Explaining Doping Rants by a Doping Rant

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Okay, the crumudgeon Velo interview, and a few other observations related to it, got me thinking about why all this doping has rubbed me so wrong.  And why I go off on rants because I’m sick of all these guys just “rubbing salt” into wounds that all the dopers opened themselves.

Lance is right, doping in cycling has been going on forever.  Probably since the start of the sport.  For sure during 6 days racing days, and nearly always on the road.  My whole “career” for sure.  So, when he says that I should just accept it, he has a point.  I readily joined this sport, not knowing full well, but cognizant that I would be competing against athletes that cheat.  And that is what doping is, cheating.

When I first started racing, it wasn’t such a big deal doping.  At least to the organizations that govern the sport and to the other riders.  I think the first offense penalty was 2 weeks, maybe it was 4 weeks.  And you could test positive a zillion times and it wasn’t a problem.  And I guess that didn’t change much.  The riders kept doping and the powers turned a blind eye.

The problem was the drugs got better and better.  They made the rider so much better that it made it obvious.  At least to a rider that wasn’t doping.  It wasn’t so obvious before EPO, blood, HGH and/or a mixture.  Guys like Fignon and such, just taking steroids, were okay good, but not amazing.

I’ve raced against a ton of, what the cycling public, considers world class bike riders.  I’m not even sure how many Tour winners I’ve competed with, alot.  Okay, I just looked it up.  Zoetemelk, Fignon, Hinault, LeMond, Thevenet, Lance, Floyd, Roche, Delgado, and  Cadel. And I’m not sure about Riis or Indurain.  They could have been in some races I did in Europe, before they started beating up on everyone.   So, that is at least 10 guys, maybe up to a dozen guys that won the race.  And nearly every guy that has won the MTB World Championships and Olympics.

So, I’ve got to witness what a cyclist has to be able to do to win the most important bike races in the world.  And most of these guys, were just guys.  Good riders, for sure, but not one in a billion.  (Excluding LeMond, he was the chosen one.)

Anyway, sometime in the early 90’s, that all started changing.  Luckily for me, the money on our side of the ocean, had switched from road racing to MTB racing.  So, I was racing MTB full-time and only racing on the road about 50% of the time.  But when I did do a big road race, here and in Europe, it was just silly.  Guys climbing off their seats for minutes at a time.  The same guys attacking in their big rings, straight  up a wall.  The new drugs, made these guys into supermen.  It made competing nearly impossible.

This switched to MTB racing soon after.  Whole teams of guys from Europe, all of a sudden, would finish five guys in the top 10 of a World Cup.  Then the Canadians started doing the same, back here in North America.  It was such an insult to us, the US MTB riders.  MTB racing was a homegrown sport, one where integrity was nearly written into the rule book.  You had to carry all your equipment and fix your bike.  But all of a sudden American riders were just shit.  And being shit makes it so no one will pay you to travel around the world to race.

One of my worse experiences for me in cycling was sitting in a doping control after winning a stage of Nature Valley, soaking wet and cold, and have Nathan O’Neil and his Healthnet team director, Jeff Corbett come in, late, 2 hours after the race was over, and start giving me shit about how I was racing a night criterium in a crazy thunderstorm.  Here is O’neil, who I am positive is taking drugs, telling me how I should be racing bikes.  And Corbett, the first thing he says as he walks in is “Race of you life, huh Tilford?”  It was so dismissive.

It really didn’t bother me so much as it was happening.  And I don’t dwell on it when I’m training and normally at races.  As I make observations, I don’t call guys out then and there.   I wait until they eventually get popped or are outed.  This confirms the observations and then it starts making you mad. Disappointed is probably a better description.    Disappointed in myself for not being more vocal the whole time.

Ryder Hesjedal and all his Canadian buddies fucked up MTB racing here in the US.  Nearly all the European guys that came over then were doping too.  Michael Rasmussen, Jerome Chiotti, and tons of others came here and took our sponorship money and won our races.

Then all the foreigners, that our domestic teams readily hired on the road.  The Nathan O’Neils and Ivan Stevics.  Plus, all the then, domestic Americans that followed the path. Tom Danielson, Kirk Obee, Phil Zajicek, and the list goes on and on.

And there still are a ton of them riding around now.  Each and every race.  These guys, that are arrogant, and have brought unbelievably dangerous tactics into criteriums, but are doping to control the races.  It’s a joke.

I am nearly embarrassed that I have to admit it has been going on forever.  Alexi admitted he was doping, even when he was a junior with me.  The first international race I did in Europe, on the US National team, was full of a bunch of guys that eventually confessed to doping.  Fignon was one of them.  I was replaced on the Specialized MTB by European riders that doped.  I lost a National Criterium title to Kayle Leo Grande, who doped.  And this has been the case ever since.

Every, and I mean virtually every race I do, still, there is at least one of those guys that is super charged.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a local criterium in Southern California to a NRC race in Iowa or Tulsa.  There are still nearly whole teams of guys that are doping, here in the US.

Then we have the international road and MTB scene.  Do you realize the Festina doping scandal was in 1998.  That was 16 years ago and nothing has changed.  Well, something has changed.  It has been driven underground and the politically correct way for current road pros to deal with it is by saying that we need to believe now, because this is a new generation and that was the old generation.  But, they are full of shit.  Each and every week a new guy get busted for doping.  And these aren’t the guys that are smearing everyone on any level.

Cycling is way too hard of a life endeavor to let these guys get away with making it easy.  And that is what they are doing by doping, they are making the accomplishments of real bike racers seem trivial.  Honestly, it really is trivial.   It is just sport.  But having a bunch of posers  (and that is what these guys are, they aren’t bike racers, they are bike racers wannabes) making the rest of us look silly, is just plain wrong.

These doping guys don’t have the right to make guys like Greg LeMond look like he was just another bike rider.  He wasn’t.  Everyone recognized it.  That is why Bernard Hinault flew over to the United States to recruit him.   That is what makes the whole thing hard to read.  Knowing there are Greg LeMonds out there, makes it hard to say that someone is doping for sure.  But there are 100’s of Greg LeMonds riding around now.  It just isn’t right.

