Tell it like it is (updated)

From this sensible article on cheating in sports by JERÉ LONGMAN for the New York Times:

Fausto Coppi of Italy, who won the Tour de France in 1949 and 1952, was once asked if he ever fueled himself with amphetamines.

“Only when necessary,” he said.

How often was that?

“Most of the time,” Coppi replied.

The Tour de France ranges from 3,000 to 4,000 kilometres long (1,800 to 2,500 miles) which must be covered really fast in three weeks over hill and dale with just two rest days. Evidence is pretty strong that chemical assistance has been used since the tour began.

Longman points out that the two sports that have had the most drug scandals are the ones that have pursued the issue most vigorously: cycling and track & field. The end result: people think those are the sports that are jam packed with drug cheats. Yet it’s very likely that there’s not a pro sport in the world that doesn’t have athletes who use performance enhancing drugs.

My biggest concern is that athletes are taking drugs that can cause them long term damage (even death) because the hypocrisy around the issue means that drug use is unregulated. And some of the drugs being taken have never been properly tested. That’s scary.

In an ideal world there would be drug-free athletes. What we have now is a world in which not everyone using is getting caught, those who stay clean are at a disadvantage, and there’s doubt and suspicion of everyone. I’m not sure it’s tenable. But I’m not sure what is.

Which is to say I’m bummed I didn’t get to follow the Tour this year. I’m thrilled at how well Cadel Evans did. And I’ll be making sure I get to follow it next year. And hoping that something really radical and smart happens across all sports to regulate drug use in a way that make for more transparency and way less potential harm to athletes. And while they’re at it, if they could end all match fixing, that’d be grouse.

Update: Jenny Davidson has pointed to this fascinating article by Stuart Stevens on performance-enhancing drugs. Stevens tries a whole bunch of them, notes the results, and comes down firmly against them. Well, against almost all of them.


  1. anon on #

    drugs are bad.

  2. marrije on #

    the tour broke my heart this year. we (i.e. the dutch-ish team of the rabobank) were finally doing so well, and then de rooij threw out rasmussen in a fit of panic, and i’m quite convinced it wasn’t necessary. bloody drugs testing paranoia.

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