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Chuck Coyle's Racing Chronicles
 
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 5/1/2002
Chuck Coyle's Racing Chronicles
 

By Chuck Coyle

"and I am killing your brain just like poisonous mushroom….."
-Vanilla Ice

Drugs in cycling and for that matter drugs in all of sports have been a problem that has been going on ever since athletes figured out that they could go faster, jump higher and outlast the competition through means not within the realm of true sportsmanship. Generally speaking I believe that the US peloton is a very clean bunch of riders. Yes, there will always be those who think that the only way to succeed or even do well is to cheat but those people are unavoidable and have a tendency to weed themselves out through natural selection.

There are certain riders in the US who are commonly known to rely heavily on doping; no I am not going to mention any names although I would love to! But those riders tend not to get picked up by good teams anyway because everyone knows that they pose a serious risk. By being a risk I mean if the rider gets busted at dope control the team looks bad and will take on a lot of heat, the team will even look a bit shady to start with if they have to rely on ‘questionable’ riders to get the job done.

Even the small group of riders who do use drugs in the US have a tendency not to hit the hard stuff like EPO; they will generally use the basic, more easily tested for, products. The extreme ones will use steroids but most will use the standard over the counter GNC stimulants such as Ephedrine. From my experience the craziest most people I know tend to get is either slamming a can of Red Bull (my personal favorite) or chugging a double espresso from Starbucks a half hour before the gun goes off.

Recently I have talked to friends and teammates about their view of drugs in the US and I received some mixed reviews. One friend thinks that EPO has finally hit the US and he even named some people who supposedly "deal" it and also he also said that is the only reason why a couple certain guys have been doing so well this year. I am very aware of how well the rumor mill works in this sport and tend not to believe everything I hear but it is true that most stories have some thread of truth mixed in with them.

Call me naïve but I believe that cycling as a whole is one of the cleanest of professional sports in the world and continues to get cleaner. This is one of the reasons why that over the last few years American riders have been doing better than ever in Europe. I am not saying that riders from North America are morally better people and that is our reason for not doing drugs but it is due more to the fact that we do not have easy access to the hard doping products that are more readily available in Europe. Even if I wanted to dope I do not know where I would go to get some EPO or a test tube filled with Nandro.

Two years ago a few friends of mine spent the summer racing in Belgium. They returned with stories of dirty syringes and guys partaking in the infamous ‘Belgian Cocktail’. They were shocked at how readily accessible doping product were and how many guys made the choice to use them. It must be a hard situation to be in knowing that such a large percentage of the field are aided by drugs when you are trying to be competitive and stay clean at the same time.

Another friend of mine (who now rides for a top US team) once told me a story from when he was racing for a European team. He was not the strongest guy on the squad and generally acted as a loyal domestique (man, do I know that feeling). During one race he found himself in the 5-man race-winning break with his team leader. With 30k to go his team leader crashed out of the race and he suddenly became the go-to guy. His director came up in the follow car and gave him a ‘special’ bottle. My friend said it was like drinking liquid gold and after finishing the bottle he had never felt so good or so fast.

He started working way too hard, covering even the smallest and move and attacking at every opportunity. His director was yelling at him, trying to get him just to sit in and wait for the last 1k to make his big move but he felt so good that he could not help himself.

At the end of the day he ended up getting 3rd which is not too good considering how great he felt but what is really amazing is what happened to him the next day. He said that when he woke up he felt like a train had hit him; He had a migraine headache and his legs hurt so bad he was forced to walk down the stairs backwards. To this day he does not know what was in that ‘special’ bottle but he found out quickly that doping was not going to be for him.

Another contributing factor for so many guys’ choosing not to use drugs is that in the US right now it is hip not to dope. The people who are most respected are the guys who are ‘all natural’. Everyone seems to be more into eating the right combination of protein, fats & carbohydrates then they are about their connection getting them "on the program" for a big race. Guys (and gals) are also proving that you can be a top athlete and live a clean, healthy and more importantly a long life. I know for a fact that US cyclocross superstar Marc Gullickson (Mongoose) as well as his teammate Todd Wells are clean racers who are getting it done with the best ‘crossers in the world. I have spent enough time with both of them to know that hard work is what it really takes to be the best, it is not something that they inject where the sun don’t shine.

That is also how the best guys can stay good for so long, they don’t have the huge valleys that dopers seem to have when in between drug cycles. That is how guys like Marc Gullickson, Travis Brown (Trek MTB Team), and John Lieswyn (7-Up/Nutra Fig) can be so consistently good for so long.

The guys who are known to dope have these bad spells that are incredible. When they are not going well I would be surprised if they could finish a small local Cat 4/5 race. Then one month later you will see them in a small break in an NRC crit keeping the pace at 33mph. These guys are easy to spot when they are on the juice because if you get a good look at their eyes at the start line their pupils are as big as dinner plates!

I have never raced in Europe so I do not want to claim that I know what is going on inside their peloton. I am also certain that there are plenty of clean Euro Pro’s. What I do know is that there will always be cheaters but the USCF and the UCI are both striving to clean up the sport and keep the playing field nice and level. Hopefully I will someday be able to write about my first hand experiences with the European peloton.

Until that day… Ride it like you stole it!

Thanks for Reading!

Chuck
Team 7UP


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