Plus, we just keep loving these guys once they get “caught”.   We go to their Gran Fondos.  We watch them on TV and listen to what they say.   The sponsors stay the course, never seeming to put their mouth and money at the same place.  It is depressing.

I don’t regret much of what I’ve done in the sport.  I’ve really enjoyed the whole experience.  Of course, my experience would have been a whole lot different if this doping plague hadn’t been ongoing.  I just moved from discipline to discipline and enjoyed the lifestyle.  But, I did get to experience cycling before the whole scene got so polluted.  I know a bunch of new, young, good riders.  Friends that I’m trying to help make their way.  And I want them to be able to experience the sport in its puriest sense.   This isn’t an option for them now.

This denial thing by current riders isn’t working.  This disapproving of doping, by the public isn’t working.  This biological passport thing isn’t working.  This all needed to be addressed back in 1998, but it hasn’t.  It’s been business as usual.

When I turn on the Tour de France, I don’t want to be watching WWF fantasy bike racing.  And that is what we’ve been watching for years and years.  You won’t believe how much better the sport of “real bike racing” is.  It is way more exciting.  Way more human and emotional.  We don’t need to watch these doped robots ride up and down mountains.  If it’s not believable, then it’s not exciting, thus not interesting and a waste of my time.






88 thoughts on “Explaining Doping Rants by a Doping Rant

  1. Bill

    Steve you have nothing to explain or apologize for.

    Fuck those guys and anyone who condones any of it.

  2. JKM

    Well Steve,, sounds like you’ve got it mostly right.. So again were is the fucking USA governing body in having some type of plan for the US racing, either road or MTB. And cleaning it up, getting the money, esposure and media in it and getting as far away from the pompos assholes within the UCI.
    Ive watched Norba, and USA Cycling do nothing with both disciplines for years.. Norba couldn’t market MTB if there life depended on it. Funny how skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, SUP competitions you name it, grow and the money does too.. then we have the USA cycling governing body driving the bus, with blinds folds on and no idea on how to attract money, media, participation and eyeballs to cycling here in the USA.
    The whole international road scene, the UCI and all their stuffed shirts are idiots, padding there own pockets while for some reason, well not some its called money, our USA media networks continue to perpetuate this farce..
    I for one will not watch any of the big tour coverage, TOC, TDF and the Pro Challenge.. And your right Steve the entire MTB scene from its infancy, which I had the pleasure of being knee deep in was based on purism, love of the sport. And we as in the USA for a time kick everyone’s ASS all over the world, fair and square.. Handed the rest or the world their asses regarding MTB racing, both XC and DH, on their own turf!!
    Lets face it the UCI, USA Cycling, many team managers, racers are all full of shit, thinking we as cyclist will just put up with it, their all posers, getting paid to pose.. I for one think many of them are just a bunch of pussies, weak sisters, when their not doped up or on a bike, just pussies.

  3. Doubting Thomas

    I’ve been saying it for years- but I am ways labeled a cynic, whiner, and much worse. But I never said it as well as you just did, well done. The question remains, how do we change it all? And the answer sadly seems to be we can’t, nothing is going to change it- even Masters level cross is full of it. So like many others, I just quit racing…

  4. riverdog

    Lemond is the REASON the doping world went to the next level! He was just too good in 1984,5,&6, and the Euros ( esp. the Italians and Spaniards…knew they would have to do something fast or he would win all the TDF’s and maybe the Classics…he was that taleneted) So when EPO hit…it made them capable of dropping Lemond (although this was a diminished Lemond due to his gunshot injury)..and then it was off to the Races..(pun not intended)…So the world turns. Lance is not too blame…he decided he would fight fire with fire and took the whole thing to another level….what Lemond had in talent….Armstrong had in Tenacity…Don’t worry though…we enjoyed most of Lance’s ride..Remember? I remember the looks and attitude I got when I said in 2000 that I thought he was doing EPO…I was shunned. When I went to the TDF and saw these guys climbing 10% grades on 6 mile climbs at close to 15mph I knew. But it does not really piss me off too much because I was never a pro….I loved being in mountains alone on a wild creek in Wilderness—-..& .maybe eating a mushroom or two (medicine taking for a different and foreign reason to pro athletes) —-too much to pursue a life trying to prove I was stronger and tougher than the next guy. So we all make our choices and have to live with them..just like Steve and just like Lance.

  5. Oldan

    “As I make observations, I don’t call guys out then and there. I wait until they eventually get popped or are outed.”


  6. Evan

    Steve I rode as a pro one season during early eighties and quit when asked to dope. I sadly agree with you. I too believe riders like Alberto are micro dosing and getting around passport. I no longer watch. I loved the sport. The commercial interests are too entrenched along with nationalism corruption and criminal elements. How can we have Hincapie racing team. Astana etc. TY

  7. Reality

    Dude, like reading your stories about things other than doping. Insightful and I get a giggle now and then. Unfortunately we all have something/someone that brings out our worst personality traits, for you its this whole doping thing – it makes you a little wild-eyed. You rant, you rave and go around in circles. You’re preaching to choir on the topic, but there comes a point where I think it affects who you are and how you present yourself. Don’t let those a-holes get you all worked up over it, they don’t deserve a second thought or the ability to get you all twisted up about how they’ve completely destroyed such a beautiful sport.

    Unfortunately, it is what it is and the collective “we” can’t do anything about. It sucks, cycling is a sport we all love and its hard to watch it circle the drain like it has for years – its basically dead. Its time to let it go, focus on yourself, your health, your pets, your friends, your unique lifestyle – like I said above, those a-holes are undeserving of the brain power it takes to sift thru all their colossal BS. Go for a ride, do what first attracted you to the sport and go with that, its not worth it

    Ride safe

  8. Griff

    In my humble opinion, the best way to curb the level of doping in cycling is with our pocket books. What I mean by this is. We stop watching the races on television (Tdf, ToC, Giro, Pro Challenge, and etc.). Less and less people watching means less revenue from television advertisers. There will be less companies willing to sponsor teams and less money available for teams.

