that are just as "natural" but because they are chemically analogous to banned substances they, too, are effectively banned because they will cause a positive drug test. Many OTC medications, that have *no* demonstrable performance-enhancing effects, can also cause a positive test. So, what to do? I might propose allowing full-disclosure doping using any substance that a body of sports physicians deems safe when taken within certian limits. Any ahtlete wishing to push beyond those limits does so at their own risk. These people are, after all, legal adults. But the doping must be publicly declared and if they test positive for anything undeclared, *then* sanctions can be invoked. BTW, the aforementioned "safe" could be defined as, say, "does not cause harm at a rate greater than x% of a placebo".


walkert said...


You make a good point here. As a libertarian, I think all of it should be legal and if cyclists are honest and declare their drug of choice then no problem. We could put the steriod users in a group, the EPO users in the "I like to ride with crazy amounts of blood in me" group and the meth users in the fast-ultra-sick-death group. At least we would all be honest about what we put into our bodies. It is one of those things: people are gonna do it, so why penalize for it...