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The Toll of Doping - was it worth it?
 
By Guest Contributor
Date: 1/3/2010
The Toll of Doping - was it worth it?
 

The Toll of Doping - was it worth it?

The Toll of Doping - was it worth it?
by Joe Papp

Were the experiences and competitive results I obtained with the help of doping worth the physical and mental anguish I’ve suffered during the past two years? The simple answer is “no”. While this probably seems like a no-brainer to the casual fan or weekend racer, it was not a conclusion I ever foresaw during those long nights spent hooked up to an IV or smarting from an intramuscular injection.

Doping can ruin your life...
and that’s the message I have for young athletes who might face similar choices

Don’t get me wrong - save from a few brief moments of clarity when I recoiled in disgust from my participation in systematic doping - I understand that I was willing to follow “the program” if it meant I could keep racing and practicing the sport I loved in an environment that seemed intoxicating to me.

Unbeknown to most, I had two significant opportunities to escape the system - one in the aftermath of a terrible crash in 2003 that almost cost me my left leg, and later in early 2006 after it was revealed publicly that a former teammate of mine had tested positive for EPO.

And though both times I took baby steps towards the door of mental and physical freedom from cheating, I lacked sufficient willpower, confidence and hope for a future without competitive cycling to break free. Maybe things would have been different if I’d had a stronger outside influence, or a better-calibrated moral compass, but the reality is that I didn’t, and I’m reminded of this each and every day of my life.

I don’t ask for sympathy from those of you who could never understand how a good person can make a fundamentally bad decision - or even a series of major mistakes - but I was amazed by the venomous hostility that characterized so much of the anonymous email sent to me care of my website.

I never realized that so many people felt so let down or angry with me for my own failings. I do offer my sincerest apologies to those people I directly harmed - my competitors who raced without the aid of performance enhancing drugs. I know you’re out there and I took food from your plate. (Though I met more dopers than clean professional cyclists during my time with a UCI license.)

Without cataloging the entire collection of woes that have befallen me as a result of doping, there are four that bear mentioning (in addition to almost having died after my last race), and which future professionals tempted by the needle should acknowledge:

  • The poisoning of personal and professional relationships that were incredibly important to me; separation from my family.
  • My inability to secure post-cycling work in the professional field for which I’d trained,
  • My subsequent financial ruin;
  •  And the dual physical and mental anguish I’ve endured since being cast out of the sport I loved, which formed such a dominant part of my identity and sense of self.

I started cycling on May 25, 1989 - my 14th birthday, one day after the death of my father. Cycling was an escape from a shattered childhood, but also a means to supercharge my existence - to travel to exotic parts of the world, immerse myself in foreign cultures, represent my country, test myself physically and mentally and generally collect experiences that I thought would form a life tapestry rivaling that of my peers. In the end though, that tapestry is shredded. It hangs in tatters, and I’m left with little more than a few dusty trophies, fading stamps in my passport and vague notions of “what could have been”.

Unlike the authors of more than a few melodramatic letters that appeared in major cycling publications, I would never dissuade a young athlete from following his sporting dreams. I would, however, strongly encourage anyone choosing to pursue sport as a career to relentlessly analyze the long-term costs of his participation against the short-term benefits. Ruin lies in wait for dopers who are caught, but even clean sport can exact a significant toll.

There are two questions I wish I’d prepared answers for prior to leaving grad school to return to racing:
1) What would I choose to do if I couldn’t race a bicycle and
2) How would I support myself doing something I loved and construct an enjoyable life if professional cycling couldn’t be a part of it?

I’ve been forced to confront the fact that my answers to both questions are still incomplete, and that I’m running out of time to respond appropriately. I am humbled and contrite, and implore you - young athletes to avoid making the same mistakes that have consigned me to my present state.

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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Cycling’s Winter of Discontent The Reason Why
At Long Last, Is There No Sense Of Decency?
Cycling: Can we handle the truth? We are our own worst enemy
Doping in Cycling – One Fan’s Point of View
WADA Driving Innocent Athletes Out of Sport

Without a Doubt - CSC Anti-Doping Program
Team CSC Launches Anti Doping Program
Team CSC'S Doctor Rasmus Damsgaard Responds
Team CSC Anti-Doping Program - 6 Month Report

Doping in Bicycle Racing - Fact and Fiction
Doping in Cycling - Fact and Fiction a Clarification
Doping in Bicycle Racing - Fact and Fiction  a Rebuttal

Recommended Reading:
Giorgio Squinzi: Mapei's anti-doping crusader
The UCI’s Hein Verbruggen on the World Anti-Doping Code
An Open Letter to Wada Chairman Dick Pound
Reflections on Dick Pound
Bad News is Good News. Good News is No News
Floyd Landis Talks with the Daily Peloton
Without a Doubt - CSC Anti-Doping Program
Skibby - Forstå Mig Ret -"Understand Me Correctly"
Play the Game Communication Conference
Message from Phil Zajicek
Two Sides of the Story - US Cycling Suspension
Christoph Sauser UCI XC World Cup Winner Comes Clean
Andy Hampsten Speaks on the Dopage Issue
Andy Hampsten - An American Pioneer
Andy Hampsten - The Interview
A Prime Alliance
How to Deal With the Problem of Doping
Student of Life: An Interview with John Lieswyn
Interview with Amber Neben
Chuck Coyle's Racing Chronicle: Scott Moninger
Chuck Coyle's Racing Chronicles
Cannondale Open Letter Re: Simoni
Saeco Speaks Out!
The VDB Fiasco: A lot less than I would like to say
Interview with Doping Hunter Professor Frank Delbeke
Amber Landis: The Interview, Part One
Amber Landis: The Interview, Part Two
Amber Landis: The Interview, Part Three
Lance Armstrong – No More heroes
The Tour, Tour de France Novel - Author Interview
I've Got to Believe it's Getting Better: Doping 2004
Lance Armstrong Cleared by Independent Investigators
Fallout From Operation Puerto - Dave Shields
Official statement from WADA on the Vrijman Report
Blood doping
Cycling: Dopage
A Doctor’s Perspective - CASM Annual Conference Part 1
Tyler Hamilton Interview Part 1
Tyler Hamilton Interview Part 2
"You Can Ask Me Anything" A conversation with Tyler Hamilton
Simeoni's verdict
Adam Bergman Comes Clean


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