Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Is it possible to win the Tour de France without dope?

Cycling's image is in tatters, and authorities inside and outside the sport are being tougher than ever on doping. Yet it hasn't stopped the drug cheaters at the Tour de France. 

Beyond ethics, it would seem to defy common sense for cyclists to break the rules in the middle of such a crackdown. 

The lure of fame and fortune—embodied in the yellow jersey—are amazingly powerful, of course. But doping and cycling experts also say the cheating goes on because of a general disdain among riders and teams for the drug-testing process. 

There's the wink-wink encouragement of team managers, and no one to help them say "no." Many believe there are plenty of loopholes in the anti-doping rules, and there's a notion that technology is advancing so fast that drug testing can't keep up. 

Some scoff at the potential ill-effects of performance enhancers. Throw in the stresses of training for one of the world's most demanding athletic events, and you've got an atmosphere conducive to cheating. 

"They think they can get away with it," said Dr. Ramsus Damsgaard, a leading Danish doping expert. "Whenever anybody presents them with a new substance, they feel comfortable using it." 

The credibility of cycling's marquee event has once more been tarnished by doping cheats this year: Three riders were kicked out after testing positive for the banned blood booster EPO. Two of those—promising young rider Riccardo Ricco of Italy and Moises Duenas Nevado of Spain—spent a night in jail for police questioning.  More...

See also: Will the Tour de France be free of dope one day?

And this: A dope-free Tour de France this year?

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