The Explainer: Riding the high horse?

A reader considers using human growth hormone to fight aging and argues doping rules are just plain wrong

Dear Explainer,
I read with interest your column on supplemental testosterone therapy for older men and the impact it might have on the aging process. I usually like your column, except when you get on your high horse on the subject of doping.

I am a 57-year-old masters’ racer and can probably say I am basically just a “weekend warrior” and not looking to make a living off of my riding. First off, it seems unfair to apply the anti-doping rules used for professionals to a bunch of older riders whose lives include more than just racing.

Even then though, I think professionals should be allowed to dope, too. As one of the comments said at the end of your column last week, open doping would “level the playing field” and it would stop all of these stupid guessing games about whether someone has doped or not.

I have friends who’ve been using supplemental testosterone for years now and they look healthy and strong and say they feel great. I had considered it, but my doctor says that my levels are not all that low and she doesn’t want to run the risk.

I have been asking her about using human growth hormone as well, but she seems reluctant. I live close enough to Mexico that I have thought about traveling there to make an appointment to see a doctor about buying hGH and maybe testosterone there. If I get caught, then fine. I’ll just ride on my own.

Does cycling even have a test for hGH?
— Raymond

Dear Raymond,
To be honest, I was tempted to just delete your email, largely because you seem to be advocating practices and arguments that I find to be both medically dangerous and morally abhorrent. Whoa, I just used “morally abhorrent” to dismiss your argument … okay, okay, so maybe I am riding a high horse.

So, instead of deleting your email, let’s take a look at what you’re suggesting.

I often receive emails and see comments from those who want sport to take a sort of laissez-faire approach to the question of doping. For a lot of reasons, I’ve never been able to buy into that kind of thinking.

Rules are rules
In your case, let’s start off with the most obvious. Doping is against the rules. Yeah, I see that you’re a 57-year-old masters’ racer and, frankly, no one outside of a really small circle of participants, friends and family is ever going to take notice of race results turned in by guys in our age groups.

Nonetheless, you’ve chosen to engage in a competition with a specific set of rules with which every participant, either explicitly or implicitly, has agreed to comply. That may not seem like it’s important when you’re riding in the Men’s 55+ division at the local Tour de Office Park, but it is.

When others are complying with the rules and you don’t, you’re not participating in the same event. By suggesting that you might dope and ride until you are caught, you’ve pretty much abandoned the whole concept of what makes a sport a sport. Operating under a commonly accepted set of rules is the very essence of sport. Think about the alternative for a moment.

I could, for example, quite easily win the Masters Golf Tournament this coming April. I would crush Tiger Woods and the rest of the professional field with a series of guaranteed holes-in-one. Of course, in my case, a Kim-Jong-Il-like golfing performance could only come about if Woods and others followed the rules and I simply carried the little white ball from the tee and dropped it into each hole.

Under the current rules, doping is just a subtler version that obvious (and admittedly ridiculous) strategy. Raymond, aside from the medical risks (which we’ll touch upon in a minute) of your planned foray into Mexico, you risk cheapening the experience of competition for yourself and for those against whom you would be “competing.”

Dope for one, dope for all!
But aside from suggesting that you are thinking about cheating until caught, you’ve also raised the common argument that doping shouldn’t be part of the rules governing sport – especially ours.

I’ve heard that a lot and the argument usually comes down to the advocates of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) saying that getting rid of doping rules would, as you said, level the playing field. They summarize their argument with a variant of the old NRA bumper sticker, suggesting that “when PEDs are outlawed, only outlaws will use PEDs.”

In my book, that’s a surrender to the belief that dopers will always be a step ahead of the testers, so we should just give up. It’s an argument that may have once carried weight, but the progress since the creation of WADA and increased funding for research has narrowed the gap. I honestly believe sports in general, and cycling in particular, are cleaner now than they have been since advent of blood-manipulating drugs, like EPO.

When discussing the scourge of sports doping in historical terms, we often hear of early efforts dating back to the ancient Olympic Games. But honestly, the real impact of doping in sport wasn’t felt until the development of exogenous hormones that allow competitors to alter the fundamental structures of their bodies, artificially stimulating muscle growth and, above all, altering the composition of their blood.

