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Why cycling will never be clean

Has reading this thread changed your mind?

  • Yes, I now believe cycling can be significantly cleaned up.

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1. Riders are always working with doctors and scientists to find new ways to enhance performance.
2. Once new methods are discovered or designed, it takes time, months or even years, if ever, for testers to learn of these methods.
3. Once the testers discover a new method, it takes more time, again months or years, to design a reliable test.
4. Some methods have been known for years and still there is no test - like autologous blood doping.

The riders will always be at least months, usually years, ahead, making tons of money -- while doping and passing tests with flying colors (see Basso, Ullrich, etc.) -- that they would not be making if they were not doping.

It is that simple. As long as riders remain humans and humans continue to be clever, cycling will never be clean.

Get over it.

IMHO, this should be a sticky.
 
Jun 18, 2009
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I think with retrospective testing and tougher penalties it will be severely limited.

There just needs to be effective methods to store samples for retesting once a suitable test is developed. Tougher penalties might include much stiffer financial penalties and law suits to recover prize money and sponsorship dollars. If you make it hurt enough, it will become too risky.

Right now, with a 2 year penalty for a first positive, many riders probably feel it is worth the risk!
 
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Has there ever been another sport that had a history of systemic drug usage that turned it around and is now considered 'clean'?

I don't mean this as a rhetorical question. I would be interested to see if it had ever been accomplished before.
 
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Ninety5rpm said:
1. Riders are always working with doctors and scientists to find new ways to enhance performance.
2. Once new methods are discovered or designed, it takes time, months or even years, if ever, for testers to learn of these methods.
3. Once the testers discover a new method, it takes more time, again months or years, to design a reliable test.
4. Some methods have been known for years and still there is no test - like autologous blood doping.

1. Drug testers can work with manufacturers to develop the test simultaneously. This can be voluntary (as with CERA) or it can be enforced with national (i.e. FDA in the US) and international approval processes (forcing test development along with approval for distribution).
2. See #1 above.
3. See #1 above.
4. Not really. Autologous blood doping requires red blood cells to go up, otherwise, it wouldn't work. Whether this is 1%, 2% or 5%, you can establish levels that are within a certain range for riders. This is currently part of the biological passport program.

My guess is #4 hasn't been enforced rigorously out of fear of lawsuits (Rider: "My haematocrit naturally fluctuates 25% and expert witness, Dr. X, will testify to this.")

With more monitoring, this will hopefully change. Thomas Dekker was targeted based on his haematological profile. He was using EPO, but the lead evidence was his blood profile.
 
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Ninety5rpm said:
IMHO, this should be a sticky.
Saying that your own thread should be stickied can't really be described as a "humble" opinion.





Unless you're using IMHO to mean, "In My Honest Opinion" in which case... it still shouldn't be stickied.
 
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If you want antidoping to go as far as possible you need somebody with the attitude of Pierre Bordry as the head of the UCI. With McQuaid in charge there will always be an ambivalence due to financial concerns.
 
Ninety5rpm said:
1. Riders are always working with doctors and scientists to find new ways to enhance performance.
Correct.
2. Once new methods are discovered or designed, it takes time, months or even years, if ever, for testers to learn of these methods.

As you know they are re-testing samples from Last year's Giro and Tour. This makes the retroactive testing effective tool for catching the cheaters.

3. Once the testers discover a new method, it takes more time, again months or years, to design a reliable test.
Read above and Willy Voet's comments

4. Some methods have been known for years and still there is no test - like autologous blood doping.
The Bio Passport is a good approach. I just don't think that the UCI is being serious or strict enough to enforce it 100%. And if we believe that they are corrupt organization, that would make this a moot point. So cleaning the organization that runs the business would be a good starting point.

The riders will always be at least months, usually years, ahead, making tons of money -- while doping and passing tests with flying colors (see Basso, Ullrich, etc.) -- that they would not be making if they were not doping.

It is that simple. As long as riders remain humans and humans continue to be clever, cycling will never be clean.

