Justifying Doping

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One of the symptoms I have from this virus thing I’ve had is not sleeping in the middle of the night.  I like to sleep, so this is a big inconvenience.   I woke up at 2 the other night and didn’t have anything to do.  I made some toast, then opened my computer.  I normally try to stay off the computer at night, realizing it is a waste of time and just makes me more awake.

Anyway, I didn’t abide by my unwritten rule and opened my laptop.  I don’t remember how I got there, but I ended up at a podcast that Lance is doing.  I hadn’t heard about it, but he has done 5 or 6.  The podcast was with Tim Commerford.  He is a famous bass player for the bands Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, Future User, WAKRAT, and a friend of Lances.

It was interesting listening to a musician talking about his love of cycling, mainly MTB riding.  I guess he did Leadville a couple years ago.  He said he uses Strava and climbed 1,000,000 feet that year.  That is pretty impressive.  He lives in Malibu, so he must just climb on the trails there.  But the number is impressive no matter what.

Anyway, like I said above, Lance and Tim are riding buddies and friends.  It was easy to realize that Tim doesn’t think that Lance did anything wrong, doping-wise.  Lance was making more off-the-cuff remarks about doping than Tim.  Tim was saying he plays angry and that thought that Lance competed angry.

I was thinking how the subject is pretty divisive.  Either you’re with Lance or not.  There isn’t that much gray area.

Then I saw this commentary by Fred Dreier, the executive editor of Velonews.   It is about Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins views she said on a Sports Illustrated podcast.   Sally co-wrote the two Armstrong autobiographies.  In the interview she implies that what happened in our sport isn’t that bad and that in the future, we’re going to look back up on this as silly and that the doped riders were the victims.

Fred does a great job of addressing her lack of logic.  You should click the link above.   He even throws my name out there, with others, as riders that really suffered from the doping culture.  I am honored.

I understand if you’re not closely tied to the sport, the doping in the sport issue doesn’t move you much.  I don’t think Sally understands that when all the pros are using drugs, they aren’t just cheating the guys they are racing against.  They are cheating everyone involved, the juniors that are aspiring to get to their level, the masters, everyone.  All cyclists compare themselves to the top level.  When that level is make believe, then it ruins the whole bell curve.

Anyway, hopefully, in the future, we will look back upon these times and think something about how different it was back then.  We’ll never know how it goes until that time comes along.  Until then, we just need to stand the moral ground that cheating in sports is unhonorable and dishonest.



Tucker doesn’t much like this 110 degree heat index thing going on here this week. 


24 thoughts on “Justifying Doping

  1. joriver

    Steve…what is going on with Tejay van Garderen??!!!! Mind, body or ??? He has imploded every year now since doing so well when he was younger. Any thoughts?

  2. Spinner

    Good post, Steve. I’m reading “Spitting in the Soup” by Mark Johnson. It’s a new book about sports doping just published by Velopress. I am struck by how ingrained doping was(is?) in the culture of cycling as described by Johnson. If a rider was a pro it seems that using dope was EXPECTED as a “show’ of his “professionalism’. I think this philosophy is how Lance and others still view the sport (Hamilton comments directly in his book on this issue). It certainly was the justification used by riders from the Anquetil era and all proceeding generations (and even up to very recently, sadly). If a rider and his support network were TRUE BELIEVERS in the dope culture they would never see what they were/are doing as “bad” or wrong. Better living through chemistry…..Sad in retrospect…….

  3. Bill K

    Any comments on Greg LeMond, and his claims that “Froome turns the legs so fast that it’s contrary to the laws of physiology”, and his comments that bikes with motors were available in 1999??

  4. Larry T

    Even avid riders and fans think “they all doped” because those who didn’t rarely did much…Christophe Bassons isn’t exactly a famous name, though his VO2 max was far superior to BigTex’ a guy LeMond said would be a “top-30 TdF guy at best” or something to that effect. Sally Jenkins is a whore who’d write Osama Bin-Ladens bio if someone would pay her enough…and co-wrote? C’mon, she wrote the book after hearing Tex’ stories. He can’t write – he’d make YOU look like Ernest Hemingway if he wrote anything more complex than a grocery list!

  5. mark

    Steve, why did you “quietly” walk away from professional road and then mtb racing as well? If riders doping were cheating me out of my lifelong dream you can bet I would’ve been making some noise on my way out the door. Either that or I may have just joined in and played the game. Hard to say having not been there myself.