Unnecessary risks
When recombinant erythropoietin began to make its appearance in cycling, the early mistake some athletes made was to operate on the belief that if a little is good, more must be better. We’ve all heard anecdotes about riders jacking their hematocrits up to and beyond 60 percent in the early days. We also all heard some reasonable speculation that the spate of cardiac deaths that affected riders in the early 1990s were not merely coincidental.

Despite Michele Ferrari’s now-infamous pronouncement that if properly administered EPO is quite safe, the drug, even in moderate doses, poses some serious risks, including cardiovascular complications and elevated rates of some types of hormone-sensitive cancers.

Sometimes, these drugs just don't work like you plan for them to work. | National Lampoon, April 1976

As EPO use in the peloton became more common – and more sophisticated – once-dominant riders were finding themselves struggling. Some were soon faced with that Faustian choice of whether to dope or to retire.

In the pre-Festina-scandal world of cycling, teams were actively engaged in promoting drug use by riders and, to some new recruits, it was made clear that they could either dope … or go back home and become a bricklayer.

After that infamous 1998 Tour scandal, the pressures remained, but were far more subtle. Your argument in favor of “leveling the playing field” would return us to a point where athletes would essentially be required to dope in order to compete. Were such doping without medical risk, that might be a valid point, but it isn’t without risk.

What you’re offering is a world in which we’d be asking 20-year-olds to make decisions whose consequences may not manifest themselves for years. For what? For our entertainment? So that Phil and/or Paul can happily declare that a certain rider just turned in “an unbelievable performance!” (without the slightest hint irony)? Unbelievable, indeed.

The law of unintended consequences
As a recent chemotherapy patient, I was a little disappointed to learn that EPO and other erythropoeisis-stimulating agents (ESAs) were not an option for me, even when my hematocrit dropped from its normal 48 to less than 30. For years, such chemo-induced anemia was casually treated by oncologists who saw ESA use as a logical response to declining red blood cell counts. As it turned out, though, there was a significantly higher rate of cancer recurrence in those patients receiving ESAs than in those who did not. Oops.

I am not suggesting that well-monitored use of ESAs will automatically lead to higher rates of heart disease and cancer among otherwise healthy populations. What I am suggesting, though, is that we are at a point in modern medicine where even our most sophisticated methods are still quite crude. We simply do not know what the long term consequences are in many cases.

You know, back in the old days – the late 1960s and ’70s – hGH was only available by removing it from donor cadavers. In 1985 doctors began diagnosing and reporting cases of patients, who had received hGH treatments 15 or 20 years earlier, developing Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease – also known as Mad Cow Disease. It was enough to prompt the removal of cadaver-sourced growth hormone from the market. Oops.

These days, recombinant growth hormones are produced by several pharmaceutical companies, using sophisticated genetic engineering techniques. Your risk of exposure to Creutzfeldt–Jakob or some other transmissible spongiform encephalopathy is pretty much nil. Of course, there are still increased risks for other things like headaches, impaired vision, a rare form of diabetes, Hodgkins lymphoma and – just like last week – sexual dysfunction. Oops.

In your case, you’re considering the use of human growth hormone despite there being very little peer-reviewed evidence of its potential benefit and ample evidence that it carries with it significant risk. Again, you’re a masters’ racer. Your decision isn’t going to change the world, nor will it place the onus of making a similar decision upon a 20-something rider trying to make his or her way in the world of professional sport.

In your case, it’s just a risky – and potentially stupid – move that will probably only affect you. Do yourself a favor, though, and read an interesting 2003 article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which concludes that “the over exaggeration of the effects of growth hormone in muscle building is effectively promoting its abuse and thereby encouraging athletes and elderly men to expose themselves to increased risk of disease for little benefit.”

That “over exaggeration” is the result of a burgeoning industry of hGH advocates who see it as another in a long line of “cures” for the aging process. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there, but there haven’t been comprehensive, double-blind studies of the anti-aging effects of hGH. A valid study would examine both its purported anti-aging effects and the potential for negative side-effects. Simply put, at this point there is little evidence to suggest that hGH is either safe or effective when it comes to athletes or those of us who dream about being young again. Despite the absence of compelling evidence that it provides a competitive edge, WADA has included hGH on its banned substances list.

Look, Raymond, we all get older. Like you, I miss being 25 and fast. Unlike you, I am not willing to tamper with my body chemistry in a seemingly futile effort to turn back the clock. Let’s just roll with it.

