David Barry (pappubahry) wrote,
David Barry
pappubahry

Doping in cycling

Andrey Kashechkin tested positive for blood doping the other day, leaving Astana's reputation in tatters. Meanwhile, Alberto Contador announced that he would be making a statement to the press last Friday, and he told the reporters that he had never doped.

So, I think I'll put here a very inexhaustive collection of links and other information that I can't be bothered sourcing on doping in cycling. I haven't read any of the relevant books (Rough Ride, Massacre à la chaîne, From Lance to Landis) - all of this comes from the Internet.



The doping culture in the Tour de France goes back right to its beginnings. Riders consumed alcohol and sometimes strychnine to dull the pain that they had to endure over the extremely long stages.

Then there's a blank for about fifty years. Around the 1950's, riders realised that they could take stimulants to make themselves ride faster. Jacques Anquetil, the first man to win the Tour de France five times (1957, 61-64), was open about his drug use, and said that riders had responsibility over their own bodies and should be allowed to do what they want with them.

But in 1967, Tom Simpson, on the ascent of Mont Ventoux, collapsed and died. He had amphetamines and alcohol in his system, and amphetamines in his back pocket. Doping tests were introduced, and the riders protested against them.

Eddy Merckx, the greatest cyclist of all-time and five-time winner of the Tour de France (1969-72, 74), tested positive for drugs three times in his career.

In the 1980's, riders began to use EPO. This marks a qualitative shift in doping. Amphetamines were said to make riders get the most out of themselves; EPO changes the rider. Previously, all the best climbers were light - 60kg or so. With EPO in their system to carry more oxygen around, heavier riders are able to climb with the climbing specialists.

To read more on EPO, go here. The Science of Sport blog is excellent in general. In one of their other entries, the authors talk about the culture of doping amongst professional cyclists. The mentality is that it's not just OK to dope, it's necessary to dope. If you don't take all the drugs that you can, you may as well not bother. When riders who get caught say that they've done nothing wrong, they believe it.

The 1998 Tour de France demonstrated the peloton's attitude towards doping. Police arrested Willy Voet, a soigneur of the Festina team, for possession of a variety of drugs - EPO, testosterone, growth hormone, amphetamines. Later in the Tour, police raided several team buses, finding more doping products in one of them. In response, the riders protested against the police actions, and many abandoned the race. Later, Willy Voet wrote a book, Massacre à la chaîne (English: Breaking the Chain), in which he says he describes all that he knew about drugs in pro cycling.

At some point between the 1960's and today, a code of silence was formed by professional cyclists over the issue of doping. Paul Kimmage exposed the widespread doping in cycling in his 1990 book Rough Ride, and was roundly criticised and condemned by cyclists.

There have been many riders who have tested positive for various performance-enhancing drugs in recent times, and this is what allows cycling propagandists to say that the tests are working, and cycling is cleaning itself up. This is nonsense. There are also many riders who never tested positive - the doping doctors are usually a step or two ahead of the testers, as in all sports. Bjarne Riis, who confessed to taking EPO for his 1996 Tour de France win, didn't test positive. Jan Ullrich, Riis's teammate that year also never tested positive to EPO (he did get banned for ecstasy use). There is overwhelming evidence against Ullrich, both from his teammates in 1996, and from Operation Puerto, but he has refused to confess. The lesson here is that while increased testing is necessary in cycling, a much greater emphasis has to go on the policing side of things.

Lance Armstrong also never officially tested positive. This is because he had, for six of his Tour de France victories, the best doctor available to cyclists who wanted to dope - Michele Ferrari. Ferrari is on the record as saying that "If it doesn't show up in the drug controls, then it's not doping". Ferrari trained Francesco Moser to the hour record, breaking Eddy Merckx's long-standing time. Later he admitted that he'd prescribed EPO.

In 2004, Filippo Simeoni testified against Ferrari in an Italian court (Ferrari had been charged, I think, with sport fraud), saying that Ferrari had prescribed him various drugs. In a stage late in the 2004 Tour de France, Simeoni (well down in the overall standings) attacked to join a breakaway. Lance Armstrong himself, wearing the yellow jersey, chased him down and joined the breakaway. The other riders in the breakaway didn't want Armstrong there - if he stayed there, his rivals in the peloton would chase down the breakaway, and their hopes of stage glory would be gone. They asked Armstrong to ride back to the peloton. Armstrong said that he wouldn't go back unless Simeoni went with him. The other breakaway riders convinced Simeoni to go back, and the two riders did.

The peloton were strongly supportive of Armstrong's actions. Armstrong said, "And I when I went back to the group they said 'chapeau'...thank you very much. Because they understand that (cycling) is their job and that they absolutely love it and they're committed to it and don't want somebody within their sport destroying it." Don't break the code of silence.

