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Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Cycling has a long and sordid history with doping — that is, taking performance-enhancing drugs (PED) to get ahead in the races. In fact, some of the earliest suspected cases of doping in cycling date back to the late 1800s, when riders would employ stimulants like cocaine to survive epic races, like Bordeaux-Paris, which ran more than 500 kilometers.

Over the past century, pro riders took a wide variety of drugs to enhance performance (or perhaps to believe that they had the edge to beat the competition). However, doping’s negative influence reached its peak — or rather, nadir — in the 1990s and 2000s when blood-boosting drug erythropoietin (EPO) became nearly a necessity to be competitive at the top levels of professional cycling. Eventually, anti-doping authorities implemented a test to catch those using EPO, but riders found other ways to boost their blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity, such as transfusions. During this recent timeframe, a number of major doping scandals rocked cycling, most notably Operacion Puerto, U.S. Anti-Doping’s Reasoned Decision (Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service Team), Oil For Drugs, The Festina Affair, and many other bans of individual riders.

Three Tour de France winners have been stripped of their titles for doping: Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, and Alberto Contador, who was also stripped of a 2010 Giro d’Italia title for a failed anti-doping test. Roberto Heras was stripped of his 2005 Vuelta title, but he successfully appealed the decision and had his record fourth win reinstated.