And, yes, WADA does have an hGH test. Watch out.
– Charles

The Explainer is now a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer. If you have a question related to the sport of cycling, doping or the legal issues faced by cyclists of all stripes, feel free to send it directly to The Explainer at Charles@Pelkey.com. PLEASE NOTE: Understand that reading the information contained here does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Charles Pelkey. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained therein without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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37 comments

  1. Doug Page

    I remember the quote from Mr Armstrong, when asked if he had used EPO. “Only as part of my cancer treatment”, or something to that effect. IMHO drugs are to treat diseases. Otherwise, we’d call them vitamins.

  2. Rod

    I will repeat my previous statement – since doping substances affect athletes differently, they DO NOT level a playing field if everyone is using them. They reset/renew it. It’s not necessarily the same athletes that would be in the podium with/without “preparation”.

    If you take two competitive athletes, one with 45% and another with 48% hematocrit that are nationally ranking (their “even” field derives from other factors such as efficiency) and take them to the maximum sublethal HCT level, the first one is going to enjoy a larger improvement.

    I say compete clean, as defined by the rules. A regional team’s junior members are now scrambling to find backers because a Master’s member of the team is caught on the juice. Ooops.

    Rod

  3. Paul Matlin

    I am not now, nor have I ever been a competitive cyclist. I ride because I love being on a bike – the sense of independence, of self reliance in getting from point A to point B. However, I do know competition. My first profession was as a musician and received a BM and MM from the Peabody Conservatory. Growing up and as a conservatory student and beyond, I was involved in numerous competitions – orchestra auditions, scholarship auditions, etc. And even though there really is no such thing as a PED in music (beyond hard work and endless hours of practice), there is certainly “political” influence – getting a first chair position by undue influence (to put it delicately – I could tell you stories…). So I know well the feeling of having tried hard, done my best and not even getting considered because some other unqualified candidate whose teacher/father/whoever exerted pressure on the judges/hiring panel/whatever.

    While my horse may not be quite as high as The Explainer’s at times, I pretty much agree with the anti-doper sentiment. While Raymond may think he’s only hurting himself, should something happen to him because of his drug use, his wife, family and those around him will be adversely affected. Taking PED’s is just plain stupid, in my opinion, for so many reasons. For people in their 50’s or beyond (and I’m 63, so I whereof I speak), it’s outright insane.

  4. sam findley

    There’s a reason they call it doping. Nevertheless, there is also an argument for letting people choose to dope, or not, as they see fit: they’re screwing with their own bodies, etc. etc. But it’s not a very good argument. Liberal that I am, I propose that pro cyclists need these rules to protect them from themselves. We don’t let people who are bound to make bad decisions (teenagers) near alcohol, and Pro athletes are notoriously bad about making decisions that adversely affect their health in the pursuit of glory. Tom Simpson’s possibly apocryphal, “if 10 will kill you, I’ll take nine!” springs to mind. And I, for one, take no joy in watching a spectacle of doped up fiends who are basically engaged in killing themselves early. Which is somewhat a paradox, I suppose, as my current queue of videos for my winter rollers are all Paris-Roubaix, all the time, Merckx and his three positives included.

  5. Rod

    I don’t have a “sports” problem with people electing to ingest xyz and keep it to themselves and their riding. However, for competition, there are rules that should be followed.

    If it is going to be a free-for-all, there could be arguments for changing other aspects. I’m relatively strong but tactically naive (I picked cycling very late in life). Should I get a free “re-insertion” or a shortcut when I’m dropped? After all, this aspect of competition punishes me disproportionately and gives an advantage to physically less fit but more aware riders.

    Or should I be able to forego the more technical sections on a CX course? I am strong enough on the flats but can’t carry the speed on the corners and stay on the saddle on tricky sections. Why can’t I just avoid them?

    Doping is no different. It changes the sport. It looks like cycling, but it is no longer the same. Refer to the great blue train pacing their team leader up the mountains at the TdF recently. That stuff just doesn’t happen naturally, and it creates massive tactical differences in the race.

