July 12, 2004
Sporting News: Death is yet the unseen rider
Dave Kindred takes on doping and cycling, predicting the anticipated raids by French police on the Tour and speculating on the role of doping in the modern peloton.
Kindred quotes a "cycling buff who has studied the underbelly of the sport" that the most likely days for raids:
"... are the evenings of July 20 and 21 and again on Friday evening, the 23rd. These evenings will be massive doping/recovery sessions for the top contenders and their teams, too. It will be a shell game. They will not use their hotel rooms. Where will the safe house be?"
Kindred fills in some of the history of doping in the peloton, from the days of "we ride on dynamite" and strychnine to the arrest of Willy Voet in 1998, launching the Festina Affair when police found erythropoietin (EPO), human growth hormone, testosterone, blood thinners, and "Belge Pot", a mix of stimulants and painkillers including cocaine and heroin, in a car Voet was attempting to sneak into France 4 days before the start of the Tour de France.
Kindred faults the Tour for testing less than 1 percent of riders for EPO, but an effective EPO test is a very recent development, and the Tour organization does hundreds of urine tests and has added blood tests to this year's testing regimen. Kindred takes the suspicious view:
Or maybe turning a blind eye to the doping is good business; it wouldn't be much of a show if all the riders were disqualified.
The more I know about drugs in the sport, the more I feel that it is not the drugs per se that are the main issue. The sport has never been clean and will probably never be clean. But the time has come for the riders to stop hiding behind masking agents and Clintonesque semantic games over the meaning of the word drugs. To stop pretending that if it hasn't been detected by the dope controls, then it isn't a drug. Or that if it isn't currently on the UCI's banned list then it isn't a drug (Pedro Delgado's defence in 1988 when he tested positive for probenecid, then commonly used as a masking agent to hide steroid use). Or that if it has been found by a dope control, that it doesn't count if it can be excused by the use of a back-dated prescription for a saddle-sore cream (Armstrong) or an asthma inhaler (Miguel Indurain). Or that the drugs found in their possession were for their wife, their grandmother or their mother-in-law (Ferrari). Or that, all other excuses failing, there was an error in the test (Marco Pantani). The sport may never be clean but it's high time that the riders came clean and admitted what's really going on. They may be able to convince themselves that they are innocent victims but they cannot convince the sport's fans.
Posted by: fmk at Jul 13, 2004 4:36:03 PM