Monday, July 6, 2009

Drugs and the Tour de France

I've written about athletes and performance-enhancing drugs before, but I for some reason forgot to touch on cycling. With the Tour de France starting this 4th of July weekend, the question of doping in the peloton has started to run rampant again. The Tour has a long and illustrious history of performance-enhancing drug use (you can see the full history on Wikipedia here) and it's finally starting to get better- we think. More stringent testing for EPO (or Erthropoietin) and steroids have at least created a shield for the Tour to protect them from the scandals of the past. Floyd Landis, the last American to win the Tour in 2006, was tested and reported positive the day after his win- and was stripped of the title. He just made his comeback this past year after a two-year suspension.

The 2007 Tour was especially marked by rampant doping violations. The Tour winner, Alberto Contador, was not allowed to participate in the 2006 Tour de France due to his possible involvement with Operacion Puerto, a doping sting against doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and a number of accomplices, started in May 2006. He is accused of administering prohibited doping products to 200 professional athletes, to enhance their performance.

American cyclist Tyler Hamilton announced his retirement from cycling this past April, after multiple positive doping results. He had been battling depression for years and years, and stated that his doping and taking of supplements were taken in an unstable state of mind. An article in VeloNews, a cycling news organization, touched on depression in cyclists after the death of Marco Pantani.

It's well known that exercise can help combat depression and anxiety; that a healthful lifestyle will contribute to a better state of mind. Newsweek wrote about Phoenix Multisport, a group in Boulder, CO that I've written about before who use outdoor activities as part of a therapeutic lifestyle change.

However, when it comes to high-end, competitive athletics, doping has become a huge problem. We've seen it in major league baseball, as up to 103 athletes were named in the Mitchell Report of 2007. And now, with the Tour in the spotlight, we can look back in 2004 where 8 young cyclists died of doping-related heart attacks. In order to help these athletes, we need to provide a comprehensive education and accountability program. There will always be people who cheat, who seek the best edge, and who want every advantage available to them no matter the consequences; the best we can hope for is a level of accountability that provides stringent guidelines and punishments to those who violate the sanctity of sport.

Here's Greg LeMond, a very famous cyclist, talking about steroids and how they've changed sports:

And here's Lance Armstrong, talking about how to prevent doping:

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you later this week.

1 comment:

  1. Compulsive use of Substance which may result in nagitive and often dangerous effects.Using a drug excessivly for purposes for which it is not medically intended.