  6. Steve

    I chased the dream and raced continental in Europe and was on one of the best U.S. amateur squads. In the last half decade I have seen master’s racing take over everything and tt times that surpass Cat.1 and are equal to pro times. Explain to me how someone can work and have a family and train enough to produce these results. Impossible. I guess we have an entire population of people that are world class athletes over 40 that missed out. It is a-holes like Raymond that give the finger to my sacrifice and hard work. It is why I hate master’s racers and if I knew who Raymond was I would make sure he went in the ditch at 50 and his wife would have to help him go to the can for a month. Unethical idiot! Master’s racing isn’t for the love of the sport, it is an ego pissing match. If we allow this attitude towards doping than where does it stop? I’m not a fan of the UCI, but every sport needs parameters and doping is criminal.

  7. Chris

    The issue of informed consent on PEDs stands and falls for me on one point only, and that is the ability of kids 18 years or under to actually make life changing decisions that are sufficiently well informed, yet independent of pushy teams/universities/parents who don’t take the physical and mental long term risks personally.

    Until a decent system can even remotely address this point any further arguments for or against PEDs don’t even come into the frame for me.

  8. Doug Page

    @ Steve; I am glad to see I’m not the only one who sees that we don’t all cycle for the same reasons. Some love cycling; the bike in all its splendor. There are others who cycle for the ego gratification it brings; whether a “ego pissing contest”, or to show off their disposable income with the latest boutique bikes, parts, and kits. Unfortunately, this being part and parcel of human nature, I don’t see it going away.

  9. Rod

    @resty

    At that, I have no problem. It is therapy for an underlying health problem. Similarly, I have no problem with people taking EPO to combat anemia, or taking their ADHD drugs.

    Or using (legitimately) their asthma inhalers. There’s a reason TUEs exist.

  10. Wayne

    Golf taught me a valuable lesson. You see in Golf you are your own referee. There is often no one out there in the weeds with you to see if you use the “foot iron” to move the ball just enough to get some advantage. What I learned is that I am actually competing against my own limitations. Winning a bet (golf has a lot of betting) or a new low score meant nothing to me if I knew I knew that I had not followed the rules. I learned that for me enjoyment comes from getting better at the sport.

    I ask anyone weekend warrior that would dope a question. Would you consider taking a little shorter route on you ITT if you knew no one would notice? Maybe use a small motor? If not then why is doping different? Doping is more subtle but really it is the same. The rules make the challenge and the sport.

    Wayne

  11. DJ

    I wish that doping products were safe (1), worked really well (2) and were cheap (3). To me, bike racing is a fringe element of cycling so I am not talking about doping while being a competitor, that’s cheating, but… I would love to be able to power out an 8 hour ride over some mountain passes at blazing speeds or be able to do a 20 mile trail run at sprinting speeds. I would take those drugs even if I only biked alone. If the doping products fell in line with my 3 noted requirements I’d give up racing if I had to in order to chase the thrills I could get.
    On another note, I’m 27 but when I turn ?6 and my average speed starts going down hill and I’m sore for days after my weekend club ride I’ll be wishing for a fountain of youth also. This IS different than golf, you may be the most experienced bike handler and best race tactician around but without the requisite level of blood, lungs and muscles you’re going nowhere. Well, nearly nowhere, the excruciatingly boring 10 MPH road rides I imagine I’ll have in my 80s.

  12. norm

    Raymond should consider looking into the research on fasting before very high-intensity (non-endurance) workouts. Supposedly, the combination boosts HGH, but I haven’t read enough to know the particulars of the experiments nor how much of a boost one can get. Paleo Diet followers are onto this natural HGH rise with fasting… and that diet is, perhaps, another thing Raymond might check out. Joe Friel’s Paleo Diet for Athletes is quite interesting (at least for this old guy racer) and has helped me drop from 170 to 155lbs this winter, and I eat a lot! I’m still in base training, so performance benefits –if any– are forthcoming. Performance aside, I am confident that I am much healthier. I’m not associated with Friel or any Paleo gurus, I’m just experimenting with the diet.

    Thanks for this post RKP, it definitely captured my interest. And I agree with the author, Charles, that dropping the drug bans would be catastrophic to many athletes’ lives and would quickly make for some ugly and uninspiring racing (whether Masters or ProTour).

  13. Cedric Boonen

    I like the spirit and content of the article, being a masters racer myself, wondering often if I haven’t just been beaten by a cheater. But, I take some umbrage with the following.

