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Were the 80s any cleaner than whenever?

Jul 19, 2009
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I thought I would start a new thread on this because it deserves its own discussion. It often seems as though the 80s is somehow seen as sort of a "clean" era of pro-cycling compared with the 90s because as we all know, rhEPO was developed in the mid-late 80s and became widely available by the 90s. Greg Lemond's is often cited as the bar to which any clean GT winner must be compared to. But have people forgotten about East Germany?

Systematic doping in sports was widespread in the 80s and it has been known since the 1960s that androgens stimulate erthyropoesis, yet reliable tests were far less available. Blood doping was experimented with in the early 80s and it wasn't even a banned method until about 1984 or thereabouts.

So why would pro-cycling, with its history of PED use dating back long before the 1980s, suddenly stop using the most potent ergogenic substances available at the time? I suspect that the medicos of the day would have been well aware of the ergogenic potential of steroids for cycling. Hence I'm fairly skeptical about using the best cyclists from that era as some sort of "gold standard" for the upper boundary of what can be achieved with "clean" physiology.
 
Jun 19, 2009
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Krebs cycle said:
I thought I would start a new thread on this because it deserves its own discussion. It often seems as though the 80s is somehow seen as sort of a "clean" era of pro-cycling compared with the 90s because as we all know, rhEPO was developed in the mid-late 80s and became widely available by the 90s. Greg Lemond's is often cited as the bar to which any clean GT winner must be compared to. But have people forgotten about East Germany?

Systematic doping in sports was widespread in the 80s and it has been known since the 1960s that androgens stimulate erthyropoesis, yet reliable tests were far less available. Blood doping was experimented with in the early 80s and it wasn't even a banned method until about 1984 or thereabouts.

So why would pro-cycling, with its history of PED use dating back long before the 1980s, suddenly stop using the most potent ergogenic substances available at the time? I suspect that the medicos of the day would have been well aware of the ergogenic potential of steroids for cycling. Hence I'm fairly skeptical about using the best cyclists from that era as some sort of "gold standard" for the upper boundary of what can be achieved with "clean" physiology.
"Cleaner" is a relative term that we all interpret differently.

But to address your main point - IMO doping was more prevalent in the era up to the 80's, in that the percentage using PEDs would seem quite high.
The reason the era up to the 80's is often used as "cleaner" is not in the numbers using, but in the products and advantages used as most of the products used were stimulants.

As with all sports it wasn't until the 80's that science started to be applied to the sport, not just in doping but in all aspects.
So up to the 80's it seems as though it was possible to be 'clean' and be competitive.

Enter the late 80's or 90's and you had new products like EPO that offered enormous gains, which were not detectable and it completely changed the sport. Because of those gains it was extremely difficult for 'clean' cyclists to be competitive. As it wasn't just a few riders who were well above everyone else it lends credence that doping was widespread throughout that area.

The introduction of the 50% in 97 meant that riders could not dope with impunity (but still be at approx 55% during competition).
In 2001 the EPO test was introduced - although far from foolproof it did add another element to frustrate dopers.

The big introductions were more OOC tests and the introduction of the Bio Passport and of course the involvement of the Police.
 
May 12, 2010
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I don't think so, I rather think that there was a constant increase in use and sophistication of doping from the fifties untill at least the middle nineties, after which it plateaued.

Of course EPO changed a lot, from then on it became just impossible to be competitive without using it, but I think it would be foolish to suggest doping in the 80's would be without any effect (it certainly begs the question why everyone was using it). Let's put it this way, before EPO is was possible to get the occasional win or good result in an important race, but to be among the top for years you had to be on the juice, in the 90's you had to use doping just to finish in the top-50 of a race.
 
I think the correct way of judging it would be 'more believable' as opposed to cleaner. It does seem as though EPO was a huge game changer.

A few top riders from that era have been named as clean riders by various team, owners, soigneurs and fellow riders. Whether people choose to believe those statements or not is another matter.

Some of those named as being clean have included

LeMond,
Bauer,
Mottet,
Weinmann/Helvetia team,
Hampsten
 
Jul 25, 2009
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Krebs cycle said:
'...'Systematic doping in sports was widespread in the 80s and it has been known since the 1960s that androgens stimulate erthyropoesis, yet reliable tests were far less available.'...'
So, the steriods/testosterone used in the 80s also cause an increase in oxygen carriers, but not as much as EPO??

