Cycling: The sport where Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, Marijuana, Ecstasy and Alcohol became Cortisones, Albutamol, EPO, Testosterone, and Amphetamines.
The July 2008 issue of Men’s Journal has a good piece on Greg LeMond. The author may or may not read drunkcyclist (he does) and you can view article here: www.mensjournal.com/feature/johnson/lemond.html.
Here’s a taste:
…In 1990 he won a third Tour, staking his place among the greatest athletes ever.
He didn’t know yet that this was the peak, as good as it was ever going to get. The following year he struggled to finish seventh, and each year after that the pace of the pack got faster, especially on the climbs. In one mountain stage of the 1992 Tour, LeMond finished nearly 50 minutes behind the winner. He used to win in the mountains. He quit the race the next day. “It was a very confusing period,” LeMond says. “But it makes sense today.”
At the time, he blamed himself; the winner that day in 1992 was the scrupulously drug-free Andy Hampsten. LeMond trained harder than he ever had in his life and changed his diet, but nothing worked. “My dad tortured himself,” says Geoffrey. Finally he went to see a Belgian doctor named Yvan Van Mol. “?‘There’s nothing wrong with you, Greg,’?” LeMond says the doctor told him. “?‘If you’re going to compete today, you’ve got to go see Ferrari.’?”
Dr. Michele Ferrari was an Italian sports doctor who had become notorious for his glib comments about performance drugs, comparing EPO to orange juice, and declaring that it didn’t bother him if his athletes went to Switzerland to buy blood-boosters. Many top riders had already started seeing Ferrari, and their performances had improved markedly. But LeMond refused: Greg LeMond didn’t need anything the Italian doctor could provide. He had the highest VO2 max, and he could still beat everyone.
Except he couldn’t. In 1994 he struggled to keep up on the flat stages. “We were always in the red — dans la rouge,” he says. When the pack dropped him yet again during the sixth stage, he got off his bike and climbed into the “broom wagon,” which cruises along behind the race to sweep up exhausted riders, the most humiliating way possible to exit a race.
LeMond is not the only man to bury himself to keep up with a doped field. And that is exactly what it was in ’94 – doped to the gills. You either doped, or you did not finish. Never mind winning. You could not even keep on the flat stages without the drugs.
EPO changed cycling entirely.
From a recent NY Times article:
At maximum effort, the men’s performances improved by 9 to 16 percent. But at a slightly lower level of exertion, performance improved by 50 percent, Dr. Lundby said. Athletes taking EPO can go 50 percent longer at that somewhat lower level of effort, which can make a major difference in an endurance event…
I think it was the advent of EPO, the widespread “it’s now mandatory” use, that broke LeMond mind, body, and spirit. He simply could not keep up with a doped field. He should have been amount the strongest, and instead, riders who formerly lacked the class to carry LeMond’s raincoat were now dropping him.
LeMond mentions this in a 1999 acticle by The Independent.
LeMond straddled the era when, he believes, doping progressed from being a matter of individual inclination to systematic programming.
Sounds about right to me.by