    “I’ve heard that a lot and the argument usually comes down to the advocates of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) saying that getting rid of doping rules would, as you said, level the playing field. They summarize their argument with a variant of the old NRA bumper sticker, suggesting that “when PEDs are outlawed, only outlaws will use PEDs.”

    It’s difficult to see how any advocate of completely legalizing the use of drugs in cycling might summarize their argument with a variant of the NRA’s bumper-sticker slogan that, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” I aver that your remark is nothing much more than a gratuitous shot at the NRA and liberal gun rights in the US, rather than any elucidation of the reasoning of those advocating unfettered drug use in cycling.

    I was member of the NRA back when this slogan gained currency, and what it meant back then was pretty plain. If the federal government or state governments passed laws to restrict gun ownership, it would have little or no effect on gun-related violence, since it was outlaws, criminals, who were causing the violence in the first place. No laws would deter their behavior, since they were criminals who cared nothing about the law. And, so, no laws restricting gun ownership would reduce gun-related violence.

    There was also a second point implied by the slogan, I believe. If you remove guns from decent, law-abiding citizens, who would obey the gun-prohibition laws, then they would be helpless to prevent at least some of the gun-related violence committed by the outlaws. As I’m sure you know, it is the NRA’s position that widespread gun ownership would reduce the gun violence that results from the criminal use of guns. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know. But, that’s besides the point. The issue is the interpretation of slogan, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

    So, let’s consider how there might be a “variant” argument here for those who want unfettered drug use in cycling. How does it go, Charles? If PED’s are outlawed, prohibited by the UCI, then only . . . what? . . .true cheaters? . . . inferior racers? . . . will use PEDs?” Really? The analogy is sharply breaking down here already! The best racers have used PEDs under the UCI’s prohibition going back into the 1990’s. Only if utterly inferior riders started to gain an advantage on the best, naturally best, culturally best, riders in the peloton, would it make sense to say that legalizing drug use would level the playing field in bicycle racing.

    But, perhaps, this the idea? If we allow drug use then the best riders will be able to hold their own against the cheaters, the inferior racers? But where is the evidence that the best, non-doping riders have not been able to hold their own against doping riders?

    Again, I take your remark to be a completely gratuitous shot against the NRA. I might speculate that it originates in your spending too much time in Boulder CO, rubbing shoulders with Volvo driving, wine drinking, Birkenstock-wearing, Obama-loving progressives, rather than continuing your study at the knee of that great American, Alan Simpson.

    Now, I watched my mother’s once powerful cognitive capacities completely fade away under her chemotherapy. In fact, I had to aggressively fight for control over her care, since, pumped full of so many powerful drugs, she was clearly cognitively incompetent. And, while, I’d not say you’ve reached that state, I’d carefully caution that you might double and triple check your posts, lest some drug-induced haze prevents you from seeing things clearly.

    That said, it’s good to see you writing again. I’m now at Red Kite many times a week to read what you and Wilcockson are writing here.

    My best wishes for your good health.


    1. Author
      Charles Pelkey

      Cedric Boonen wrote:
      >>I take your remark to be a completely gratuitous shot against the NRA.
      And I would suggest that it was not. My use of the old NRA slogan was an attempt to quickly summarize the argument by some that regulation of PEDs is futile. (I don’t agree with that argument when it comes to PEDs, but I actually bought the underlying reality of that iconic bumper sticker when it came to regulation of the estimated 200 million privately held firearms in the U.S.) I’ll stand by my use of that shorthand and I suspect that most readers took it as it was intended.

      As you might correctly surmise, I am not a member of the NRA, but I think that’s where the accuracy of your characterization of me ends. I don’t live in Boulder. I live in Wyoming, where gun ownership and support of gun rights transcends political affiliation … or membership in one of this country’s most powerful lobbying groups.

      To bolster your point, you suggest that my use of an analogy that you have deemed to be inappropriate is largely the result of my recent medical treatment:
      >>I watched my mother’s once powerful cognitive capacities completely fade away under her chemotherapy.