Someone commented recently about cyclists using certain steroids in combination with EPO, because it reduces the amount of EPO they need to get the desired result. That's plausible in light of the above, isn't it?
 
Aug 13, 2009
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How do we know Greg didn't dope? Just because he says so and "he never tested positive"?

:eek:

Kidding, just trying to point out that his standard/stance is the same as others, isn't it?
 
pmcg76 said:
I think the correct way of judging it would be 'more believable' as opposed to cleaner.
+1000
Dope took place as well back then-but it wasn't the kind that radically increased those insane speeds & broke records like the ones between 95-05
 
Feb 10, 2010
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mercycle said:
How do we know Greg didn't dope? Just because he says so and "he never tested positive"?

:eek:

Kidding, just trying to point out that his standard/stance is the same as others, isn't it?

No. If you weren't following the sport then, it's easy to make swift generalizations. Why is LeMond believable? Because from the earliest days of his racing career he *crushed* his competitors. At UCI level, he was at the sharp end of the race. The performance was consistent throughout a season and remarkable. Until very recently, that could not be said of the top-3 in a top-tier UCI event.

The plain language explanation of the difference to me seems to me that oxygen carrying doping products were not in use in the 80's and earlier.
 
Jul 28, 2011
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Looking back at the last 30 or so years I wouldn’t say that the 80s were any cleaner than any other recent time. In many respects I’d almost say it was “dirtier”. Science and technology in many sports (cycling included) came along leaps and bounds in the late 80s early 90s and I think this is often overlooked in when EPO is raised as a game changer.

Reading through old training bibles some of the things which were standard practise back in the 80s seem quite laughable now. Similarly jumping on a top end machine from the early 90s and comparing that to a late 80s machine for me reveals a quite noticeable performance gain which can’t be ignored.

Whether any one rider is good example of a clean rider to set the bar in many respects ignores the general advances in science and technology and information which became readily available around the change of the decade. Using Lemond purely as an example, with or without doping I would expect him have had greater access to up to the minute training information and technology from top US sport scientists at his disposal. That alone could have been the few percent that kept him consistently at the top in comparison to someone using “old” training techniques and lesser equipment.

I don’t think anyone will argue that the 90s were a clean period in cycling, but to suggest that the 80s is somehow cleaner/better because a later period is a little naïve and looking back we may want to take the racing red lenses out of the Rudy Projects. ;)
 
Apr 19, 2010
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DirtyWorks said:
No. If you weren't following the sport then, it's easy to make swift generalizations. Why is LeMond believable? Because from the earliest days of his racing career he *crushed* his competitors. At UCI level, he was at the sharp end of the race. The performance was consistent throughout a season and remarkable. Until very recently, that could not be said of the top-3 in a top-tier UCI event.

The plain language explanation of the difference to me seems to me that oxygen carrying doping products were not in use in the 80's and earlier.
LeMond may have "crushed" riders in the US, but that was no big deal in the US in the late 70's and early eighties.
Against genuine competition he was top tier, but there wasn't much crushing going on.

LeMond was also one of the more inconsistent riders in the peleton and capable of some very unremarkable performances.

Thats not to say he doped, just that your reasoning is flawed.

We will never know who used cortisone for example, and who didn't. We only have the word of the riders themselves.
If LeMond didn't use cortisone, he was all the more remarkable, as he would definately have been in the minority.
 
Mar 17, 2009
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andy1234 said:
LeMond may have "crushed" riders in the US, but that was no big deal in the US in the late 70's and early eighties.
Against genuine competition he was top tier, but there wasn't much crushing going on.

LeMond was also one of the more inconsistent riders in the peleton and capable of some very unremarkable performances.

Thats not to say he doped, just that your reasoning is flawed.

We will never know who used cortisone for example, and who didn't. We only have the word of the riders themselves.
If LeMond didn't use cortisone, he was all the more remarkable, as he would definately have been in the minority.
Tour de L'Avenir 1981 he took 10 minutes out of the Soviet team who were not only state charged but effectively pro in the days when amateurs still were amateur.