Get over it.


Just because we know there is and always will be cheating does not mean that we don't have to do the best we can to stop it or control it. It sounds like you want to legalize it. Am I right? Otherwise what's your point of posting something that we all already know.
:confused:

IMHO, this should be a sticky.
Not even close.
 

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Ninety5rpm said:
1. Riders are always working with doctors and scientists to find new ways to enhance performance.
2. Once new methods are discovered or designed, it takes time, months or even years, if ever, for testers to learn of these methods.
3. Once the testers discover a new method, it takes more time, again months or years, to design a reliable test.
4. Some methods have been known for years and still there is no test - like autologous blood doping.

The riders will always be at least months, usually years, ahead, making tons of money -- while doping and passing tests with flying colors (see Basso, Ullrich, etc.) -- that they would not be making if they were not doping.

It is that simple. As long as riders remain humans and humans continue to be clever, cycling will never be clean.

Get over it.

IMHO, this should be a sticky.

Certainly there will always be those who try and gain an advantage and there will always be some kind of doping.

The sport made gains against doping in the 2 years after Operation Puerto - not because of a moral crusade - but because Liberty Seguros pulled the plug right there and then.

The Bio Passport can detect a lot of what is already available and what can come on stream - however the UCI have curtailed it in the last year imo as the negative publicity was affecting the stakeholders bottom line.

I actually think with all the new laws against doping throughout Europe that it is only a matter of time before we have a similar episode to Operation Puerto and that cycling will be once again forced to clean itself up.
 
Ninety5rpm said:
1. Riders are always working with doctors and scientists to find new ways to enhance performance.
2. Once new methods are discovered or designed, it takes time, months or even years, if ever, for testers to learn of these methods.
3. Once the testers discover a new method, it takes more time, again months or years, to design a reliable test.
4. Some methods have been known for years and still there is no test - like autologous blood doping.

The riders will always be at least months, usually years, ahead, making tons of money -- while doping and passing tests with flying colors (see Basso, Ullrich, etc.) -- that they would not be making if they were not doping.

It is that simple. As long as riders remain humans and humans continue to be clever, cycling will never be clean.

Get over it.

IMHO, this should be a sticky.
The gap is closing however. WADA is pumping millions into anti-doping research, no need to give in yet my friend. It is an ethical and a safety issue. If you have a free for all then there will be a flow on effect to non-professional sport and then all sorts of crazy **** is gonna happen.

People aren't gonna get over it because the society we live in says banning drugs in sport is the right thing to do. Its that simple.

...but then again, if we all grew up in a super-human world where it was totally accepted and everyone took their HGH shot in the evening, testosterone shot in the morning etc then I think you would have a good point.

edit: IMO the war on drugs in sport (FWOBT) needs to be ratified into law. Make it illegal so that doctors and cyclists could go to jail. I think Astana and Saxo-bank were doping but one thing still bothers me is that there aren't more sudden raids on possible targets where the doping is actually taking place. At some point they have to have tubes going into the body.... why hasn't anyone been caught red handed yet? surely it can't be that hard to put a PI on the job and follow them everywhere?
 
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Krebs cycle said:
If you have a free for all then there will be a flow on effect to non-professional sport and then all sorts of crazy **** is gonna happen.

It's already happening. The amount of doping in amateur cycling is (and to an extent always has been) pretty startling.
 
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boalio said:
It's already happening. The amount of doping in amateur cycling is (and to an extent always has been) pretty startling.

I don't think it's just cycling either, I go to a gym where a lot of boxers, football and rugby players and some rowers train, as well as the gym junkies and things like sustanon, deca, clenbuterol, hgh, ephedrine are pretty much rampant there, none of them appear to be pros so probably never get tested... I don't know if they are much use in cycling but I would imagine if those ones are easy to find then other ones are.
 
Escarabajo said:
As you know they are re-testing samples from Last year's Giro and Tour. This makes the retroactive testing effective tool for catching the cheaters.
There are effective tools, but none that are full proof. There are effective masking agents, for example.