      As for your mother, I am truly sorry that she – and you – had to go through that. I suspect that my experience was not quite analogous. I had an amazing oncologist monitoring every aspect of my treatment, including both physical and cognitive side-effects, adjusting dosages accordingly. That said, “chemo brain” is a real phenomenon that I had to deal with. There were certainly times when I couldn’t work, write or do much beyond spending days in bed. Once I was on my feet each week, I did what I could to mitigate the impact by continuing to write, to practice law and to stay as engaged as I could. I am not sure how successful I was, but until now, it hasn’t been an issue raised by my readers, my clients or even the strictest judges before whom I appeared since my treatment began.

      Any intellectual shortcomings pre-date my cancer, I assure you.

      I suspect that yours was a cheap rhetorical flourish in reaction to a perceived slight. I’ll leave it to you to defend your use of it.

      Thank you for the kind wishes for good health. At this point, things are going well. I have energy. My hematocrit is climbing and I am even getting my hair back.

  14. Xeno

    @Steve – you suck. Really, threaten a man who thinks differently than you?

    SOME master’s racers dope, so do some pros – do you hate them and their “love of the sport” as well?

    Get some therapy, or just re-read your thoughts before you spew them out upon us.

    I did – you should have read what I wrote before!

  15. Nikolai

    @ Cedric Boonen, great comment, especially treating that cheap shot at NRA :-]

    As to legalising doping… The Nanny State arguments (e.g. the riders should be protected against themselves etc), as they always do, assume people are idiots and hence have to be looked after by the State. Letting people kill themselves with cigarettes is fine (because we can tax them while they’re doing it) but shooting EPO is not. Go figure.

    At any rate, why I think legalising doping in sport is wrong is because those who do not want to dope (for whatever reason, e.g. health) will have to either forget about going pro or be forced to dope.

  16. Mike

    Practically, aren’t many of the tests that exist today just a version of the legalized doping strategy? Overly simplistic now, but having limits on hematocrit, for instance, didn’t stop doping, it just made sure people didn’t take it too far. Likewise, the blood passport doesn’t look for specific PEDs, it looks for their effects. A well designed and managed doping program can still give a diligent cheater an edge and keep him no more than an extended shower away from avoiding detection.
    We all have our suspicions about the unbelievable performances that we witness today. We know the peloton isn’t clean, but the guys that are doped to the gills (Ricco, for example) do get caught. But the practices continue in their evolved state of microdosing, etc. Since you can’t test directly for every possible element, every set of rules ever published is a challenge for cheaters to come in just below the line. That’s the most level the playing field can be–testing to the limits of science and minimizing persecution of the innocent. But the second part will always let someone slip below the radar.

  17. Rod

    At Mike,

    I do agree with you – it is a version of legalized performance enhancing (not just doping, but for example the inconsistencies in the application of the rules for some techniques such as hypobaric tents).

    I think the advantage/advancement is that it appears that the effects of doping on the peloton have been reduced a bit. No more 1-3 Mapei TTTs in a classic, or a single-team train up a Col.

    So is it clean? No. But I think we are now discussing whether the minute (yet significant) effects of clenbuterol are having, instead of the massive EPO doses in the past decade and a half. Science in Sports covered this a bit ago, and it was interesting to me – cheaters will still cheat, but now allegedly/perceived “cleaner” athletes like Gilbert are having more succes.

    Hopefully this link won’t cause my post to be lost:

    http://www.sportsscientists.com/2010/05/denials-acceptance-and-anti-doping.html

  18. Deezil

    That’s all our overburdened health care system needs: A bunch of self-centered masters-age fat-asses taking drugs that produce a host of “unintended consequences”. These are the same morons that will dope in order to take 4th place at the Podunk Falls road race and then expect to go to the head of the line at the ER when they start pissing blue rocket fuel. If you value your life and health so little that you will “do whatever it takes” to win a plastic trophy and “bragging rights” at the post-race coffee klatch then be prepared to suffer the outcomes of your short-sighted egotism.

