10 years ago, Lance Armstrong surrendered

Clean cycling?

What happened to cycling 10 years after the fall of Lance Armstrong? Is it utopian to believe that those who have just finished the Tour de France run on water and electrolytes?

As of August 3, 2022, 64 athletes who hold or have held a professional cycling license were under suspension from the international federation.

Of this number, Lance Armstrong and his former sports director Johan Bruyneel are banned for life by the UCI. No other name in this list is known to the general public. These are professionals who have recorded marginal performances and results. Only five of them were placed there after 2019.

Compared to other sports such as weightlifting or athletics, cycling has a better record. Is the fight against doping waged head-on since the 1990s beginning to yield real results?

I believe in clean cycling, says David Veilleux. I find that there are cyclists who go very, very fast on the other hand. We look at their data and I admit that sometimes we can ask ourselves questions. I don’t want to judge because I’m on the outside now. I would find it really a shame, on the other hand, that we fall back into itadds the former cyclist from the Quebec region.

Although few cyclists have failed doping tests in recent years, athletes and their teams are still closely watched. Each intervention raises doubts and reminds us that the sanitation of sport hangs by a thread.

A few days before the recent Grande Boucle launched in Copenhagen, the Danish police, at the request of the French authorities, searched the houses, hotel rooms and cars of the Bahrain Victorious formation.

No arrests were made, no documents were seized and no trace of doping products was found. The investigation had been started at the Tour de France in 2021. Despite the lack of evidence, this operation once again raised many doubts.

Christiane Ayotte has been fighting sports doping for decades. It does not go through four paths. We still dope in many sports and certainly still in cyclingshe says.

On the other hand, the anti-doping program is no longer in the hands of the UCI, but in those of the ITA (the International Control Agency). We have more tools. EPO is still taken, but in microdoses. Many have returned to blood transfusions, but we no longer take three bags of blood to transfuse. We still dope, but the techniques are different. It’s getting harder to detect.

Same story for David Veilleux. There will always be doped ones, let’s not be fooled. It’s not systemic like it was in the 90s anymore. It was already over when I arrived in 2012 and Lance was banned. It was also over team doping, if you will. The guys who doped in my years, the gains were more marginal than in the 90s. We are talking about gains of 3, 4 or 5% in performance, whereas it was two or three times that in the 90s.

David Veilleux at the Criterium du Dauphiné in 2013Photo: Getty Images/AFP/Jeff Pachoud

Since 2008, cyclists have had a biological passport which contains their haematological profiles as well as the results of all the anti-doping tests to which they have been subjected. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) can thus detect abnormal variations in biological markers, an essential tool in the fight against doping.

Since 2014, cyclists, like all athletes in WADA-monitored sports, must provide a one-hour period, every day of the year, when they could be called upon to submit to an impromptu test.

What I see above all as a profound benefit to the many years of screening is a reduction in the damage of doping to the health of athletes, believes Christiane Ayotte. We have helped the health of athletes by developing methods, improving the frequency of testing so that they can no longer take horse doses as they did at the time. There are still episodes of doping, but they are less violent.

It is obvious that a cyclist who suddenly has extraordinary results, one asks questions, affirms for his part Guillaume Boivin, who always rides with the elite. On the other hand, I confirm that it happens a lot less often than before, sudden performances and results like that.

Last year, I had a top 10 in Paris-Roubaix and took part in my first Tour de France. It is certain that there are people who thought that I was doping. I am at peace with that. We have enough pitfalls in a career that we don’t have time to stop at people’s commentshe adds.

It’s such a beautiful sport!, insists David Veilleux. On a bike, yes, we weigh on the pedals, the watts and the cardio, it’s nice, but it’s not just about winning a race. You may have the best stats, if you don’t feel the race, if you don’t have a strategic mind, if you’re not a warrior in the race without watching the meter, you won’t win often. Doping, he can’t do anything about that. I find it a shame that the reputation of this beautiful sport is tarnished by all this.

The decision to dope or not must be up to the individual, says Christiane Ayotte. If we wait for the doping police, people like us, to put an end to it and eradicate it completely, it won’t work. We are attacking structures and groups. We don’t make the decision for the athlete. We do this more seriously than 20 years ago, but it is certain that it is still not enough.

Ms Ayotte reminds us that there is also a psychological aspect to doping, in the attitude of the athlete and the way he perceives his opponents.

Not everyone is disbelieving enough to dope and say they don’t do it without feeling any remorse. Many certainly do so with performance-affecting guilt. Athletes will, for the most part, not be able to admit that others are better. Often, their reflex will be to ask themselves: “What does it take that I too have to take to get there?” It is the lack of introspection to accept that we are not the first in the world.

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