    Why is it that nothing seems to really change with the UCI and trade teams behavior? They have no reason to change, they are still making lots of money. When the money flow starts drying up, maybe they will change their behavior.

    I use to follow the racing television coverage and on the various websites. Over the last few years, I dedicate less and less time to this. The racing is just not very entertaining anymore. Plus, what is the point. I don’t have much faith that any winner is actually clean.

    Anyway, again this just my rant on this subject.

  9. Dog

    Our sport’s culture (I’m talking back in the 80’s) always had many (if not most of us) searching for something that would help give us some kind of edge. Protein powders, amino acids, supplements, etc. Caffeine pills, UpTime™ etc too. I remember going to GNC when I was a junior and buying Calcium Pangamate (AKA B-15) because some Cat-1 had told me it was the latest rage and would help “oxygenate my blood”. I shelled out like $500 for my Polar HRM just a week after reading an interview with Lemond in 1986. We were already “primed” for PEDs. People will pay big money in search of hope for their run at glory.

    Even if we were to start some kind of breakaway federation (supposedly for the purpose of clean racing) we all know that some schmucks would still show up juiced. I remember coming out of retirement and racing in Central / Prospect Parks on a very local level. I knew in my first event back that there was a guy doping. When you see Cat4’s doing superhuman solo breaks (when the game has already been upped seriously), you know everything is totally fucked. I basically took the entire 1990s off from the sport. When I came back, it was a completely different place. Type-A used to be a certain percentage of the riders. Now it is the majority. Not fun anymore.

  10. Paul Willerton

    Always enjoy reading Tilly wax on about this subject. Witnessing this play out over the years – on course with them – was extremely confusing. It took five or ten years for it all to make perfect sense. I’m still shocked at the level of knowledge the average rider now has about Vo2 levels. I never thought I’d see that in this lifetime.

    I do believe there will be ways to combat the oxygen carrying drugs. Doing what it takes to get there – and never giving up on the sport – is what will ensure the sport’s legacy. Few other sports have such a real “good vs. evil” element. WWF has to create it. Cycling actually has it. No one wants to witness fake athletes in cycling. If cycling allowed that to exist, it would ensure it’s place in the long list of lame sports. People who say “legalize it” don’t really understand what true cycling is. Those ethics would no doubt be the death knell for cycling.

  11. Jim B.

    Steve, please don’t change anything about what you write or how you write about it. I’ll bet your site gets as many hits as a typical article on Velo anyway; those guys are just jealous of you. Because you can not only write about the stuff; you have actually lived it, too. Just the list of TDF winners that you have raced against is testament enough to your experience and staying power in the sport. It is actually both sports: road and MTB, so your perspective is one of the richest in the world of how our sport has evolved over the decades. Or devolved, as many might think.

    just keep ranting away when you feel like it.

  12. JR

    I’m not sure how fewer viewers will make any change at all. After all, the 2014 TdF only averaged 288,000 US viewers per stage last summer. 288,000 is just chump change in the sports media landscape.

  13. Bolas Azules

    Good writing; good reading as usual.

    A couple things that struck me in the comment section: First, the ‘Greg Lemond forced them to get to the next level in doping’ comment. I never thought about it but you know what? I just may be true. In a strange twist the man that is the most outspoken for ‘clean racing’ just may be the guy who forced them all to throw caution (life or death decisions in some cases) to the wind. Interesting take. Irony for sure.

    Next the weak approach to the issue by US Cycling. Many don’t realize but it was arguably the Federation that brought the use of PEDs to American riders state side in the late 1970’s so why would they have such an interest to squelch it now? Hey, if it made the boys compete on an international level and raised the profile of the sport domestically, just think what a Lance Armstrong can do for participation numbers here in the US?

    On that point, someday a brave journalist will approach the origins of US doping and the birth of the Lance Armstrong Culture. The Eastern European coaching ‘methods,’ the dizzying availability of ‘vitamin injections,’ the ex-pat riders returning with what Steve Earle in Copperhead Road calls ‘a brand new plan,’ the growth of the domestic ‘trade teams’ and how the level of competition jumped with their arrival and their own ‘programs,’. . . and how all of these characters, methods and drugs collided onto the scene setting the stage for a poor kid from Texas to become the sport’s biggest junkie.

    When will it happen?

  14. Charlie

    Steve, I really enjoy reading your blog, and this is a great post. I respect your results, insight, and direct, unbroken experience of the evolution of this BS over the last 40 years. I almost always agree with your opinions when it comes to this topic, including this post. However, your failure to call out Och and BMC is hypocritical. Why do you think it’s ok to call out others without calling him out? That’s BS too, and you know it. Failure by omission.

  15. San Fransico Jacks

    Zero tolerance lifetime ban. it’s the only way. and in fact all sports should take this on. especially the NFL.. some god damn gang member makes his way through the education system at the opportunity cost of an actual student, makes it to the big show, has a little dog fighting ring on the side and makes millions.. not to mention the plethora of drugs that helped him through the process. Now back to cycling. a sport that is the opposite of football. A rich kids sport. Dime a dozen. Levi has been replaced.. unfortunately with another doper.. hopefully his replacement goes down.. then another..

    keep poking their arms.. and fuck’em.

  16. JV

    I’d call is selective ranting. The names mentioned, the names not mentioned. BMC and Ochowicz are definitely off limits.?