The French say that the reason their riders do so badly these days is that they're all clean - France has much more stringent doping controls than other countries. I'm sceptical, but this is an interesting IM conversation that came up in one of the Armstrong hearings (the link goes to a usenet group, but apparently it's also in From Lance to Landis), and it agrees with this thesis:

VAUGHTERS: Anyhow, I can never quite figure out why I don't just play
along with the Lance crowd. I mean sh-it it would make my life easier,
Eh? It's not like I never played with hotsauce. Eh? ...

VAUGHTERS: Once I went to CA and saw that now not all the teams get 25
injections every day, I felt really guilty. Hell, CA was ZERO.

ANDREAU: You mean all the riders?

VAUGHTERS: Credit Agricole

ANDREAU: It's crazy

VAUGHTERS: So, I realised Lance was full of sh-it when he'd said
everyone was doing it.

ANDREAU: You may read stuff I say to radio or press, praising the Tour
and Lance but it's just playing the game.

VAUGHTERS; Believe me, as crazy as it sounds- Moreau was on nothing.
Hct [hematocrit] of 39%

-----------------------------------------------------

VAUGHTERS: yeah, it's very complex how [to] avoid all the controls
now, but it's not a new dr-ug or anything, just the resources and
planning to pull off a well devised plan. It's why they all got
dropped on stage 9- no refill yet-then on the rest day-boom 800ml of
packed cells.

ANDREAU: They have it mastered. Good point.

VAUGHTERS: They draw the blood right after the Dauphine.

ANDREAU: How do they sneak it in, or keep in until needed. I'm sure
it's not with the truck in the frig.

VAUGHTERS; Motorcycle- refrigerated panniers on the rest day. Floyd
has a photo of the thing.

ANDREAU: Crazy, it just keeps going to new levels.

VAUGHTERS: Yeah, it's complicated, but with enough money you can do
it.

---------------------------------------------------

VAUGHTERS: Anyhow- I just feel sorry for Floyd and some of the other
guys. Why would lance keep doing the sh-it when he clearly has nothing
to prove- it's weird.

ANDREAU: I know. Me too. They all get ripped into for no reason. He's
done now, thank god, but they will prove next year for Johan's sake
that they are the greatest.

VAUGHTERS: And then Lance says 'this guy and that guy are pussies."

ANDREAU: They wont stop. I agree.

VAUGHTERS: Then I've got tiger as one of my sponsors, and he loves to
pick my mind... what do you say?

ANDREAU: You play dumb. You can't talk with them about this stuff. I
think they would freak.

VAUGHTERS: Yeah, that's tough- I do, but it's tough, maybe they should
freak...


This is a good overview of Operation Puerto and Eufemiano Fuentes. Fuentes went to funny lengths to avoid detection.

This is an article about Jesus Manzano and what he's said about doping in cycling. He says, amongst other things, that "corrupt drug testers would warn riders in advance of tests."

Go back through the last 12 Tours de France and you see how pervasive the drug culture in cycling is.

1996:
1. Riis - confessed to using EPO.
2. Ullrich - Riis's teammate, lots of evidence against him.
3. Virenque - in team Festina, later confessed.
4. Dufaux - also in team Festina.

1997:
1. Ullrich.
2. Virenque.
3. Pantani - failed a drugs test in 1999 (and died from a cocaine OD in 2004).

1998:
1. Pantani.
2. Ullrich.

1999:
1. Armstrong.
2. Zuelle - had been in Festina.

2000:
1. Armstrong.
2. Ullrich.
3. Beloki - implicated in Puerto but cleared.

2001:
1. Armstrong.
2. Ullrich.
3. Beloki.

2002:
1. Armstrong.
2. Beloki.
3. Rumsas - police found growth hormone in his wife's car after the Tour, and he tested positive in 2003.

2003:
1. Armstrong.
2. Ullrich.
3. Vinokourov - tested positive during this year's Tour.
4. Hamilton - tested positive in 2004.

2004:
1. Armstrong.
2. Kloeden - he has somehow remained clear of suspicion (apart from doing well in pro cycling, of course).
3. Basso - confessed to attempted blood doping, caught in Puerto.
4. Ullrich.

2005:
1. Armstrong.
2. Basso.
3. Ullrich.
4. Mancebo - implicated in Puerto.
5. Vinokourov.

2006:
1. Landis - first Tour winner to fail a drugs test in the Tour.

2007:
1. Contador - implicated in Puerto.
Yellow jersey wearer Rasmussen was withdrawn by his team for lying about his wearabouts. He had also missed four doping tests.

And all that ignores many positive doping tests in the Giro and the Vuelta.
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