  19. tim b

    Umm…wow. I am floored at the idea that someone who proclaims that “I am basically just a “weekend warrior” and not looking to make a living off of my riding” would consider doping, especially given his age and potential risks.
    Cycling is a sport that I have always participated in(for over 25 years now) because of its healthy attributes. When I was 17 I weighed 250lbs and now I’m 43 and am around 180lbs and owe it all to cycling. I feel as though I ride not only stronger now, but smarter. I’ve always believed that with age comes wisdom.
    To put yourself at risk because you want to rub a win in the face of your master racing buddies seems quite asinine to me. Can you really feel good about your standings when you know that you have effectively cheated into your palmares.
    I hate to say it but Mr. Raymond but you are what I have been seeing in the growing population of the “typical American” who is too caught up in the instantaneous reward vs. risk situation. I recently had a lengthy conversation with an MD who feels that meds are too readily administered to patients without even discussing options of radical things like lifestyle changes.
    Yes, I agree that meds do a lot of good-for people who actually need them. But too easily do we get caught up in the here and now and not consider the consequences on down the road.
    As much as it upsets me that you would consider doing this, I also believe in the “live and let live” edict. As long as you are potentially only damaging yourself, go for it. But might you have considered trying to restructure your time and spending your doping money on a coach. Training smarter will always win over training harder. And as far as not having enough hours in the day, I know lots of folks who make time for training with jobs, kids, etc., etc. It’s really a matter of how bad you want it and what you are willing to sacrifice.

  20. DavidA

    Once again a very explosive subject….PE “supplements” I will let you know that I lived, worked and raced in Belgium during the 1980s. I was pretty naive about everything in the realm of PE medications and supplements. I went to a sports doctor because everyone else did and was on a “therapy” for about a year. Every time I would go he would give me 4 to 5 injections and prescribe what I could only remember as rocket fuel in a little vial that you drank. After about a year I asked him what he was giving me…”Anabolic steroids and other things” I never went back. I thought he had my health and best interest at heart, after all he was a doctor…LOL

  21. Rigo-Berto

    Cedric Boonen, what an ass!
    Keep your right wing, fringe-cracker politics out of this space. This is about cycling.
    One point re: your NRA horse-dump: USA, with the most liberal gun laws in the world, has the highest per-capita rate of hand gun deaths.
    No guns, no killing. Go smoke your meth somewhere else.

  22. Padraig

    Okay everyone, after a day off for a wine tasting and a concert I see that the comments here have had a bit of a meltdown. Jeez, this is a disappointment.

    I really value the insights our readers bring to RKP’s posts. You’re a bright and articulate bunch. That said, we have standards here. I’m not willing to tolerate flaming of other readers.

    Herewith, a reminder:

    1. Be civil.
    2. Be constructive.
    3. If you can’t manage those, your comments will be moderated.

    Think of it this way: I’ve invited you and all the other RKP readers to my home for a dinner party. Behave accordingly.

  23. Cedric Boonen

    Well, Padraig, sitting at your dinner table, I’d still say to Rigo-Berto, “Blah, blah, blah. Meh. Nanner, neener. Sphfft, sphftt.”

    1. Padraig

      That’s a shame, because I’d have to show you the door, and I really don’t want to do that. As much as I want to welcome all readers, the comments section has to remain a space for intelligent conversation. I won’t allow this to devolve into rec.bicycle.flamewar.

  24. J-Go

    I’m not sure I understand how drinking wine got to be associated with being a democratic voter. What’s the matter with drinking something that tastes good?

    I’d like to hear the NRA’s explanation of the gun death per capita of Japan- where it is illegal to have gun, but yet somehow, they have the lowest death per capita in the world.

  25. grolby

    Nicolai:
    >As to legalising doping… The Nanny State arguments (e.g. the riders should be protected against themselves etc), as they always do, assume people are idiots and hence have to be looked after by the State. Letting people kill themselves with cigarettes is fine (because we can tax them while they’re doing it) but shooting EPO is not. Go figure.

    I don’t see how politics need come in to this issue. It’s not a matter of law, it’s a matter of rules governing competition. The analogy that you make between smoking cigarettes and injecting EPO seems like a non-sequiter to me – there is no equivalence to be drawn. As it happens, these rules ARE in the interest of protecting (often) young people in the pursuit of sporting success. Personally, I don’t see that as an attack on anyone’s freedom. I hope everyone has heard by now that some ridiculously large proportion of Olympic-level athletes – more then half – said in response to Bob Goldman’s surveys in the 80’s that they would take a drug that that would guarantee they win a gold medal even if they knew that as a result of taking it they would be dead within five years. Those results suggest pretty strongly that top-level athletes do need protection and guidance to be sure that they have a healthy future beyond their sporting years. Providing it isn’t a matter of freedom, it’s a matter of love.

