Drugs in Cycling

You may think I have no right to post here as I am not what you would all recognise as a cycling 'enthusiast'. However I am a leisure cyclist and I have followed the Tour de France and Olympic cycling for a few years now. Whilst on holiday in Italy in June with my family we by chance were in Salo for the criterium round the streets just after the Giro d'Italia. I persuaded my family to stay and watch as I recognised some of the names that were in it e.g Basso, Bettini, Simone et al. In fact we had a great time seeing the riders up close and my 8 year old daughter was much taken with Ivan Basso - especially as I told her he was one of the favourites for the Tour de France. We even tried to get a Basso t-shirt for her, without success. When we returned she (and I) were very much looking forward to supporting Basso in the Tour. Imagine how I felt having to explain to her why he wasn't taking part. I watched it anyway on Eurosport and found it pretty exciting. But now we know how Landis managed his incredible recovery on Stage 17. So why have I bothered to register on this site just so I can put this post on the forum? Well, I guess all the people who buy Cycling Weekly all year round (and not just during the Tour like me) don't really care one bit what people outside the sport of cycling really think. Well, I think you should. Cycling as a competitive sport is a great spectacle, and a great way to spark the interest and encourage the involvement of youngsters. As a parent I am now disgusted at the hypocrisy that those inside the sport show. For example the commentators on Eurosport and on ITV4 obviously wished the doping thing would just go away and they could spout their usual hyperbole about the incredible performances and heroics of the Tour. Since doping and acceptance of it as a fait accompli is now (and maybe always was) endemic in the 'sport' it is not a sport at all any more. I know other sports are also involved in doping eg athletics, football, but it seems to me that without doping no-one can even think of being successful in pro cycling. This means I think that the sport that was becoming more popular - especially with Tour kicking off in London next year, will now wither and even die as far as the general public is concerned. I would think that will affect sponsorship, media coverage etc. and a lot of money will go out of the sport. Thats why I think keen cyclists should be concerned. I would like to hear some views on this - maybe I should just go away and not bother with cycling and leave it to you lot.
And by the way, I know that nothing has been proven yet against Basso, Ullrich et al and maybe never will against Armstrong (a particular hero of mine in recent years after reading his book). But with the (I think) 2nd to 5th placed riders from last years Tour chucked out of this years where does that leave the winner of last year? The best of the dopers? If I don't know who is doping and who is not, I don't ever want to watch a 'professional' cycling race again. Sorry.

  1. Peter
    Of course you have a right to post your views. In fact views of "non-enthusiasts" are probably the most important as it offers a fair reflection of the sport. I am probably what mr kimmage would describe as an Anorak but even I am disgusted by the sport now. I watched the last week of the TdF on eurosport and agree with your comments about commentators and experts in the studio. True other sports are implicated in the Spanish investigation, but to use the fact that only cyclists have been named as some kind of defence of the sport is missing the point. Cycling needs to face up to it's problems with doping and not worry about other sports. Unless it can do this, I agree pro cycling will slowly die. I hope it can sort out these issues but doubt it (history shows that it is unlikely). Usual excuses will follow etc. If this is the case I also will never watch pro cycling again, live, on television or in print.

  2. I agree its good to hear from those outside the sport but,frankly 99.999% of the british public and media are not at all interested in the sport and never ever will be. In fact, I suspect there is a conscious effort amongst the general press to see the sport killed off altogether. It just doesnt fit with the popular image of motormad, football psycho, easy team-sport britain.
    In the closing stages last week there were almost no mentions in the general sports news of Landis' epic ride or his eventual victory. It certainly never made the headlines but, hey, his testosterone level is up and this makes it straight to the top of the list! If the press are right, and nobody in Britain is interested, why should they be interested in this?
    Contrast this with the treatment of the track athletes who have been caught in recent years, with far more concrete testing evidence than is now available against Landis. The accusations were treated with resounding indignation by the press - how dare somebody accuse our beautiful, squeaky clean runners?
    I believe drugs are used to some extent in every sport at a high level where money is involved and the difference is that cycling tests for it properly rather than the random approach taken by other sporting bodies.
    Anyway, why would you need drugs just to play a couple of games of football a week?! England players have complained in the past that the commitments of the domestic scene leaves them too tired for internationals. What would they do faced with 3 weeks of continual competition of 5 or 6 hours a day - on top of an already heavy racing schedule?
    Lastly, when its given proper consideration, what would be the point of Landis taking testosterone in the middle of the Tour? Its a growth hormone that is used to enlarge muscles over a long training period, not provide an instant boost for one stage, its dead easy to detect and he would know he would be tested for sure. Hello?
    Didnt notice the "in-depth" news coverage pointing that out last night!

  3. I totally agree with both of you. Their is a conpiracy in the cycling media, Tv Commentators, magazines etc, to avoid the D word. Paul Kimmage knows all about this. Remember he wrote Rough Ride in the late 80's His former collegues in the sport certainley thanks him for it.
    If pro cyclling goes down the tubes, it will only have itself to blame. Its the leisure cyclists, the thousands who ride the sportives and people like myself who ride races, balncing work , family and a little training because we love riding a bike are important.Pro cycling, it corruption and greed to win at all costs is far removed from this.
    People will always cycling no matter what happens in the pro pelethon.

