Ever since the controversy about blood-doping and drug use in pro cycling started a couple of decades ago, we’ve been waiting for someone to come out and tell the truth.If cheating was as rampant as it appeared to be, it seemed inconceivable that some riders could be competitive without cheating.
So either the doping and drug use was confined to a couple of “bad apples,” as the authorities always implied, or everyone was doing it–and had to do it to compete–and only a handful of riders were getting caught.
Well, in the wake of another Tour de France winner failing a drug test (Albert Contador) and the investigation of Lance Armstrong moving toward a likely unpleasant conclusion, another former cyclist has finally dropped any pretense of denial. And, in doing so, he has described a reality of pro cycling that rings more true than anything we’ve heard from a rider in the last 15 years.
Bernhard Kohl, the Austrian rider who was stripped of his third-place finish at the 2008 Tour for doping, said Monday he was not surprised a top cyclist had tested positive for more than one banned thing.
“It’s impossible to win the Tour de France without doping,” said Kohl, who was in Leesburg, Va., to speak at the United States Anti-Doping Agency‘s science conference. “You can tell by looking at the speed of the race. Every year it has been about 40 kilometers per hour. It’s the same the year I raced, the year Floyd Landis won, this year. It shows riders are still doping.”
Kohl, who said he retired from the sport to avoid having to think about doping every day, has no specific knowledge of Contador’s case but said most of the top riders rely on transfusions of their own blood and of designer, undetectable drugs like different types of the blood-booster EPO.
“I was tested 200 times during my career, and 100 times I had drugs in my body,” he said. “I was caught, but 99 other times, I wasn’t. Riders think they can get away with doping because most of the time they do. Even if there is a new test for blood doping, I’m not even sure it will scare riders into stopping. The problem is just that bad.”
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