For example, let's say they retroactively nail Evans or Sastre for using CERA in 2008. That doesn't make 2008 clean. Will that be a deterrent? Only if riders believe that being caught, eventually, is almost certain. As long as the risk of getting away with it is perceived to be something reasonable from their, uh, unique perspectives (in many cases athletes are willing to give up their lives in order to become champions of their sports), they will continue doping and hoping to get away with it.

Even if you make any violation a lifetime ban, many riders will look at it something like this: "I'm doomed to a mediocre career if I don't dope, and that's not worth it. I'm doomed if dope and and get caught. So my only chance is to dope and risk getting caught... if I get caught, practically speaking, I'm not really worse off than I would be if I didn't dope (time to find another gig). But, if I get away with it... WOO HOO!!!"


Escarabajo said:
The Bio Passport is a good approach. I just don't think that the UCI is being serious or strict enough to enforce it 100%. And if we believe that they are corrupt organization, that would make this a moot point. So cleaning the organization that runs the business would be a good starting point.
Foxes watching the hen house is a big part of the problem, to be sure. A lot of people are making a lot more money this year because of Lance, for example. And the others points in the opening post will continue to stand, at least to some degree, for a long time if not forever.


Escarabajo said:
Just because we know there is and always will be cheating does not mean that we don't have to do the best we can to stop it or control it. It sounds like you want to legalize it. Am I right? Otherwise what's your point of posting something that we all already know.
:confused:
A lot of people here don't seem to appreciate the point this thread is making. Many seem to believe the sport can be cleaned up.

No, I'm not for legalizing/allowing doping. As far as I can tell all the testing and publicity is good because it probably helps keep the levels down. However, I also suspect that all this testing ironically pushes the envelope in many ways.

Also, the more effective they are with the testing, the bigger the advantage doping achieves. For example, if nobody is doping, just a little virtually undetectable bit of doping can give a rider a significant advantage. In many cases probably even a scientifically insignificant amount can give a sprinter a very significant bike length, or a climber a few very significant seconds per km.

My main point, per the title, was that the sport can never be clean. I think this is an important point because many people make naive posts here stating that they believe otherwise.

I suggested a thread on this point be a sticky so that this point is brought to their attention hopefully before they start posting.
 
M Sport said:
I don't think it's just cycling either, I go to a gym where a lot of boxers, football and rugby players and some rowers train, as well as the gym junkies and things like sustanon, deca, clenbuterol, hgh, ephedrine are pretty much rampant there, none of them appear to be pros so probably never get tested... I don't know if they are much use in cycling but I would imagine if those ones are easy to find then other ones are.

It's definitely not just cycling. Cycling has tried to do the most about it, and, ironically, what that has achieved is little except give cycling a relatively bad rep for doping.
 
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Ninety5rpm said:
Will that be a deterrent? Only if riders believe that being caught, eventually, is almost certain. As long as the risk of getting away with it is perceived to be something reasonable from their, uh, unique perspectives (in many cases athletes are willing to give up their lives in order to become champions of their sports), they will continue doping and hoping to get away with it.

That's the solution right there. Make the penalty for doping more severe than the benefits from getting away with it....

Lets say (hypothetically :rolleyes:) that Armstrong tests positive for EPO (again). Currently he would be banned for 2 years and might lose some sponsors. He could still retire and live like a king for the rest of his life. Now, what if Nike/Trek etc. sued him for all of the endorsement money they put into him over the past 10 years? What if he went to jail for fraud? That would be a huge deterrent for others considering doping.

The problem is that a 2 year ban is not severe enough of a penalty to act as a deterrent. For a proven case, there should be an 10 year ban (essentially life), severe economic penalties by teams and sponsors, and possibly jail time for fraud.
 
Ninety5rpm said:
There are effective tools, but none that are full proof. There are effective masking agents, for example.