  17. Craig

    I agree. I remember when there was a community aspect … you sat around and shot the shit before and after and laughed. Sure you rode hard but for those of us going nowhere it was fun. That doesn’t exist anymore. Why do you think there are gravel events, endurance events, etc? Gives the rest of us a chance to do the thing, have fun, compete but not take it too serious. I love crit racing but I hate racing crit’s (if that makes any sense) I still haven’t figured out why some 50 year old dude racing CAT4 feels the need to be a overbearing prick before – during – after a race. If there was only one, that is life …. that is the entire Masters peleton these days…. sad

  18. bob cole

    I won’t go to their gran fondos. And I’ll argue with lances minions online all day long. no I won’t let it go, no I won’t forget. The only reason this doesn’t change is that the fans don’t demand it(and that’s all I am – a fan and recreational rider). They keep kissing these guys asses. They tell me Greg doped too and is just jealous. Yeah Greg lost his bike business and spoke out the way he did as some kind of cover for his own doping. He’s the last true winner as far as I’m concerned. The people in this sport who support known dopers – they are the problem. They say the people get the government they deserve – cycling fans get the sport they deserve too. How many people seach out books like ‘bad blood’ or bassons book or emmas book . or one that was written in 1990 I can’t remember the name of right now. People just don’t care enough.

  19. H Luce

    Any competitive endeavor in which money is involved will encourage, and at the highest levels, require, some form of cheating of the rules. In fact, the rules define how the cheating will occur, and the corruption of the rule-making and rule-enforcing body is inevitable. That’s why capitalism is by its nature corrupt; survival of the fittest is survival by any means. This is seen at all levels of government – regulatory agencies are captured by elements of the entities that they regulate and are used to allow actions which run directly counter to the declaratory policies those agencies were put in place to enforce, to destroy competitors, and to create monopolies. It’s that way for the Securities and Exchange Commission and it’s the same thing for UCI and USAC.

    One answer would be to get rid of the UCI and USAC and the rest of the regulatory bureaucracy. When that goes away, there’s no central structure for big money to corrupt, no easy way to exercise undue influence, to favor some and disfavor others. Cycling would go back to where it was in 1979 in US MTB – where the motives for engaging in the sport would be, perforce, far different than they are today, and there would probably be an ethical code amongst riders not to do certain things – no formal law, just agreement amongst peers…

  20. channel_zero


    Somewhere Eddie B is not giving a sh!t. Burke and Fraysee are also indifferent.

    Thom Wiesel would wonder what is wrong with you because you don’t want to do what it takes to win. Which, is why the federation is still permitting doping. Just win!

  21. Max The Hunted

    Several comments on this blog and others suggest that money is the reason people cheat. They seem to be of the opinion that money is the root of all of this, but I don’t think so. Proof of this is in the amateurs cheating. The 40 year old masters racer with enough money and connections to land some of the good “juice” isn’t doing it to make back his $30 at the local crit. In fact, he’ll still be out the hundreds per month it cost to get the “juice” in the first place.

    The real draw to cheating is the glory and perceived adoration from others. Money can be taken away, but those memories can’t. Lance stands to lose a ton of money, but he won’t ever lose the rush he felt winning seven times or the memories of standing on the podium on the Champs-Élysées. How about the guys using illegal bats at the local softball league? Are they doing it for the money? Money never has driven cheating. I’ve seen people cheat in poker – for M&M’s. Bashing and blaming money are just easy ways to attempt to fix problems.

    Attacking the money streams won’t stop anything. Lifetime bans and zero tolerance policies are the only way to curb the cheating. There is no stopping it.

  22. channel_zero

    one where integrity was nearly written into the rule book.

    Yeah, no it wasn’t. You and Overend and a few others got very, very lucky. The effects of the UCI taking over the sport hadn’t been felt.

    Now mountain biking may as well be run on golf courses and the sport is considered “development” for roadies.

    In other news, Macur at the New York Times ran an article about Steve Johnson being fired a day or two ago and largely got it wrong. No mention of Thom Wiesel.

  23. Jason Ward

    Lifetime bans will not stop it either, all it will do is stop that one person. Lifetime bans are lazy and ineffective. I’ve talked to a lot of people about the possibility of doping and a “ban” is not even on their radar as a reason to not dope. Granted my conversations are with amateurs not pros, but I don’t think that the level of ability is relevant. But you did hit the nail on the head I think. It’s less about the money than the feeling of winning.

  24. Spanky McWonderpants

    Newsflash: ALL Olympic sports are systemically corrupt. All major professional sports the same. How can any of this ever change? Like the mafia, never going away.

    I’d like to know why more former athletes dont speak out? Whats to lose? Why aren’t there more Jesus Manzano’s, Matt DeCanio’s, or Wade exum’s?

    Why doesnt Steve speak out like those above, but only “rants”?

    Regarding masters racing… Don’t know w hat good it does to speculate on the level and depth of cheating. Without more testing and outing of cheaters its mute. Sad thing is that I believe USAC not interested in a whole lot of testing because they love the level of participation by MAsters especially those National events. What they dont see is how the alpha male master is killing the local road scene. In my area of midwest a lot of guys are just tired of these guys schooling everyone on a weekly basis, then cyber bullying the competition. Lots of these guys taking up CX. Sadly, CX starting to grow the same elitist road cliques.
    Real bike racing: 1984 Wheat Thins Mayors Cup St. Louis. Schwinn/Wheaties slicing and dicing of a Pro-AM Points race Criterium. A thing of beauty.

  25. Mr. Taco

    So, it sounds as if the problem is OVER competitiveness… not drugs, and competition being higher.
    I think you are looking at things thru rose-colored glasses.
    Things were probably easier, more fun, etc. as you were younger. Less responsibilities.
    ENjoy riding your bike, sounds like you were QUITE the competitor yourself LOL. You shouldn’t need to feel like you need to ride your bike to inflate your ego 🙂 Cheers

  26. Mr. Taco

    Bassons was 2nd rate regardless LOL
    Just because he was a good sportsman doesn’t make him a great athelete!!!

  27. Dave

    So, when he (Lance) says that I should just accept it, he has a point…….
    So when Lance complains he is being treated more harshly than others, well, life isn’t fair, it’s been that way forever, just accept it.

    UCI worlds in Richmond, VA are within driving distance – I won’t be there.

