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Bald Bastard
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Hello all, I am new to following (watching) pro cycling and am wondering when did doping start? I'm sure there have always been a few riders taking something but in general when did a large number of the riders start doping? Or is it still just a small number of elite riders? I'm just asking for a little history for myself. Does this go back as far as the Merckx era? Thanks for any info Steve
 

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History of performance enhancing drugs.

paramountz said:
I'm just asking for a little history for myself. Does this go back as far as the Merckx era?
Further. Basically, athletes have been using performance enhancing substances for as long as there have been substances that provided (or at least were thought to have provided) performance enhancing effect. Since caffiene containing products (a proven performance enhancer) has been around for longer than bike racing, I think we can say definitively that performance enhancing drugs go back to the very beginning of bike racing.

If you go back to the beginning of the 20th century, you can find accounts of riders taking all kinds of substances which they thought would help performance, from the slightly comical (like drinking cognac before races in cold weather to warm up the body) to the downright scary (using strychnine as a stimulant). As real drugs with true performancing affects started becoming available, they started to be used by cyclists. Amphetimines, steriods, human growth hormone, EPO, etc., have all been known to be used by cyclists not long before being introduced by the medical world.

So, the real question is, how many cyclists have used any or these drugs? Hard to say. But I think we can rest assured that at least some cyclists have been doped up on something through out the history of the sport.
 

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But do you think it's fair to say that systematic, organized doping with medical supervision was introduced by the East Germans in the early 70's? I'm referring to sports in general, not specifically to cycling.
 

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Bald Bastard
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thats What I Mean.

asgelle said:
But do you think it's fair to say that systematic, organized doping with medical supervision was introduced by the East Germans in the early 70's? I'm referring to sports in general, not specifically to cycling.
That's what I meant systematic, organized doping, my question was to specifically to cycling.
 

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paramountz said:
Hello all, I am new to following (watching) pro cycling and am wondering when did doping start? I'm sure there have always been a few riders taking something but in general when did a large number of the riders start doping? Or is it still just a small number of elite riders? I'm just asking for a little history for myself. Does this go back as far as the Merckx era? Thanks for any info Steve
Yes it goes back to Merckx, who was booted from the Giro for a failed drug test. It was probably at it's height from the 60/70's when amphetamines and anabolic steroids became common to a few years ago when the fallout of the Festina affair finally started to hit home.

Everything I've read indicates that doping was endemic during that time and a rider not doping was the exception not the rule but amphetamines and steroids are not that powerful for enhancing endurance performance. Once EPO came on the scene in the mid-90s it probably pretty much was necessary to dope to be competitive.

Read Willy Voet's book "Breaking the Chain". Up until not too long ago the same MDs in charge of the dope testing were team doctors giving the dope to riders and National Federations and the UCI had no interest in stopping doping. WADA and bad press have basically forced cycling officials to do something about the doping. Probably only in the last decade has there been any real deterance to doping from fear of failing a dope test.
 

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Another perspective from an Italian Cycling Historian that was posted on the web a little while back:

"You're right, I'm certainly recognizing the anti-doping stance of the Mapei team. I still have somewhere an interview with the Mapei-boss.He seemed to me quite sincere and stated that the complete indifference of the general public to their anti-doping policy was one the main reason why he had decided to stop sponsoring a bicycle team. On the other hand, I agree with Davide Tosi's main point: the current anti-doping policy is forced upon on the European cycling world from the outside and against the will not only of the riders, team managers, sponsors, etc, but also of the general public.
Tosi is also quite right that riders testing positive were never (or almost never) seen as cheaters. They are more seen as victims. he is also right that a strong anti-doping policy was initially an American initiative not because they were so much concerned with the health of the athletes, but because Soviet-Union had won more golds at the Olympics of Helsinki (1952) than the USA.
Before this policy was beginning to take shape, the use of performance enhancing products was in Europe more or less generally accepted, even by the cycling authorities, as illustrated in the in the contract Tour riders had to sign in the 1930's: "M. Desgrange will provide [the rider] with medical assistance, pharmaceuticals, massage (...) However, the pharmaceuticals include only products prescribed by the doctors consulted by the sports directors and for usual troubles (wounds, colics, etc.) and not restoratives, tonics and doping which remain at the expense of the rider."
Unfortunately, this idyllic situation changed after the war.
When the anti-doping policy gained strength, bicycle racing was its first main target. First of all, because it was generally known that riders ware taking performance enhancing products (it was hardly a secret), so a certain measure of succes was guaranteed but also because the UCI was one of the weakest sports organisations of the world (they hardly had in say in the organisation of imporant races, except the world championship). The anti-doping movement wouldn't have dreamt to treat the FIFA, the NBA or the NHL the way they treated the UCI. All protests were useless and in 1965 and 1966 the first test were conducted. Not only the riders, but also the public was initially so hostile that some doctors deemed it necessary to hide what they were doing and to pretend that dopings test where only a part of a general medical examination (they also measured blood pression, heartbeat, etc.). However, the death of poor Tommy Simpson changed it all, because it offered a strong argument that anti-doping tests were necessary to protect the health of the riders. But although doping test becamse more or less generally accepted, that didn't mean that the attitude of the European
public changed much. For instance, when Pollentier was caught in flagrante delitto in 1978 and suspended for a couple of month, he was nevertheless invited to most post-Tour kermesses and payed to give the starting shot.
Almost everwhere he got more applause than Hinault or Zoetemelk. The same happened twenty years later to the Festina-team when it made its
reappearance in the Vuelta. And when Willy Voet came back to the Tour after four years of absence and made his entry in the restaurant where many riders and journalists were having dinner, he almost got an standing ovation.

Benjo Maso"

FYI, Willy Voet was the Festina soigneur who was caught coming into France with a car load of drugs (many supposedly detectable) at the start of the '98 Tour de France. For me that was when the UCI finally started to get serious about things.
 

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Les Woodland's "Crooked Path to Victory" is a nice historical perspective on doping in cycling.

EPO was really the turning point in cycling because it actually worked, unlike everything prior (other than transfusions, which the US Olympic team among others used with success).
 

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paramountz said:
This is the kind of info I was looking for.
In Greg Lemonds special I saw on OLN, Greg Lemond was wondering how everyone got so faster and didn't see it as possible and suspected someting.
 

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bas said:
In Greg Lemonds special I saw on OLN, Greg Lemond was wondering how everyone got so faster and didn't see it as possible and suspected someting.
Lemond knew something was up because in 1990, Claudio Chiappucci was a second rate rider who got in a lucky break. The only thing that kept Lemond from overtaking him was that Lemond could not be seen as attacking his own teammate Ronan Pensec, especially after Lemond had spent so much time whining about Henault. Once Pensec fell by the wayside, Lemond easily disposed of Chiappucci. The next year Chiappucci was suddenly one of the best Tour riders in the sport and easily outclassed Lemond.

The same story could be told of Bugno in 1990 and many other Italian riders in the very early nineties. From there the scientific use of EPO, as opposed to the ad hoc experimentation that had been killing Belgians in their sleep, spread to Belgian riders and teams in the 1993-94 time frame. By 1995-96 everyone was using it or being forced into retirement. It is a dead cert that any rider who started out before the 1995-96 time frame and survived until the late nineties with any sort of results used EPO.

The difference was absolutely huge between the riders using EPO and the ones who didn't at that time. When Edwig Van Hooydonck won Flanders in 1991 he attacked the Bosberg with a gear of about five meters. Five years later when Bartoli won in 1996, he used a gear of seven meters on the same climb. Hooydonck retired the next month, knowing that without EPO he would never be able to compete.
 
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