  6. Craig

    Where this whole discussion loses credibility is the hyperbole in statements like “he would have been middle of the pack rider …” or “a top 30 TdF guy at best”. How in the hell would anyone know. I guaranty you that if I take a MOP’er or the guy who finishes 100th at the TdF and, supposing he is clean, dope him up, he is NOT going to win 7 Tours in a row.

    The reality is that drugs affect people differently and those with lower natural hematocrit levels benefit more. VO2Max is NOT directly correlated with success in pro cycling … there are certain loose correlations but otherwise why even race – just measure it and assign the winner. Lance is/was a dick. Lance (and I would argue the top 50-70 guys in the TdF) doped. Tyler was a headcase. Tyler doped. They screwed people out of their dreams and money. Not of that is arguable. Stick with those facts.

    Adding in other nonsense dilutes the arguments and kills credibility. In the 60’s kids were told that smoking pot would make them insane. Hmmm, when their friends smoked and didn’t go insane the natural conclusion was that any commentary by “the man” on drugs was bull shit and this lead to an explosion in the use of speed and heroin. Think back to when you were a kid and you realized that something your parents told you was crap. A lie. That was the loss of innocence and you never believed what they told you again if it wasn’t plausible.

    Same shit here – once we dilute the argument with hyperbolic rhetoric we lose the argument. This is why the Sally Jenkins of the world still have an argument.

  7. Dave King


    For someone making an accusation of hyperbolic argument, you sure do a lot of that yourself. First, it’s not hyperbole to state that someone is TdF top 30 at best when their prior results include 3 out of 4 DNF’s and 36th overall by the age of 25. In fact, I’d call that a pretty accurate prediction, if not “facts” as you ask for. In a well trained pro athlete, there’s not a lot of development or improvement that occurs from age 25 to 30 unless it’s by PEDs.

    And actually, a high VO2 max is HIGHLY correlated with victory in the TdF. And a lower VO2 max is also correlated with NOT winning the TdF. While the highest VO2max does not necessarily win, you will find that amongst the top ten the differences in VO2max are minimal. Unfortunately, oxygen vector doping such as EPO and transfusions have the potential to dramatically increase VO2max. You are correct that some will benefit from this effect more than others. I do agree that many make too much of VO2max but it is one of many important predictors of endurance performance.

    Lastly, you guarantee that taking a MOPer or 100th overall and you could not turn him into 7 TdF winner in a row. Well, maybe you couldn’t but others have won TdF’s from similar humble beginnings.

    Indurain – DNF in first 2 TdF’s, 97th overall in his third TdF – went on to win 5 in a row. Hmmm…
    Riis – 95th in first TdF, withdrew from second TdF, 107th in third Tdf. Won in 1996. Confessed to EPO use. Hmmm…

    I could find others who finished on the podium who were MOPers, but what’s the point? That it is remarkable Lance won 7 TdF’s in a row? No doubt he performed remarkably well. However, doping wasn’t his only tool – we already know there was bribery and coercion. Who won races in those days went WAY beyond what happened out on the road.

  8. Jim

    While I can’t address everyone, I can make a definite statement concerning Tyler Hamilton.
    In the 1992 Olympic Trials, the TT was held outside of Altoona, Pa. Now, I don’t have the newspaper clipping at hand (although I do have it somewhere) and what I recall is that Hamilton was about 60th out of about 120 riders. IOW, he wasn’t anywhere close to the top.
    12 years later he was the 2004 Olympic Champ in the TT.
    Please explain how someone/anyone goes from being in the middle of a domestic field to being an Olympic champ in the same discipline?
    IOW, the statement, at least concerning Hamilton, was 100% accurate.

  9. jpete

    You know, that is the year that everyone began emulating the new, super-cadence climbing style. hmmm. makes me wonder a bit. Be interesting to know if there was something extra going on in those time trials that wasn’t there when he was doping, but still getting smashed by Indurain and about 30 other people.

  10. Taman

    1,000,000ft of climbing in a year. If you rode all 365 days that would be averaging over 2,700ft a day and over 19,000ft a week.

  11. old and slow

    The minute you start splitting these hairs you really have to make a distinction between the oxygen vector PEDs like EPO and the recovery PEDs like testosterone and HGH. Especially in the context of a grand tour, IMO.