  28. Evan

    So Greg made them do it by being one of the best athletes of all time, what a load of horse you know what. Greg stood up to the Euros factory system and said athletes should not be exploited and be paid more. Hinault and the French tried to prevent it by putting him on their team and controlling him. It did not work.

    The increased money that came into the sports attracted the true criminals, not just the greedy the followers the cheaters. Armstrong his backers the UCI these were real criminal thinkers. Far different than the others. Far more culpable what destroying our sport. Lemond did not cause this. Others have less destructive reasons. What we must protect cycling from is the criminal elements. Look at the Astana system. Review the record during the last 10 years. It is still alive. Very worrisome. The German investigation shows serious criminal behavior on a systematic and pervasive scale.

  29. JoeV

    “But having a bunch of posers (and that is what these guys are, they aren’t bike racers, they are bike racers wannabes) making the rest of us look silly, is just plain wrong.”

    Wrong. THEY are the bike racers. You’re the wannabe.

    Sorry, man.

  30. Pepsi Frank

    Prior to 1991, with low-octane doping, the guy who should have won the race almost always won the race. Racing looked difficult, everyone had good days and bad days. It was believable. You could see the top riders coming from years away, their amature and early pro results predicted their later results. Starting with the spring classics in 1994, with high-octane doping, we don’t know who should have won any of those races. Since then climbs and time trials look too easy, you see guys who have no bad days, you see guys who have come out of no where. Riis and Armstrong riding clean should have won zero Tours. Should Ullrich have won at least five tours? I think he was the best natural talent of his generation but because high-octane doping so tilted the playing field we will never know. Today when we hear that “the sport is cleaner” and “we have turned the corner”, that’s just more of the omerta. Riders are still doping, they just keep getting better at it and are more careful. There are new drugs that alter how the body burns energy that may again tilt the playing field the way EPO, HGH and testosterone has. Cycling is still a good show but it has lost it’s believability.

  31. carlos flanders

    Great post! This is why I read this blog. Cycling is the most beautiful sport in the world and dopers pervert it.

  32. Griff

    Respectfully, I disagree. The TdF is the 3rd most watched event in the world after the Olympics and World Cup. If it is chump change than nbcsports wouldn’t show each stage and repeat it over and over. Yes, here in the U.S. it doesn’t come close to the big 3 sports, but cycling is a big player in the rest of the world.

  33. Steve Tilford Post author

    JoeV-You must ride a bike or you wouldn’t read my website? Do you actually think that the guy that wins a race is the guy with the best access to pharmaceuticals, not athletic ability? Guys that were born to be middle of the scale of ability, smear others?

    Let’s use Floyd for an example. Here’s a guy that barely ever beat me in a MTB race. Not a top ten rider. Super great bike handler, but didn’t know how to use his power. Then he starts doping, joins a professional road team and wins the Tour. You like that? That is what defines a “real bike racer” to you? If that is what you’re all about, then enjoy. That’s not my deal.

  34. channel_zero

    There’s no doubt the corruption appears complete at the IAAF, FIFA and the UCI. What would happen if more people spoke out? The sports federations answer to no one and are guaranteed some funding from the Olympics.

    I wish there was a different answer, but there isn’t.

  35. mike crum

    festina was 16 years ago like you said.. and when merckx got busted a few times it was 40 years ago.. whats changed? tons before merckx, tons after merckx and before festina, and tons after festina, and like you said in your first paragraph, lance says they all dope… i imagine hes incluing the BMC team.. whats your inside info on that?dont play dumb, cause verybody and their brother knows they are pros on that bmc team, so they dope… not rocket science..

  36. Travis Dougan

    many of these comments, including Steve’s blog expose that the cleanliness of the sport is the quality of the tests and implementing those often, and at all levels. The bar is the test, egos, money, power will all push people to the line of being out’ed.
    Don’t walk from the sport, quit its pursuit, demand better! You put in the work. Demand a fair measure with tests that will expose the cheaters. USAC has limited budget. If you don’t want WWF racing, would you pay $5 more to race in an event that did testing? I like the old hematocrit, greater than 50 safety you sit down rule. There isn’t much chance of a greater than 50 natural score. We need simple rules, that don’t involve finding a cow in Spain, that may not catch every cheater but eliminate the easy ones. Slow turn the dial with testing innovation to start testing before events. I’m pretty confident a testing booth at your local crit would turn up alot of DNFs. Pressure USAC to implement testing, even at a greater cost

  37. Dave B

    Steve, I wonder what advice you’re giving to young junior riders to prepare them for the questions that will arise. Its depressing for me to know that kids might still have to make a choice on what path to take. There are to many people still involved in the sport who might be “helping” riders.
    When someone like van Garderen wonders why people think he shouldn’t be motor pacing with Armstrong you really wonder if we’ll have to wait for another generation of cyclists.

  38. Scott

    If USA cycling wanted to take doping seriously they would institute a 1st offense lifetime ban for doping and USA triathlon and US Olympic committee would honor that within their own organizations. A 2 or 4 year ban is a joke.

  39. Amanda Bone

    You are 99% correct. Where you err is on racing being sport. At the Pro level all sports become entertainment, with the athletes actors musicians if you will. This falls in line with a previous commenter’s post about US MTB at the professional level. No US sanctioning body of cycling has made the sport a show that loads of people will watch (even cyclists) and sponsors will kick in cash to. Just don’t become bitter about what was. Look at what is – you made your life from a bike seat and most of us wanks out here spend 8+ a day wishing we were riding. Great article!

  40. JoeV

    “JoeV-You must ride a bike or you wouldn’t read my website?”

    I’m a has been too. Old and drifting off the back.

    “Do you actually think that the guy that wins a race is the guy with the best access to pharmaceuticals, not athletic ability? Guys that were born to be middle of the scale of ability, smear others?”

    What I think doesn’t matter any more – not that it ever did.
    Yes, lots of your great “real” racers chose not to dope and as a result had to get real jobs. Tragic.
    Others chose to dope, had successful careers and are still enjoying the results of stepping on the neck’s of your real racers. Frustrating, maddening and too true.