For example, let's say they retroactively nail Evans or Sastre for using CERA in 2008. That doesn't make 2008 clean. Will that be a deterrent? Only if riders believe that being caught, eventually, is almost certain. As long as the risk of getting away with it is perceived to be something reasonable from their, uh, unique perspectives (in many cases athletes are willing to give up their lives in order to become champions of their sports), they will continue doping and hoping to get away with it.

Even if you make any violation a lifetime ban, many riders will look at it something like this: "I'm doomed to a mediocre career if I don't dope, and that's not worth it. I'm doomed if dope and get caught. So my only chance is to dope and risk getting caught... if I get caught, practically speaking, I'm not really worse off than I would be if I didn't dope (time to find another gig). But, if I get away with it... WOO HOO!!!"

You make a good point here. I think the risk of being caught does not outweigh the good results and better salary and money prizes. Although, IMHO, it looks like it is getting closer and tighter than before. The risk is increasing with the retroactive testing, the bio passport, The "Omerta" cracking, etc.

Foxes watching the hen house is a big part of the problem, to be sure. A lot of people are making a lot more money this year because of Lance, for example. And the others points in the opening post will continue to stand, at least to some degree, for a long time if not forever.

Agree.

A lot of people here don't seem to appreciate the point this thread is making. Many seem to believe the sport can be cleaned up.

No, I'm not for legalizing/allowing doping. As far as I can tell all the testing and publicity is good because it probably helps keep the levels down. However, I also suspect that all this testing ironically pushes the envelope in many ways.

Also, the more effective they are with the testing, the bigger the advantage doping achieves. For example, if nobody is doping, just a little virtually undetectable bit of doping can give a rider a significant advantage. In many cases probably even a scientifically insignificant amount can give a sprinter a very significant bike length, or a climber a few very significant seconds per km.

IMO, the more a rider standout in the crowd (Rico, Sella) the easier it is to catch them. True, a cleaner peloton makes doping that much special, but that could work both ways. Maybe Contador needs to tune it down next year.;)


My main point, per the title, was that the sport can never be clean. I think this is an important point because many people make naive posts here stating that they believe otherwise.

I suggested a thread on this point be a sticky so that this point is brought to their attention hopefully before they start posting.
We agree to disagree. Remember that because cycling fans are getting tired of this doping nonsense, the UCI had to at least make some effort to clean up the sport or at least to control it. The big police raids like the Festina affair and Operacion Puerto has made them look inept and corrupt. So to a point we have at least some hope for the future. I know there will always be doping, I am not naive, but we can not let it grow so big that it becomes out of control. I know there was doping in the 2008 Tour but from what I saw in television, it became more credible than the performances from the 90's and early 2000's. So I don't see anything wrong with the improvement.

You seem to know a lot a bout this topic, so I have a question for you:

Do you think the French riders are learning to dope based on this years Tour de France?
 
Cobber said:
That's the solution right there. Make the penalty for doping more severe than the benefits from getting away with it....

Lets say (hypothetically :rolleyes:) that Armstrong tests positive for EPO (again). Currently he would be banned for 2 years and might lose some sponsors. He could still retire and live like a king for the rest of his life. Now, what if Nike/Trek etc. sued him for all of the endorsement money they put into him over the past 10 years? What if he went to jail for fraud? That would be a huge deterrent for others considering doping.

The problem is that a 2 year ban is not severe enough of a penalty to act as a deterrent. For a proven case, there should be an 10 year ban (essentially life), severe economic penalties by teams and sponsors, and possibly jail time for fraud.
The mindset of the elite athlete is probably impossible for us amateurs to understand, but when someone is willing to give up his life for something, no penalty is going to matter. Unless the chances of getting caught are perceived to be almost certain, I don't see how much progress could be made with higher penalties for people who are literally willing to die in exchange for winning.
 
The OP is right in that the sport will never be 100% clean, just as it never has. It's likely this applies to all major and minor sports where both money and adulation are involved.

But I disagree in that I think it can be a lot cleaner, and managed a lot better. I think with a variety of tactics, we can get to the point to where a clean rider can compete with a doped rider, as doping is so hard to do and get away with, it's effect is minor.