  4. I would agree with Brian that drugs are widespread in many sports, Cycling has rightly chosen to put itself under the spotlight and sort the problem out. As the sport is being cleaned up we are seeing alot of ugly scenes which are an embarrassment to the sport but have to be done. The abuse of drugs has not gotten worse just our ability to detect has improved.
    Professional cyclists have the same competitive instincts as any other athlete and we should not be naive and think that many of our heroes in other sports are whiter than white.
    It is however absolutely bizarre that Landis would have done anything given that he knows he is going to be tested. Do these athletes team doctors have some responsiblity for ensuring that athletes remain compliant as it would be a travisty if some of these guys are unwittingly ruining there reputations and the sports.

  5. Interesting to see FL comments in Sports Illustrated. If he has a naturally high testosterone (? spelling) how come it has not tested high before? Also in the Telegraph today Phil Ligget mentions the genuine smiles at the finish of stage 17. I watched it on Eurosport and though he looked manic as he crossed the line.
    Now again UCI are saying they are cleaning up cycling (blah blah). How many times have we heard that before.
    I agree there is going to be pain cleaning up the sport but ..... I'm not sure I can keep listening to the constant denials by drug cheats. I so want to believe it is clean, will be clean but I doubt it ever will be.

  6. everytime someone is asked about drugs from any other sport they immediatly go absoloutly not, takers should be banned for life etc etc
    in cycling (even armstrong) they go...ho ha he hmmm well you ve got to be carefull about that....i'm not sure there is a problem...uuurrrr.....testing must be improved yadda yadda yadda on and on...to an ametur cyclist or non cyclist that just looks like shifting the responsibility and leaves the rider or whoever looking like a bit of a prick!
    like diving in football, FIFA have the power to stop it and regulate it but they don't want to/can't be bothered. The UCI can stop drugs in cycling but they don't want to spend the money doing so..while this is the case, people will hold no/little respect for pro cycling and the sport will become a farce (if it isn't to many already!)
    have a look at the what MTB forum () to see what they say...no one there respects the sport at all and these are people who are very keen cyclists
    somebody needs to sort this out but nobody has the testosterone :p
    (and i apologise for the repetition of my posts between the 2 forums!)

  7. Competitive mountain bikers are just as bad as roadies. I stayed at a hotel used by several teams during the MTB world champs one year and you should have heard all of the running up and down the stairs at 3am.
    Anyway, that's besides the point. The whole situation has now gone beyond the 'what about other sports, they're just as bad' deflective finger-pointing. If professional road cycling can't help itself, then it's doomed.
    Whether the riders protest their cleanliness or not, the big sponsors and TV companies are pulling out right now, unwilling to be tainted by association with such a crap sport. Without cash, no sport can survive at the level pro cycling is currently at (albeit a million rungs below football, rugby, tennis, cricket, golf, etc).
    Good. I'm embarrassed to be a fan of cycling.

  8. I find it incredibly annoying that guilt is instantly assummed. Cycling is the most heavily scrutinised sport in the world when it comes to drugs. Cyclists are subject to every new and unscrutinsed test as it becomes available and are most often the first testbed for the tests. As a result, I believe there are some clean cyclists who pay a heavy price for the bad history associated with the sport. Yes there are cheats in this sport as in every other but riders deserve a reasonable chance to clear their names. There have been NUMEROUS occasions where these tests have been thrown out in court. In a proper court of law, a half-descent attorney could easily refute many of these tests which is why jail terms will never happen.
    In the most tested sport in the world and one where the stage winner is automatically drug tested, why would ANYONE be stupid enough to take such a risk. Also, a single testoterone injection would have no performance value at all. For most drugs and artificial enhancement tools to work, they have to be administered in many doses over periods of time. But there's a lot of stupid reporters out there who know they sell papers with the biggest shock possible as opposed to the truth. So all the atheletes get tried in the court of a very uninformed public mostly because good journalism is a rare sight in the world of the soundbite.
    Peter - Give it a chance. The fact is that NOT ONE PERSON ASSOCIATED WITH THE 2006 TOUR HAS ACTUALLY BEEN PROVEN GUILTY yet. Not Basso, Ullrich or Landis. The teams and cycling organisation react the way they do to illustrate that they are prepared to goto any lengths to keep their sport clean. Even if that means presuming guilt.
    Don't believe everything you read either. Remember that cycling struggles to get coverage and understanding in the best of times. 99% of the journalists writing on this story are making it up as they go along to make things interesting. Truth is they don't have a clue what they're talking about. I even read one article today where someone twisted Landis' statement to imply that he blamed a beer for his elevated level of testosterone. PLEASE....

  9. I,m just wondering though , how Landis pulled off that ride on Thursday to come back and win the Tour.If he was that strong all during the tour, why didn't he attack like that in the early mountain stages , like LA used to and and put the big time gapsin to seal the race.
    Thursdays ride looked so suspicious.
    Cycling is a hard tough, demanding sport, and to do ride like that for so long, on such a hard stage, and still look so fresh at the end is far from natural.
    Landis has won so much this year, 4 big tours. Thats better than anything LA ever did. If he's innocent, as he claims and maybe the B sample will prove this, then I'd say he's a better rider than Big Tex.

  10. A new pro gets a 2 year contract. If they do not perform and get results they are dropped and out of a job. Invariably they have given up on education without qualifications so will have problems getting a decent job and no doubt have spent many years of hard effort (by themselves and family) to get to that point. So the pressure on them to perform is tremendous. Therefore drugs in cycling is hardly surprising.
    Also we, as fans, want to see long mountain stages with several climbs and 'super human' rides. That is not possible for mere humans. If we were more realistic and had less severe, shorter stages at slower speeds would it still have the same spectator appeal?

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