    “Let’s use Floyd for an example. Here’s a guy that barely ever beat me in a MTB race. Not a top ten rider. Super great bike handler, but didn’t know how to use his power. Then he starts doping, joins a professional road team and wins the Tour. You like that?”

    I like Floyd. I was embarrassed for him when all that went down. Weren’t you? It was sad.

    “That is what defines a “real bike racer” to you? ”

    How I define “real bike racer” isn’t the point. It’s how the wider world defines it that matters and you know exactly what I mean.

    “If that is what you’re all about, then enjoy. That’s not my deal.”

    Your deal isn’t what the wider world sees as real bike racing then.

    I got four words for you; Astana World Tour License. How do you explain that in your “real” bike racer world?

    It’s the same old story.
    Everyone who beats me is a doper and everyone I beat knows I’m a doper. That’s the crux of the issue for a lot of real racers. Isn’t it?
    But it’s a myth, a joke, right? Lol.

  41. Pepsi Frank

    The race that started it all. Three high-octane dopers riding away from a field of low-octane dopers while breathing through their noses. The field has no hope in bridging the gap. If there were any clean riders in the race they are quite a bit further back.

  42. Joe Beer

    ** Somewhere Eddie B is not giving a sh!t. Burke and Fraysee are also indifferent. **

    I love these two sentences. They explain just about everything needed to understand professional sports.

  43. Ron

    I also believe that some people justify using PEDS by the fact that they work every bit as hard as the Lemonds and Tilfords and love the sport just as much. Guys like yourselves didn’t “do” anything more to become the fastest at a given race other than be born with the genetic makeup to do so. The guys with the middle of the pack genetics wanna play too! Haha

  44. craig

    OK article….but confused on this –> “Guys climbing off their seats for minutes at a time”

    How is that indicative of doping?

  45. Dan Lind

    Pepsi Frank, I agree with your post, except the Ulrich being the “best natural talent of his generation” part. He grew up in Germany’s national sports training system, so it’s likely he was on a systematic doping program since his teen years. Unless you were following him as an 11 year old when he won his first bike race, I think it’s unrealistic to say that anyone outside of Germany ever witnessed his natural ability before it was altered by performance enhancing drugs. It’s nearly impossible to witness an amazing athletic feat today and know whether or not it is based on natural ability or not. High school athletes are doping. College athletes are doping. Professional athletes are doping. Junior racers are doping. Masters racers are doping. Everyone is “chasing a dream” (or chasing dollars) and doing whatever it will take to achieve it. Sadly, the “best natural talents of our generation” are probably never being discovered because their performances are being overshadowed by someone without as much natural talent but who has access to and is willing to use PED’s.

  46. JR

    I looked up 5 sources and none said TdF was 3rd most watched. Do you have a link griff?
    In US, NBCSN is a minor channel. If cycling were big in US (I wish it were!!), it would 1. be on NBC 2. be on live

    It gets repeated because NBCSN obviously has nothing better to show, nothing more, nothing less.
    288,000 IS chump change in a country with 300+ million people. Obviously cycling is way more popular in Europe than here, I get that. I still don’t think “fewer viewers” is the answer. If there are fewer viewers, then it won’t be on tv at all!

  47. Trey

    Having spent more than half of my life in this industry, even more than that participating in sports, and even working within the professional sports industry behind the scenes, No matter the sport, nor the money involved, “professional sports” are a business first, and an actual sport second. People have this overly optimistic hope that the athletes they worship carry this badge of honor for the sport they represent. Sure there is a lot of talent in said professional sport, but those athletes wouldn’t be doing what they do if there wasn’t profit involved, (though doping has sadly made its way into the amateur level coursing through the veins of some of the most pathetic desperate souls in existence). I have known some talented racers that had what it took, but simply gave up because they couldn’t get the backing so to afford to dope. YUP, they went to the Belgium proving grounds and would have doped because it was the norm, and they wanted a job that they spent their entire life working towards and knew they earned……. otherwise, the alternative was to simply throw it away. As soon as you decide to cross a line that separates a sport from a business, there are going to be unethical practices JUST LIKE IN ANY OTHER BUSINESS. Athletes with a dream to be a “professional athlete” need to understand that just like in a “real job”, your job security is base on performance and demand, and if you’re not cutting it, you are at risk of loosing your job. Some, if not MOST are willing to step outside that little box of ethics to keep a job, and imagine the ones, (cyclist in this case), that have spent almost all of their youth and adult life to get where they are only to find out they’re going to have to cheat like MOST already are to keep said job. And yes, many become as much of an asshole as the ones that encouraged doping. Doping in sports is a dirty motherfucker, but blaming individuals might should be less of a thing. The ones like Steve, Lemond, etc that were supposedly clean, had the right expectation in the wrong environment. I applaud all those that raced clean, but won’t belittle those that didn’t. If you want a sport to be a sport, don’t make it into a business expecting it to be without some unethical consequences. There is a direct correlation between the amount of money involved and the risks ones are willing to take, and just like Enron, Citi Bank, etc, the system won’t get “somewhat” cleaned up until it fails. We are at the tail end of it somewhat failing, (though it still and always will exist via making it harder to detect), only because racers currently are more fearful of getting caught. The fear of not performing will soon overtake the fear of getting caught again and we’ll surely be in the same spot we are now.

  48. Vojtek

    It’s important to understand human nature in this conversation. Whenever there is competition- in sport, in business, in life, we as humans will seek to gain an edge over our competitors. Whether it’s a newer and more effective way to train or a some kind of new substance, it’s the same search for an edge. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a good thing. Competition breeds progress. Progress brings better things in all facets of life.

    But, in sport and specifically cycling there are very specific rules as to what products you can or cannot use to enhance performance. That’s the way it is and to do otherwise is to cheat, pure and simple. Using products such as caffeine pills, UpTime, amino acids, B-15,whatever are completely fine. They are legal! Anything you can do within the rules is completely fine. It’s not being “primed for PED’s” as you say. PED’s are illegal and the products you mentioned are legal. Very simple. Even food is a performance enhancer. Eat the right kinds of foods in the right way and you will perform best. Your brain allows you to make the distinction between legal and illegal. Your conscience should help you to make the decision to only use the allowed products.

