What's Cool In Road Cycling

Doping: Better Or Worse? You Tell Us!

Doping. It’s still there and a part of our sport. We as fans, don’t know how deep this scourge runs through the peloton, or which of our favorite riders or teams it affects, and we probably never will know. But as long as riders continue to test positive for banned substances, we know it’s there. And if it’s in one rider, who’s to say it doesn’t affect other riders? We just don’t know , do we?

This sad fact undermines the entire credibility of cycling,– of all sports.

What we do know is that as long as riders continue to test negative for controlled and illegal substances, we have enough proof to cast reasonable doubt on the “cleanliness” of cycling. Unfortunately, this shadow of doubt doesn’t affect just a few riders, the ones who get caught – it affects the whole bunch.

I wish it could be different, but we’ve seen so much evidence over the years that it’s part of the highest levels of cycling, from Tom Simpson, to Festina, to Javier Llorente at this year’s Tour, that it’s very hard to have faith that the sport is any “cleaner” now that it’s ever been. How about all those riders who flashed brightly for one race, or even a few months, only to disappear as quickly as they appeared? There was a time when we would revere these guys as real sportsmen, real heros, who were performing way above their level for that brief moment in time, but those days are gone. Now, given the evidence of doping in recent years, I suspect every rider who rose to the top for just a short period.

Who among us fans has not felt some betrayal by our heroes, the disappointment, and the loss of trust as so many of cycling’s great riders have been discovered as dopers? Now when a new rider emerges from the bunch as a rising star, I find myself inadvertently hoping he’s for real and doesn’t fail his next drug test.

Am I down about the whole thing? You bet I am.

I’m not saying everyone is using dope. But I am saying that at this point, how do we know who’s telling the truth and who’s not? We’ve watched whole teams get busted, we’ve seen riders continue to fail dope tests, we watch as mysterious men call out from the shadows that 90% of the bunch is using.

And what’s worse is hearing about riders who’ve “never tested positive” for a banned substance. How are we supposed to feel good about that? Are we supposed to think that this is the same as being totally clean? Are we supposed to be that stupid?

The stakes, at the most basic level, are the character of the individual. If the cheater can live with himself, then who are we to force our views on them? It’s a free country, right? If you can feel good about beating other riders, other people, by cheating, then what does that say about you – perhaps your soul is already lost…

What we’re left with is hope. Hope that fewer riders are using junk to better themselves. Hope that our heroes won’t be caught cheating, that they’re not cheaters. Fortunately “hope” is one of our characteristics as humans that is impossible to extinguish. So, every year I “hope” we see less riders getting busted. I “hope” there are fewer young riders suffering heart attacks. I “hope” the IOC, the UCI, WADA and all the rest of sport’s governing bodies find ways to keep beat the cheaters at their own game. What else can I do? I guess we could just open the doors and let everyone choose their own poison – as long as the playing field is level – ie: everyone has access to the same drugs – who’s to say the best man still won’t win? But that’s another whole discussion….

Until that day comes – when sport is totally clean, I think all we can do is accept that it’s there, it’s part of life, and try to enjoy the bike race for what it is – a bike race.


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Do cycling fans think the sport has cleaned up, or is it any worse than it has been?

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