Originally Posted by Ninety5rpm: Only if riders believe that being caught, eventually, is almost certain. As long as the risk of getting away with it is perceived to be something reasonable....

Cobber said:
That's the solution right there. Make the penalty for doping more severe than the benefits from getting away with it....
I think you're not right there Cobber. It's not the severity of punishment that he's saying is a deterrent, it's the certainty of getting caught that would be the deterrent.

Right now, we probably have a 50:1 false negative ratio. That means for every 50 times an athlete dopes, only once will he actually test positive. I don't have hard numbers, but am going on confessions by Jacsche, Manzano, Sinkewitz and Kohl for the most part, but I don't think my numbers are very far off. Kohl's number was actually over 100:1, and only CERA caught him. We also currently have an infinite ratio on autologous blood doping. Not a single person has ever been tested positive for it. And until they start CO testing, or other methods coming out, they won't catch anyone.

Thus, if we could change those numbers, and make it to where it's 1:1 or 3:1 on doping, that is, every other time you dope, you're likely to get caught, then we'd see doping dramatically curtailed.
 
Escarabajo said:
Remember that because cycling fans are getting tired of this doping nonsense, the UCI had to at least make some effort to clean up the sport or at least to control it. The big police raids like the Festina affair and Operacion Puerto has made them look inept and corrupt. So to a point we have at least some hope for the future. I know there will always be doping, I am not naive, but we can not let it grow so big that it becomes out of control. I know there was doping in the 2008 Tour but from what I saw in television, it became more credible than the performances from the 90's and early 2000's. So I don't see anything wrong with the improvement.
Yes, cycling fans are getting tired of the doping nonsense - and I was one of them (no thanks to Tyler and Flandis). But we fans only know what we learn from the media. Fans who don't pay very close attention to the sport seem to think that there are a few "bad apples" here or there, but for the most part most riders are clean, because that's mostly how it's portrayed by U.S. media (including Versus and the NY Times - the recent SI article was a big exception). And this is all understandable and consistent with "innocent until proven guilty" thinking, as well as it being human nature to hope for the best.

What might be wrong with the "improvement" is that it brings attention to doping in this sport - making it seem like it's more of a problem in cycling than in other sports. The other thing is that it pushes the envelope - and those with the resources to pay for the very expensive technical assistance required to engage in undetectable doping arguably have a more and more unfair advantage.

Escarabajo said:
You seem to know a lot a bout this topic, so I have a question for you:

Do you think the French riders are learning to dope based on this years Tour de France?
I only know what I read, and what I can logically deduce from that.

Are the French riders learning to dope? They've been doing it as long as anyone else - probably longer. Remember Richard Virenque? The French understand that all the riders dope. What they might be learning is how to use the more sophisticated substances and methods, if that's what you mean.
 
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Alpe d'Huez said:
Right now, we probably have a 50:1 false negative ratio. That means for every 50 times an athlete dopes, only once will he actually test positive. I don't have hard numbers, but am going on confessions by Jacsche, Manzano, Sinkewitz and Kohl for the most part, but I don't think my numbers are very far off. Kohl's number was actually over 100:1, and only CERA caught him. We also currently have an infinite ratio on autologous blood doping. Not a single person has ever been tested positive for it. And until they start CO testing, or other methods coming out, they won't catch anyone.

Thus, if we could change those numbers, and make it to where it's 1:1 or 3:1 on doping, that is, every other time you dope, you're likely to get caught, then we'd see doping dramatically curtailed.

Ninety5rpm said:
The other thing is that it pushes the envelope - and those with the resources to pay for the very expensive technical assistance required to engage in undetectable doping arguably have a more and more unfair advantage.

Very good points..... now if we could just get a governing body that was up to the task!
 
Cobber said:
Very good points..... now if we could just get a governing body that was up to the task!
But how do you solve the problem of improved anti-doping tactics pushing the envelope on doping?