    It is also my opinion that USPS/Discovery Channel/Radio Shack did have a leg up in the latter category and that individuals like Floyd had yet another leg up genetically with respect to how well they responded to the recovery drugs.

    So muy conspiracy theory is that when Lance told Floyd to “run like you stole something” after he had already ridden 43 of the best climbers in the world off his wheel, Floyd knew better than to finish in a podium position that day.

  12. mike crum

    steve, what do you mean by saying ” how different it was back then”? they doped in the 50’s to current.. are you saying pro cycling is clean now?

  13. Conrad

    I think it is hilarious that Tim and Lance are good buddies. I listened to rage against the machine some when I was in high school. Pretty edgy stuff, definitely advocating burning shit down and taking revolution to the streets. And that was circa 1994, when things were actually pretty good. In 2016 when the situation is getting pretty dire, we mostly just have neutered emo pop rock to listen to. Anyway, now Tim is good buddies with Lance, perhaps cycling’s best answer to a power hungry corporate bottom feeder. I wonder if they belong to the same country club. Ain’t it funny how we all turn out?

  14. KrakatoaEastofJava

    VO2 Max is a highly misunderstood data benchmark. It doesn’t remain as a constant. People can’t afford to measure it very often, and usually rely on the “one” figure they’re handed.

    I took part in a PhD candidate’s study once, and in the process had mine measured quite a few times. The first two times, I was keeping my training in check and had two fairly high numbers. The third time, it was measured after a very busy “bad” school and work week where I hardly rode. My VO2 Max tanked by at least 15%.

    I wonder how many riders lost out on opportunity after people told them their number was too low.

  15. Dave King


    Agreed about it’s variability and poor affordability and access for most people.

    That’s interesting that it varied so much for you with just one week of a busy/school workload. Do you attribute that to simply lack of training or fatigue? Heat and dehydration are also a factor in limiting VO2max but I’m sure in those conditions that wasn’t the issue.

    Regarding your last statement about feeling your number is too low … a friend of mine who has a PhD in Exer Phys said talking about your VO2max is like talking about dick size.

  16. Aki

    As far as results go, you might get the same rider getting wildly different results based on their tactics. I’m not saying that Tyler didn’t dope, of course, but when someone compares results from one year to another it’s important to take into the context of both results.

    A rider that I know was on the National team, was collegiate national champ in the RR, won L’Abitibi (twice?), and I think placed top 10 at the National RR. He went to Nationals one year and got some very poor place, something in the 50s or 60s. At the time he worked for me, he was doing regularl super hard training rides, and, based on his performances locally, he was in good form. I asked him what happened. Apparently he’d gone all in when he got into a break. They got caught close to the finish, at which point it was game over. Therefore he placed poorly although this in no way reflected his performance and influence on the race.

    I think it’s different with stage races. For example that same rider above won L’Abitibi (I think twice, although I can’t confirm it because I can’t find an archive of results), one year he annihilated a German rider named Jan Ullrich, in the TT as well as overall. The shortly thereafter the same Jan Ullrich won the World RR. This was about the time that said rider contemplated or quit pursuing a pro career – the doping was rampant at the time and super effective. The rider eventually did quit pursuing a pro career although, for example, he raced collegiately while he went to school.

  17. Choppy Warburton

    There are really only two ways to become a champion cyclist.

    1. Pick the right parents and train like hell.
    2. Pick the right parents and doping methods and train like hell.

  18. John De Schepper

    I vividly remember my first contact with racing, I was 14 years old (summer`92), and before I even raced a mile an older amateur racer (+35) comes to me and says, hey if you want to win a race some day just let me know and i´ll give you with the right stuff. I was like WTF.

  19. Paul Boudreaux

    ’86 was the last great year for racing. You had LeMond vs. Hinault without the EPO, blood bags and other gruesome dope, but on the other hand you had the F1 cars “doped up” to the hilt and pumping out 1350HP+ in qualifying. Senna qualifying in the JPS Lotus remains the unmatched in racing.

  20. Bert Del-Sin

    Every rider did well on the High Road teams, thanks to Rolf Aldag and Brian Holm, who now run the Ettix and Dimension Data. If TJ went back to Ettix, he’d podium in France within 2 years. TJ rides for a no-needles team now. That is a big part of his problem


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