With the Tour de France having just wrapped up, it makes me think about all the controversy that surrounded cycling these last few years. The Tour has been around for over a hundred years and came about after the editor of L’ Auto, Henri Desgrange, suggested a multi-day, stage race to his paper. Now, it’s one of the toughest competitions in cycling – so tough that many claim that it cannot be won without some kind of performance enhancing drugs. I’m not sure that’s true. Though if everyone is using something and a rider chose not to dope, it’s logical that he would be at a disadvantage competitively. It’s fascinating to me sometimes the extremes folks will go to win.
I was reading about the history of the Tour on Wikipedia and it seems that some believe that doping has been part of cycling since the early years. “It existed, it has always existed”, said the French reporter and author, Pierre Chany, who followed 49 Tours before his death in 1996. There are photos back from the 1930s showing riders holding ether laden cloths to their faces to help keep them going. The American specialist in doping, Max M. Novich, wrote: “Trainers of the old school who supplied treatments which had cocaine as their base declared with assurance that a rider tired by a six-day race would get his second breath after absorbing these mixtures.”
Cycling is a great sport with fantastic athletes, and I believe all cyclists need to get behind a dope-free environment. Otherwise, the people who compete following the rules are less likely to win than those breaking them. That’s certainly not a level playing field and not the reputation I want for the sport. My hope is that twenty years from now, I can look back and be proud of how far cycling has come.
Let’s hear your thoughts – is the sport of cycling getting cleaner, less dopers?