Both Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso are out of the race as well as 7 others. It looks as if the TDR officials are getting serious about the long-standing problems with performance-enhancing drugs in the sport of professional cycling.
Unfortunately illegal drug doping and cycling go way back. In fact professional cycling, along with bodybuilding, could be the poster children for performance enhancing drugs.
“Allegations of doping have plagued the Tour de France almost since its beginning in 1903. Early Tour riders were said to have consumed alcohol and used ether, among other substances, as a means of dulling the pain of competing in endurance cycling.
On July 13, 1967, British cyclist Tom Simpson died climbing Mont Ventoux following usage of amphetamines, probably complicated by the now defunct practice of limiting daily water intake to only four bidons, circa 2 litres. His now-famous last words were said to have been "put me back on my bike."
The 1998 Tour de France, dubbed the "Tour of Shame," was the most scandal-ridden Tour in memory.
On July 8, 1998, a major scandal erupted after French Customs arrested Willy Voet, one of the soigneurs for the Festina cycling team, for the possession of illegal prescription drugs, including narcotics, erythropoietin (EPO), growth hormones, testosterone and amphetamines. (Voet later described many common doping practices in his book, ''Massacre à la Chaîne'’). Two weeks later, on July 23, 1998, French police raided several teams in their hotels and found doping products in the possession of the TVM team.”
After mediation by Jean-Marie Leblanc, the Director of the Tour, police agreed to limit the most heavy-handed tactics and the riders agreed to continue. Many riders and teams had already abandoned, however, and only 111 riders completed the stage, riding without race numbers and at a leisurely pace.
In a 2000 criminal trial, it became clear that the management and health officials of the Festina team had deliberately organized doping within the team. Richard Virenque, a top Festina rider, finally confessed at the trial after being ridiculed for maintaining that if he was doping he was somehow not consciously aware of it.
It seems that we face a similar situation today with the newest scandal.
“The UCI identified the implicated Astana riders as Joseba Beloki of Spain, runner-up at the 2002 Tour and third in 2001 and 2000; Allan Davis from Australia; Alberto Contador and Isidro Nozal from Spain; and Sergio Paulinho from Portugal.
The team said it was trying to decide whether to withdraw them. Doing so would leave Astana with fewer than the minimum of six riders needed to start the Tour, which would force out the entire team -- including its pre-race favorite Alexandre Vinokourov from Kazakhstan.
At Astana, "it looks like a system of team doping," Prudhomme said.
Just a day earlier, the Court of Arbitration for Sport had ruled against Tour organizers' call for Astana to be barred from the race.”
Once again the allegations are of an entire system set-up within a team to help riders win by providing them with performance-enhancing drugs.
While I’m not intimately familiar with the world of professional cycling I do know some former pros. One told me a story about a stage race that he recalled where he was leading in the early 1990’s.
All of a sudden one of the racers stood up and adjusted his shorts in an odd way. A few minutes later this very same racers sprinted into the lead and won the stage.
My friend went on to tell me that it was somewhat common at that time to keep an amphetamine, a synthetic stimulant, suppository in the biking shorts. When you needed an extra bit of power you could just adjust your shorts and pop that baby up your butt. Kind of like having a super-pooper power pill in your shorts.
I wouldn’t try this during a triathlon as the pill may melt during the swim and you’d be juicing up all the local fish. Good save you if you were in the ocean with some sharks around. That’s all you need, is a bunch of hungry sharks on speed.
Anyway bodybuilding has somewhat solved this doping problem in a very simple way. They now have two different competitions. There are the “Natural” competitions and than there is the Mr. Universe competition.
The natural guys look like Tarzan did in the old black and white movies when he was swigging through the trees. These boys and girls sign a pledge not to use performance-enhancing drugs and they are vigorously tested all the time.
The Mr. Universe boys and girls are wider than they are taller. They are spooky big. You can only really tell the men from the women by the fact that you can actually see the outline of the breast implant in the women’s chest. Otherwise your guess is as good as mine as to the gender of the athlete.
Why not do the same for cycling? Let’s have a natural TDR and a Uberman TDR. The natural boys can struggle up the mountains and collapse on the way, while the TDR boys just adjust their shorts, pop a super-pooper pill, and ride right over the top of the exhausted natural cyclist.
Now I’m sure that’s something that even the big networks would televise.
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