It's a lot like trying to limit drug or alcohol use with prohibition - it doesn't work. It just raises the stakes and causes many other problems.

The analogy is not perfect here, however. The peloton is a much smaller population than the public at large, and in theory it seems to be a much more manageable problem. However, the results so far are not promising.
 
Here is something that Parrot posted in another thread:

"Brailsford: "The one gamble Brailsford is not prepared to take is on a rider who might be using drugs. It was reported that Team Sky dropped their interest in one "big name" rider because of such suspicions, and Brailsford suggested others have been rejected on the basis of information contained in their biological passports, introduced by the UCI 18 months ago as a way of catching cheats.

"When I talk to every rider's agent the first thing I want is the rider's consent to see their biological passport," said Brailsford. "I get all data sent over to Manchester and then our experts pick over the detail. You also look at the history of the guy, his progression over a number of years – basic stuff, intelligence gathering.

"But some of [their passports] come through and you think, 'jeez'. It makes me laugh, the audacity of some of them [whose blood values give rise to suspicion]."


http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009...gins-cavendish

The interesting part is the bolded section. If Brailsford and his experts are seeing things in riders' passports that are so outrageous that they are laughable then how can we have any faith in the passport? It has to be a sham if the doping is that obvious.
 

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Ninety - to be honest I am a little confused over your points in this thread.

Ninety5rpm said:
My main point, per the title, was that the sport can never be clean. I think this is an important point because many people make naive posts here stating that they believe otherwise.

In your opening post you told people "To Get Over It" - and later described people who believe there can be a clean sport as being "naive".

If you take the time to look through another thread on "Do you believe anyone is clean" - no-one argued that 'everyone' was clean, a few offered opinions on certain riders and that was as good as it got.
Most of those posters are the same ones answering you on this thread!
 
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It is my firm opinion as an ex pro that at no time has there ever been a situation where everyone was doping and I stand by my previous statements that now there is probably less than ever its just that the few that still are have gotten smarter with more money to throw at it. Im sure Alpe will back me up on this.
Suggestions that it may never be totally prevented also pose some valid arguments to support their claims.
Merckx once said that there had to be distinction drawn between drugs intended to keep you healthy and ones intended to cheat.
As Ive said before the workload placed upon a pro cyclist is far beyond that of any other athlete. The human body no matter how well trained struggles to stand up to it, yet often the people condemning doping are the same people ridiculing the stars for poor performances. Maybe if more research was done into "supplements" designed to help cyclists cope with the demands there would be less need to seek illegal ones. Or alternatively put fewer races on each riders programme.
Toss that one around guys.
 
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beroepsrenner said:
...The human body no matter how well trained struggles to stand up to it, yet often the people condemning doping are the same people ridiculing the stars for poor performances.
Actually that is not always true. For example, during the last giro, there was a general idea that Cunego was actually riding clean, and rather than ridiculing him for his bad performance, he even got a bit of praise.

Another example is how the French are treating their riders. Unless you know all the facts (which you don't), there is no way to distinguish between the admiration for a clean rider and admiration for a rider simply because he's French. Certainly, the latter is the main argument put forth by the press, but the suggestion that there exists a 'cyclisme a deux vitesses' could be true.

So there has been praise for riders who performed badly under the assumption that they were clean. Winning, however, just gets much more attention which is why doping is still lucrative.

Maybe if more research was done into "supplements" designed to help cyclists cope with the demands there would be less need to seek illegal ones. Or alternatively put fewer races on each riders programme.
Toss that one around guys.
I think it's a myth that cyclists dope just to survive. Ofcourse they will say that, but they will say anything if it makes their actions look more morally justifiable. The fact is that plenty of men have competed successfully without the kinds of doping that makes the big differences today. Doping is not needed to cope with the demands.

If riders want a fair policy that allows them more recuperative drugs, they should first stop doping and show that they, as a community, have the spine to compete without trying to gain an advantage through drugs. That is the only way they can create sympathy for their position.