Widespread Doping Still Exists in Professional Cycling

By Paul Gaita 03/11/15

Will the International Cycling Union ever clean up the sport?

Lance Armstrong

A new report states that doping remains a major hurdle for athletes in the cycling world, even after the scandals that brought down champion Lance Armstrong and other figures.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) published the 227-page report from the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) on March 9 after a 13-month investigation into “the causes and pattern of doping that developed within cycling, and allegations which implicate the UCI and other governing bodies and officials over ineffective investigation of such practices.”

Through interviews with 174 individuals, including UCI personnel, riders and officials, CIRC determined that doping is still prevalent among riders, with various sources citing between 20% and 90% using performance-enhancing and weight-loss drugs, painkillers, and experimental medication.

Those using substances have been able to surpass current methods of detection by “micro-dosing,” or taking small but regular amounts of banned substances. The report also cited that doping has also spread to amateur cycling circles, where it is described as “endemic.”

While the report does not specifically blame the UCI for these failures, it does lay responsibility for the continuing issue at the feet of former presidents Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid. The report cites Verbruggen and McQuaid for their failure to follow their own anti-doping roles and for giving preferential treatment to Armstrong while he was under investigation, including accepting large donations from the cyclist and defending him against the cheating allegations that ended his career in 2012.

Current UCI president Brian Cookson responded to the report by thanking CIRC and its team of investigators, which included former Swiss State Prosecutor Dr. Dick Marty and Professor Ulrich Haas, an expert in anti-doping rules.

“While the CIRC report on the past is hard to read for those of us who love the sport, I do believe that cycling will emerge better and strong from it,” said Cookson in a published statement.

The statement also included a lengthy list of amendments to doping policy and measures to counter illegal activity since his election in 2013, including the introduction of anti-doping rules with longer and more punitive sanctions against riders who have tested positive for drugs.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.