    The entire situation in cycling is governed and defined by rules. Follow the rules are you are fine. Go for it. If you go outside the rules then you are cheating and you risk being banned and fired. Understand that people are people and they WILL search for an edge. That is a big part of the fun of competition and is 100% healthy. Unfortunately some WILL cheat no matter what.

  49. Bernd

    You meant the” east” german systematic training , re : Jan Ullrich. He was still a great talent and the drugs worked and still work far better with women. Heike Drechsler (turns 50 these days) worldclass sprinter /longjumper said that she felt like shit after finding out that she and her teammates were given “Vitamins” from their east german docs while actually being juiced up and perceived as human “machines” to compete for and represent the tiny DDR .Her teammate Marita Koch still holds the “untouched” 400m worldrecord, as is paramount for Lady Flo Jo (100m/200m) from the USA. Flo Jo was slow until she became fast in 1988…lol..
    Away from all the other sports and cycling is far bigger in the rest of the world than it is in the USA, it is still the greatest way to exercise , experience mother nature , ride around town etc…no other than Greg Lemond addressed the issue at the latest Interbike: People love to ride their bikes for exercise/health, transportation etc!.. Me myself i love racing (at 54 less and less so and so I dope with german “Starkbeers=Doppelbocks)), cycling will always be on peoples mind and they will always love it. I look forward to ride with my grandchildren… Every Kid will ride a bike at one point and that is wonderful. The more cyclist the better and cleaner and healthier the world will be..forget about the pros and the dopers enjoy the ride , enjoy a cold beer afterward, cheers , salud and prost and Merry Christmas!

  50. channel_zero

    Sorry Freddy,

    Burke may be dead, but it doesn’t change what happened.

    The retold story is that Ed Burke was the one who set up the blood doping scheme for the ’84 Olympics. Eddie B, Fraysee requested athletes do it.

  51. keepin' up

    Evan….not sure you read the comment with a good understanding about Lemond being the reason that doping began to be taken to another level. Were you even around and racing in the early ’80’s?!! I was…and I raced against Greg when he was coming up …he was 17…and he was unbelievable! I can easily see how his potential freaked out Euro pros. It would be like a Spaniard coming over here and being better than Peyton as a QB…but worse because this is an individual sport. Greg was the reason they began to search for a way to compete with him. He had a VO2 of 92!! Got a clue as to what that means?! I raced on the National Circuit…lined up in a few Olympic Qualifiers for the RR and never was able to make it with a VO2 of 76…which by the way if pretty respectable…LA’s is reported to be 84….so you can see the progression to 92….So if you don’t think Lemond was a catalyst then you are ignorant of cycling in the 70’s and 80’s and don’t know anything about it in Europe where it is woven into the culture.
    By the way…I believe it was no less than Andy Hampsten that first made the Lemond observation in respect to doping…
    Also I do have some red white and blue bars on an old jersey and the real thing in the closet.

  52. Paul Willerton

    This is a common viewpoint. Similar to where JoeV is coming from in many ways. The problem with justifying in such a way is that it breeds hopelessness. It’s the attitude equivalent of a frozen fog hanging over a stalag.

    It’s passion-less and weak. Young rider don’t pursue a career as a professional rider by saying “I’m going to get into business, father. Can you help me acquire the tools of my trade? Perhaps a bicycle?”

    You guys have only given up, that’s all. You don’t love cycling… you are the sports equivalent of bankers. Snap out of it. Be real. At least stand up straight. Your heads are pointed at the ground.

  53. Joe

    To the gentlemen asking for Steve to call people out. Please think for a second. I dont think Steve is a millionaire. How would he defend himself to multiple lawsuits for libel, and possibly slander? Naming names, without solid facts, would do exactly that. So chill out on naming names. As much as I would love to call out a few people, it is all supposition, unless of course you saw someone popping specific pills, or with the needle AND the bottle marked as EPO, Testosterone or whatever.

    In regards to the climbing out of the saddle thing. Have you been on a very long climb, and tried to climb for 2, 3 or 5 miles out of the saddle on it? And then do it at full speed?

  54. Vojtek

    That’s a pretty good accounting of it all, but I have a couple of commentsin response.

    Yes, pro sport is undeniably a business first. But, it is STILL a sport and is governed by very definite rules regarding drugs and performance enhancing technology. The riders are forbidden certain things. Period. It’s not really “stepping outside that little box of ethics” as you say. It’s cheating. Absoloutely. Still, I understand your point and it’s a good one. I have also been in the sport as a high level competitor and in other capacities for many years.

    Good comment about Steve and LeMond having the right expectations in the wrong environment. In their defense, their expectations were taught to them by the cycling infrastructure and that infrastructure lied. The problem was and is NOT with Greg LeMond or Steve Tilford or their expectations. It was with the entire cycling system, for lack of a better word. They were taught to to do it on the up and up and that’s what they did. At least as far as we know. The system failed them.

    Unless you are about 5 years old, it’s impossible to not be aware of the realities of doping in today’s sports. To think that anyone spends their youth and young adulthood training away unaware of the doping is absurd. That’s a naive joke.

    You seem to say that it’s okay, or sort-of-okay for pros to dope, but call amateurs who dope “some of the most pathetic desparate souls in existence”. Why? What do you think those doped pros were before they got a contract? I’ll answer it for you- they were doped amateurs! Even if they were totally clean as an amateur and only doped when the hit the pros, your statement is still hypocritical and ridiculous. Why not let the amateurs go faster?

    No one is allowed to dope or should dope for any reason. Period. Sounds to me like you’ve had a bit of the “Pro Tour Kool Aid”.