    >At any rate, why I think legalising doping in sport is wrong is because those who do not want to dope (for whatever reason, e.g. health) will have to either forget about going pro or be forced to dope.

    And that is what I’m talking about – I agree completely with your sentiment here. And I think it’s a belief that comes from compassion for young athletes. Isn’t that a bit of a “Nanny State” attitude to have? But that’s why I don’t think it’s necessary to make this political. We should be opposed to doping because it’s bad for the sport and bad for athletes.

  26. Mike

    It’s an unfortunate fact of life that comments sections go political. We’ll have a story locally about a snowmobile going through the ice and it won’t take a half dozen comments before it’s the Republicans’ fault for global warming or the Democrats’ fault for supporting trails for skiing instead of snowmobiles.
    But this IS a different thing. It isn’t nanny-state, it’s an association trying to enforce rules to establish what they believe is a level and safe playing field. Maybe it’s time for a second association that’s open doping? Maybe those who care more about maxing their bodies can form “World Cycling Entertainment” where anything goes. Everybody knows that the WWE and Olympic Freestyle wrestling are different things. They each have their champs and their markets. Everybody is pretty clear that chairs aren’t allowable accessories in an Olympic match.
    As far as the health care system, I’d like to know if dopers die more long, drawn-out, expensive deaths than average or are more likely to have their hearts explode on a climb, saving money for everyone. I’m guessing the latter but I don’t know.

  27. grolby

    Leaving aside the pragmatic impossibility of setting up an “anything goes” cycling league, for reasons of public image, local law, health and safety and (yes) moral reasons, what’s the incentive for athletes to enter a league where doping is allowed? I don’t think the analogy works. You don’t solve cheating by setting up another organization with a big sign saying “Cheaters, come here.” If the incentive to cheat UCI rules is great enough (and it is), people will try to cheat the UCI rules and race the UCI races. There’s no way around that.

    1. Padraig

      Regarding politics and this blog: We have no need to go there unless a post actual addresses something like legislation. Let’s just stick to the topic at hand.

  28. ben

    Whoa Padraig. Yeesh. And you thought Outside Magazine recognition was a good thing. Yikes. It’s all Cycling News Forum up in here!

    I’m a Masters racer (no Steve…don’t put me in the ditch due to my age and choice of racing against others of my age. I also do my Cat. race.). I don’t dope and quite frankly…i’ll go ahead and say that if others around me are…I don’t care. Whatever they need to do to get through the night. I race b/c I enjoy it. If others have such a low-self-esteem that they feel the need to dope-it-up…whatever. I’m at peace w/ me, my bike, and the wind.

    Thanks for the dinner conversation P!

  29. norm

    I echo Ben’s enthusiasm for racing for the enjoyment of it –without getting flummoxed by who’s finishing ahead of you and why so. To paraphrase that fine Zappa quote… just shut up and race your bike (of course, Zappa also thought of drug users as “assholes in action”).

    However, I think race organizations should continue to improve how they combat doping, including smart advocacy of the positive (sorry for the pun) stories about racers who race clean.

  30. Rick

    I have had the distinct pleasure of riding with such greats as Lon Haldeman, Susan Notorangelo, Bob Breedlove, and many others. I entertained the fantasy that I could train and, perhaps, take a PED so that I might just keep up with these folks. That is all this now 57 year old bicyclist could do, fantasize. I am an avid cyclist, much better than many, not on the same planet as others. PED’s would not give me what Lon, Susan and the others have which is that knowledge that they did it themselves. I admire these athletes because they earned their place by intense training and fierce competition. I can know that while not competitive with these folks I, too, have given all I had, made my very best effort and succeeded on my terms. Not as fast, not as far, but me, the bike, and the road. I have nothing to prove more importantly I have nothing to hide.

  31. scaredskinnydog

    This is my first visit to your site and I like it! I also like your efforts to keep the comments civil(semi-civil). I’d like to address Mr. Raymond in a little Point/Counter-point,
    Raymond- ‘I usually like your column, except when you get on your high horse on the subject of doping’.
    Raymond- ‘it seems unfair to apply the anti doping rules…to a bunch of older riders’.
    Raymond- ‘ I have thought about traveling there(Mexico)to see a doctor about buying HGH and testoserone’.

    Scaredskinnydog- ‘Raymond you ignorant slut….’

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