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Doping in Cycling - Fact and Fiction - Clarification
By Staff
Date: 7/19/2007
Doping in Cycling - Fact and Fiction - Clarification

Doping in Cycling  - Fact and Fiction - Clarification
There are a number of factual errors in Dr. Adams otherwise excellent article. While his point, that winning without doping is possible, is correct; some of the examples given are not.

By Michael Akinde

There are a number of factual errors in Dr. Adams otherwise excellent article. While his point, that winning without doping is possible, is correct; some of the examples given are not.

The comments on Riis, for instance. Riis never tested with 60% haematocrit - the highest value recorded is a document from his time on Gewiss-Ballan where he registers 56,3 (up from his off-season norm of 41,1). Unlike what the article indicates, Riis admitted to doping from 1993 to 1998; in other words, throughout the period when he was a contender at the Tour de France. Bjarne Riis did achieve admirable results without doping, however; for instance, he won Stage 9 of the Giro d'Italia in 1989.

Riis certainly did have the talent - for instance, his team captain during the years he was clean, Laurent Fignon, noted his abilities and encouraged his development into a stage racer. It is incorrect to say that Riis did not improve with EPO; he certainly did. But considering that many of his opponents were almost certainly also doped, he might well have been able to win clean, against a clean field. We will never know.

The article also makes assumptions about the doping practices of Marco Pantani and Richard Virenque. Never having tested positive, as the saying goes, does not prove that doping did not happen. Likewise, winning races is not alone a guarantee or proof that a rider or team doped.

It has, unfortunately, for a long time been far too easy for the cunning to evade the anti-doping controls. For this reason, it is pointless to speculate about whether Virenque was more clean from 1999-2004, than he was from 1993-1998 (when we know he was not). The same goes for Marco Pantani. Given the knowledge that doping on most top teams appears to have been systemic and well-organized at least from 1993-1998, in fact, we may well assume the opposite; especially given that effective EPO testing was not established until the start of this millennium.

Can Clean Riders Compete and Win?
This does not mean that we should believe those who claim that success while clean is impossible. As mentioned above, Bjarne Riis himself won a Giro stage in 1989 before he was introduced to doping.

Another self-confessed doper, Jesper Skibby (the only Danish rider to win a stage in all three Grand Tours), is proud of his own Giro stage win in 1989, which also came before he jumped on the doping bandwagon.

Note that by this time, EPO was already in use in the peloton, and doping - while perhaps less systematic - occurred before this time.

More recently, Kurt Asle Arvesen won stage 8 of Giro d'Italia. Arvesen was under scrutiny because of problems with a pre-Giro blood measurement (in case anyone wonder - the measurements indicated health problems, rather than doping), but the follow-up testing gives us as great certainty as science makes it possible to be, that Arvesen rode - and won - that stage cleanly.

I realize that the examples above are all from the Giro d'Italia; an accident of the data we have available. I think we may safely assume that the Giro is not a cleaner race than others, and thus there are no doubt other victories in other races where we could similarly establish that yes - the winner was in fact clean.

It should also not escape our notice that two of the teams enjoying success on the roads with 8 days in the yellow jersey and three stage victories between them, CSC and T-Mobile, have the most comprehensive doping testing programs in sports at all. As a rider may have recently discovered, doping under such programs is highly risky, and we may hope and believe that the other riders on those teams are intelligent enough not to take such risks.

Achieving success while riding clean is hard; definitely harder than taking the "short-cut" of doping. But it is far from impossible, and while it is not possible for someone from the outside to single out a particular Cyclist and state with 100% certainty that such-and-such is clean, we can say one thing with certainty: clean riding and success are not mutually exclusive.

The Daily Peloton
We publish contributors articles with many differing views on doping and the administration of anti doping rules. The cycling community as a whole has to confront the curse of drugs in the sport and the inherent short and long term effects to riders health. It is important to dispel the myths of doping and the idea for younger riders that doping will make it possible for them to reach their dreams. It simply won't and will lead to a life of secrecy and misery. If you don't believe this read the confessions of some of the riders in the links below who made the that mistake.

We are determined to push the debate in this area and challenge the assumptions of our readers and bring to light the differing opinions in the cycling community. In the end we hope it brings about some positive change.

The anti-doping battle is one to raise the standards of ethics and morals for all the participants of the sport at every level and demand the same from their fellow. It is a crusade for the hearts and minds of cyclists to admit that doping is nothing more than cheating and stealing a win from a fellow rider.

Theft is an open admission that one could not have honestly earned something on his own efforts. It will take the efforts of the cycling community at every level to win this race for clean and fair sport .
Thanks for reading.

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