A report recently issued by an independent agency working on behalf of Cycling Canada found that there is no overarching doping program in the country, but that the nation should increase its efforts to build a better educational platform to discourage the use of performance-enhancing drugs regardless.
The report, entitled “National Consultation on Doping Activity in the Sport of Cycling,” looked at several areas of sporting ethics, such as the culture of cycling and PEDs, decision making, and testing. Ultimately it found that though there were isolated cases of PED use, those decisions were not part of a national culture of PED use in elite cycling.
“We are pleased to hear that the report confirms that there is no ‘culture of doping’ in Canadian Cycling,” said Greg Mathieu, chief executive officer of Cycling Canada, in a release. “We have been very clear in the past that Cycling Canada does not tolerate any athletes who try to cheat on their way to better performances. … We believe that it is possible to win at Olympic Games, world championships, or any other international or national events without the use of any doping agents.”
The findings come after a high frequency of confessions from riders from North America to using PEDs, via the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) “reasoned decision.” The USADA report and investigation centered around Lance Armstrong and his U.S. Postal Service team.
Canadians Ryder Hesjedal, Michael Barry, Seamus McGrath, and Chris Sheppard admitted to using PEDs. In an excerpt from his autobiography, “Yellow Fever,” Dane Michael Rasmussen said he taught Hesjedal, McGrath, and Sheppard how to use EPO before the 2003 world mountain bike championships. Barry admitted to using PEDs in his time on Postal.
“I thought to keep competing and be ‘professional,’ I had to do it. Looking back, of course I know it was wrong — it was stupid and wrong. I had the best results of my career well after I stopped doping. When I was doping, I was trying to show I was professional, to ‘be professional.’ At the time I thought it was just something I had to do. I was wrong,” Hesjedal wrote in an email.
Of the 64 people contacted to give information to the Canadian report, 32 interviews were conducted, largely with riders. Twenty-one people did not respond, seven declined, and four were unreachable. The consultants also note that one “important” subject has recently agreed to an interview; that information shall be released later.
The report does not included names and largely serves as an anecdotal, however thorough, examination. While it isn’t groundbreaking by any means, it does shed light on the prevailing culture of silence. As an example, an “interviewee testified to having been approached by an American teammate who was pushing tramadol, a prohibited substance. This interviewee also witnessed a suspicious situation involving another American teammate. In 2012, the interviewee found a syringe in this person’s shoe. Upon making this discovery, the interviewee confronted the teammate, who admitted to using EPO. As far as the interviewee knows, this athlete never tested positive.”
Interviewees also said suspicious situations should see immediate investigation by anti-doping authorities once reported. “However, the interviewees never reported their concerns to the sporting authorities,” the report reads, also noting it’s “easier” to acquire PEDs in Europe than North America.