82 Worlds? Riding with NO team got second to Saronni.

83 Worlds - won.

84 TdF 3rd at first attempt plus Maillot Blanc.

85 TdF 2nd, on team orders having been in a likely race-winning move with Roche.

Not to mention top 5 placings in MSR, PR & RVV before he was 25!

Were you following the sport then or did you only see LeMond after his hunting accident?
 
Apr 19, 2010
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ultimobici said:
Tour de L'Avenir 1981 he took 10 minutes out of the Soviet team who were not only state charged but effectively pro in the days when amateurs still were amateur.

82 Worlds? Riding with NO team got second to Saronni.

83 Worlds - won.

84 TdF 3rd at first attempt plus Maillot Blanc.

85 TdF 2nd, on team orders having been in a likely race-winning move with Roche.

Not to mention top 5 placings in MSR, PR & RVV before he was 25!

Were you following the sport then or did you only see LeMond after his hunting accident?
Firstly, Lemond was one of the greats. Lets get that out of the way.

He however didn't dominate or "crush" riders as previously posted.

Lemond won the avenir in 82, not 81, as a second year professional, with the backing of the strongest pro team of the time.

"82 Worlds? Riding with NO team got second to Saronni"
I was at Goodwood in 1982, and LeMond followed wheels most of the day. 2nd at his age was a great result, but hardly crushing.

It might be worth taking a look at Fignon and Hinaults first TDF results and the manner in which they won some of their races.
Crushing would be a fitting description.

Then again, maybe the fact that a rider of LeMonds ability was forced to ride cautiously in order to win, was a sign that he was doing it as clean as a whistle.
Who knows....
 
Feb 10, 2010
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andy1234 said:
He however didn't dominate or "crush" riders as previously posted.
Let me be clear, my reference was his younger days racing as an amateur domestically. Crushed pretty much sums it up. And there was plenty of racing and competitive racers in the U.S. at the time. If you want to discuss that era, open another thread in a different sub-forum.

As for your criticism that LeMond 'followed wheels.' Following wheels a critical skill and inseparable part of bike racing. 2nd at his age amongst the best in the sport is crushing the field.

Is it possible Lemond doped? Absolutely. Is it likely doping was the necessary factor to explain his wins? No. And don't conflate that generation's doping with EPO and later.
 
Oct 31, 2010
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You know why I think Lemond was clean. Cause LA has probably hired every private detective in Europe to find somebody to say they either sold him dope or saw him dope.
 
Mar 17, 2009
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andy1234 said:
Firstly, Lemond was one of the greats. Lets get that out of the way.

He however didn't dominate or "crush" riders as previously posted.

Lemond won the avenir in 82, not 81, as a second year professional, with the backing of the strongest pro team of the time.

"82 Worlds? Riding with NO team got second to Saronni"
I was at Goodwood in 1982, and LeMond followed wheels most of the day. 2nd at his age was a great result, but hardly crushing.

It might be worth taking a look at Fignon and Hinaults first TDF results and the manner in which they won some of their races.
Crushing would be a fitting description.

Then again, maybe the fact that a rider of LeMonds ability was forced to ride cautiously in order to win, was a sign that he was doing it as clean as a whistle.
Who knows....
Both Fignon & Hinault had a couple of advantages in their first TdF rides. Both were able to take advantage of their team leader's absence and they were Frenchmen on French teams in an era when national chauvinism was rife in teams. Lemond was unlucky on both counts, but in particular he was on the team that was there to defend Fignon's 83 win.

To deride his efforts at Goodwood in 82 is disingenuous to say the least. Every European team was just that, a team. The US team was only that in name as its members were riding for themselves as they would for several more years. Thus Lemond's 82 Silver & 83 Gold are extraordinary achievements.

His 85 GT results are similarly interesting as he podiumed in both the Tour & Giro at the same time as he was riding shotgun to Hinault.

We can go around and around discussing what ifs but Lemond's record is plain to see. By 25 he had achieved everything he had set out to do as a junior bar an Olympic Gold. How many riders actually check off their full list of targets in a whole career?
 
