The Spanish Cycling Federation has officially banned Roberto Heras for two years after he tested positive for EPOGEN (EPO) – the drug responsible for increasing red blood cell production. Heras was also stripped of his Vuelta a Espana win. To a cyclist, or any competitive athlete, this is very disheartening.
Once again we find the top one-percent of athletes pushing more and more dope into their bloodstreams. We find that our heroes are nothing more than common addicts. We see the truth in competitive sports isn’t how you train, it is, what you inject. I sure wish it was that easy to explain. I wish I could start pointing fingers at all the athletes and say, “you are responsible.” Sadly, our heroes shouldn’t take all the blame. I hate to be cliché but it is the system. The system supports performance at all costs. It wants revenues from drug companies. The system needs stars to shine through their super-human performances. The root of all evil is money and power. The system is to blame.
For example, the Tour of California’s title sponsor is Amgen – the maker of EPO. How ironic is that? The drug that has cost thousands of cyclists their dreams is sponsoring a National cycling race! Why not ask Colombian drug cartels to sponsor a ghetto Olympics? The issue here is the amount of pressure cycling teams and riders are under. With advertising and marketing contracts to honor, the riders must win. The system pressures these young men to destroy their lives based on the fact they might cross the line first – many racers have died as a result of this pressure.
I wrote an earlier blog about this issue. I received a comment that I thought made the most sense. In the comment, the author stated that if all cyclists and teams were honest and clearly stated what they added to their bodies then we might be able to categorize them for races. For example, if you were of the steroid type then you would be placed in the steroid race. If you took EPO, then off to the EPO race with you. Yes, this program is highly unlikely, but why the white hat on the issue? Why not face the problem head on?
People are going to take drugs to perform. If you want to eliminate drugs from racing then create an “All Natural” competition. Have it be separate from regular racing. Have it become a philosophy. People could still get tested, but there would be no tolerance. No Hematocrit levels above 50, no exceptions! There would be no tolerance for creatine, amino acid supplements or any over the counter speed releasers (pseudo-ephedra). I’m only suggesting a different way of doing things, because people will use drugs! People will always do things that aren’t healthy for them, so why act so alarmed when they do?