Originally Posted by DirtyWorks
This isn't really true. Lemond's era is probably the last where the results reflect their real, relatively human performances. When EPO reaches the elite peloton and if you are a responder, then suddenly you are Grand Tour champion material, crushing the clean, gifted athlete.
Lemond's racing results are the perfect example. When EPO is widespread, an athlete that raced on the sharp end of practically every event is suffering mid-pack. Conversely, if Wonderboy was actually a gifted cyclist among other pre-EPO cyclists, then he would have podiumed practically everything he entered.
There is such a thing as athletes who do not respond to oxygen vector doping, so it's efficacy is not universal.
EPO and related oxygen vector doping changed the fundmental premise of cycling as an athletic endeavour. Wonderboy changed everything. Pat and Hein definitely helped him out. So, again, it's not just about the athletes. The federation was and probably still do pick winners thanks to oxygen vector doping.
I don't think I disagree with you that fundamentally, DW.
Prior to EPO, doping was widespread, but small fry. It's very hard to find truly 'clean' cyclists, and many doped not for results primarily, but just to survive (this siwhere race organisers must share some blame, creating 'inhuman' races to sell papers, rather than truly test athletes)
But Anquetil doped, Coppi doped, Mercx doped, Kelly doped, fignon doped - but i'm pretty confident, at the same time, that these guys were still the best talents of their generation. It's no excuse, but i think it's true all the same.
Lemond was a freak of nature - sport throws them up from time to time. He may have done a few PEDs (i don't think he did, but I'm recognising the possiblity), but his VO2 max was simply exception, no 2 ways about it. Same as Bolt is just abnormally tall for a sprinter, or Pinsent in rowing had ridiculous lung capacity.
The first truly heartbreaking sign of trouble was Indurain - because he had near the natural talent of a LeMond - but i severely doubt he was content with that. His five in a row set the precendent for what happened, because in a sense it made the wonderboy fairytale easier to explain.
But when EPo appeared, it didn't give riders a tiny edge - it gave (some of them) a freaking BMW. At that point
, the sport stopped being a race of humans, some of whom cheated, to a race of pharmacists with labrats. The first is still sport, even if it's dirty - it the latter, it's not really sport, no more than WWE - especaiily is, like WWE, the UCI were 'picking' the winners.
Now millions of people love WWE. But it doesn't make it sport.