Paul Andrews

You can’t win at pro level without drugs

In Bicycle Racing, Bicycling, This Day In Doping on May 26, 2009 at 12:36 pm

That’s the lament offered by Bernhard Kohl, an Austrian cycling star and last year’s Tour de France king of the mountains winner, as he departs the sport after being banned for doping:

“I doped voluntarily in a system in which you cannot win without doping. The weeks after [being caught] were tough for me. But after discussions with friends and family, I realised that a return to professional cycling was a return to a life of doping and lies… Somewhere along the way, talent, training and tough discipline just aren’t enough anymore.”

All this, at age 27.

What it suggests is even more depressing: That the pro tour is still driven by drugs, that enforcement is a sham, that Big Money from sponsorships and residuals promotes and perpetuates a system of deception, fraud and illegality.

In other words, the whole sport is gamed beyond redemption.

The situation calls out for an independent investigation, or at least investigative journalism along the lines of a cycling Seymour Hersh. Otherwise we’ll never know whether to believe Kohl or just pass it off as sour grapes. Certainly he has an axe to grind. But there’s abundant evidence, including a growing number of cyclists stepping forward with painful but cathartic admissions, that what he says is true. It’s obvious that cycling cannot police itself. It’s been trying for more than a decade, with nothing but scandal after scandal to show for its efforts.

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