  55. Trey

    Totally scratching my head as to what you think is BS Dog. I’ve walked the walk and not just reading stuff on the internet and making a back seat judgement. I spent 2 years working with a championship NBA team and their strength and conditioning coach as well as raced bicycles since the late 80’s. I chose a different path career wise because I saw what went on and knew as an athlete myself, I didn’t want any part of that. Many of my former team mates went pro, raced in Europe, and am close to many still involved. I’m confident I know what I’m talking about, but have been wrong on occasion. Maybe you could elaborate as to what is BS.

    – Trey *the cynical wank

  56. D'erik Powertap

    Those fucking Canadians are always sneaking into our country and stealing our jobs. We need a fence on the northern border even more than the southern one.

  57. Freddy

    Sorry Trey, I gotta go with Vojtek and Riverdog and call bullshit on your double standards. I can see your reasoning, but it reeks of hypocrisy.

  58. usedtorace

    I remember well Argentin and crew getting away on that chilly day in April in 1994. VeloNews wrote it up like it was such great news, but we all know better now. I often wonder how things would have developed in American cycling the 1990s if the world-wide scourge of EPO had never existed. Hampsten might have won a Tour. Lemond surely would have won again in 1991. I still believe Lance would have fit into the pantheon somewhere, he was/is a uniquely talented athlete. Perhaps a few classics wins, and that’s all, though. There might have even been a deeply talented rider who remained clean , but who never even got a chance. Someone we’ve never even heard of who dropped out of the sport as a Cat. 1 in say, 1998, because he’d had enough of the doping.

    I know from personal experience, as a Cat. 3 who’d returned to racing in the mid-90s that even things in that category had changed from my time as a junior rider in the mid to late 1980s. Not sure if people were on EPO, but sure were a lot more assholes racing. I can’t imagine what it’s like now, and this is why, I think, I’ll never race again.

  59. not*pro

    Don’t start a fight you’re not willing to finish. If you talk shit, expect to back it up. Except he never will.

    To everyone who has made their mind up on who is doping, it will never change. No matter what that athlete does, they’ll always think he’s a cheat. That is the problem, the cynics will always have a negative mindset no matter what is shown or proven to them.

    Steve thinks very highly of himself, so if he gets beat in a race, that person was doping because Steve is the standard of a clean rider and anything above that is not possible, naturally.

  60. J Johnson, esq.

    Steve naming names would in no way constitute slander nor libel. It would merely be his opinion.

    No need to thank me, but I’ll say you’re welcome anyway.

  61. Charlie

    Matt Kelly and Jeff Evanshine are names that come to mind when you mention good American riders that quit very young because they didn’t want to dope. But I don’t know why they really quit. I just assumed that was a big part of their decision making.

  62. Trey

    Any opinion on the Internet should be taken with a grain of salt. ……. especially mine. I’ve spent years being mad at something that won’t ever change and have come to terms with it. Its not my position to try and justify someone’s decision unless I’ve spent a good amount of time walking in their shoes. There are so many layers to this topic that I find it as complicated as it is repulsive. Regardless on whether you see things from my view or not, thanks for letting me have my say.

  63. Bill

    Jeff Evanshine didn’t quit because of other people’s doping.

    Evanshine’s promising career as an elite cyclist was derailed the following year, however, when he missed an out-of-competition drug test and was notified on the eve of the 1992 US Olympic Trials in Altoona, PA that he’d been banned for three months.[2] It was the notorious Danish coach René Wenzel who had prepared Evanshine for his victory at the Worlds and he was suspected of complicity in Evanshine’s missed control

    Then Charmichael….nutra fig…saturn…puh-leeze

  64. usedtorace

    The Eastern Bloc/scientific approach totally changed the ball-game for the U.S. but, not just in an acceptance of PEDs. Eddy B. modernized many training methods for the better–many forget that Lemond was actually one of his prodigies! Whether you like it or not, without Eddy B. the U.S. would probably still be a third rate, backwater cycling country. Being competitive came at what cost, though? That’s the real sad thing about all that has transpired . . .

  65. California Master

    You should see what goes on and has gone on out here on the west coast when it comes to doped masters! For example, Rich Meeker. The guy had win after win for years. He basically stole your entry fee every time you lined up against him and his cronies. Then you have 5’9 145lb guys soloing away in criteriums and 6′ 215lb guys climbing like a scalded Pantani. Nowadays, everyone knows how to get fast. All you have to do is get on the program. It sucks.

  66. Joe

    Mr Johnson-
    I can understand your point of view, Steve just has a blog, and it is his opinion. It MIGHT work in court, then again it might not. One of the points is though, IF he got taken to court. Even a cease and desist on his website could happen. The costs for this to happen will be debilitating, even if it is his opinion. That doesnt stop a court fight, right, wrong or indifferent.
    When you factor in Steve’s readership and hit count, one could argue that slander is possible because of his reach. Again this is a blog, but it is still possible. Look at recent court cases involving Perez Hilton as an example of possibilities.

  67. Bolas Azules

    Pepsi Frank – Your “Prior to 1991, with low-octane doping, the guy who should have won the race almost always won the race.” is just a bit off target. Well perhaps in the Euro-peloton because so many guys were juiced on the same stuff but here in the US there was a big gap in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s when a few had the juice and others didn’t. The gap got huge. In one year the average speed in the races in the Tour of Texas jumped almost 5 mph. In one year! What explains it? Identical courses, nearly identical conditions, multiple races and in every case.

    Recently I read the 7-Eleven book (without a single reference to a ‘programme’) and the team’s explanation was they put in a lot of base miles that year! The secret in taking races to sub 25 mph averages to almost 30 mph averages in 12 months is ‘base miles,’ who would have thought? And oh, it was the same time a fair number of ex-Euro pros came back, one was coaching the team and the USCF was fully committed competing on an international stage with their eastern bloc gymnastics coach. Base miles, I loved that part of the book.

    Believe me, it sent many struggling riders off to full-time jobs too!

  68. Johnson

    Ryder and all his Canadian buddies…….

    Kabush is one of Ryder’s buddies and he would box your ass around any course anytime and he is clean.


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