Jun 16, 2010
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More Evidence of LeMond's Natural Talent

I ran across this interesting blog. The second paragraph describes the Olympic road team selection race. Greg was too young to participate, but they decided to let him race it anyway. Nice story -- and remember that Greg was still presumably on his junior gears. Anybody remember what the limit was? I seem to remember a 52-15 was the biggest gear allowed, but I have a pretty poor memory...

http://www.freewheel.com/mvw/Misc/wright1.htm
 
i dont understand how can anyone believe 80s (or any other era) were cleaner,it wasnt cleaner just drugs were less effective than epo

kinda similar situation like today where many cyclists/majority are doping but they have to be so carefull and microdope that actually doping has a lot lower effectivness than epo = "cleaner" era

tbh im just waiting for new drug to show up and everyone will be on it in a second
 
Apr 19, 2010
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ultimobici said:
Both Fignon & Hinault had a couple of advantages in their first TdF rides. Both were able to take advantage of their team leader's absence and they were Frenchmen on French teams in an era when national chauvinism was rife in teams. Lemond was unlucky on both counts, but in particular he was on the team that was there to defend Fignon's 83 win.
Lemond was unlucky in 1984 in the sense that Fignon was simply in a different league than everyone else. Team loyalty had little to do with it.

To deride his efforts at Goodwood in 82 is disingenuous to say the least. Every European team was just that, a team. The US team was only that in name as its members were riding for themselves as they would for several more years. Thus Lemond's 82 Silver & 83 Gold are extraordinary achievements.
Kelly and Phil Anderson had just as little help that day. LeMond did nothing extraordinary in that respect, and the Italians were working all day to keep the race together for Saronni.
It either suited Lemonds following style of riding or it forced LeMond to ride that way.
It is, however, a trait that defined LeMond throughout his career.

Either way, Lemonds career was outstanding, but "crushing" best describes riders other than LeMond.
 
Jul 19, 2009
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saganftw said:
i dont understand how can anyone believe 80s (or any other era) were cleaner,it wasnt cleaner just drugs were less effective than epo

kinda similar situation like today where many cyclists/majority are doping but they have to be so carefull and microdope that actually doping has a lot lower effectivness than epo = "cleaner" era

tbh im just waiting for new drug to show up and everyone will be on it in a second
because a lot of studies on cheating as shown than everyone cheats when it's obvious that most of the people are cheating.
Blood doping performance are so incredible that every athlete can ignore that cheating.
 
Mar 17, 2009
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andy1234 said:
Lemond was unlucky in 1984 in the sense that Fignon was simply in a different league than everyone else. Team loyalty had little to do with it.
Team orders must have played a part. Lemond's position was as Fignon's lieutenant, so he'd have been unable to ride for himself alone.

That said Fignon was head & shoulders above the opposition and had a point to make re Hinault as well as having just been robbed of the Giro!

WRT LeMond not being deserving of the description "crushing", he was one of the pioneers of the 80's. All of them comment that there was a very strong chauvinistic attitude that non-French riders had to overcome just to get picked let alone be ridden for.
 
May 11, 2009
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saganftw said:
i dont understand how can anyone believe 80s (or any other era) were cleaner,it wasnt cleaner just drugs were less effective than epo
What i know to be true:

in the 80s and very early 90s I could race and have success, from time to time, against dopers.

What I believe to be true:

People who continued to race into the mid 90s (after I quit) have told me that there was no way they could compete against dopers. Just finishing in the group was a struggle.
 
Jul 6, 2010
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compete_clean said:
what i know to be true:

in the 80s and very early 90s i could race and have success, from time to time, against dopers.

what i believe to be true:

people who continued to race into the mid 90s (after i quit) have told me that there was no way they could compete against dopers. Just finishing in the group was a struggle.
100%

------------
 
Mar 11, 2009
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compete_clean said:
What i know to be true:

in the 80s and very early 90s I could race and have success, from time to time, against dopers.

What I believe to be true:

People who continued to race into the mid 90s (after I quit) have told me that there was no way they could compete against dopers. Just finishing in the group was a struggle.
People who continued to race into the mid 90's (after you quit) were 5 years older and probably fatter.
C'mon, face the music.

Alberto 5 years from now will be struggling against the younger and stronger guys too.

And he will probably whine too bang bang.
 

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