How Wide Spread is Doping in Amateur Cycling

I have been working on this story for a while now (6+ months). Trying to gather information about the problem of doping in cycling in particular the problem in the amateur ranks.

One of the big questions is who actually does the drug testing. The drug testing is done by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Who is USADA?

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which began operations on October 1, 2000, is a non-governmental agency responsible for implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code in the United States. USADA's budget is funded by a U.S. federal grant and with revenue generated from dope-testing contracts between USADA and the USOC and other organizations.

The one big issue that Colorado has with this setup is that the local governing body is the American Cycling Association (ACA). The ACA is what is known as a Non-Governing Body (NGB). From people I have talked to that are familiar with the USADA and the ACA say there are two major hurdles if the ACA would ever want to implement a drug testing program:

  • The USADA dealing with a NGB
  • Cost

There are so many ways to approach anti-doping but nothing can take the place of unannounced or even pre-determined doping control (of top finishers).

I talked to a couple of people that have a very good understanding of the doping issue and in particular illegal performance enhancing drug use. I asked the question How wide spread do you think the problem is in amateur cycling? Both of them believe that the majority of dopers in the US are amateurs. This would make sense just by the shear number of riders that are amateurs. There are only so many professional riders out there.

This got me to thinking about statistics. I contacted USADA a couple of times, and never got a response, about getting statistics of the number of amateurs that are tested each year. They do post some statistics but its difficult to determine who is an amateur and who is not.

Here is an excerpt from an article in Bicycling that basically comes to the same conclusion.

And statistics, as usual, don't tell the whole story. According to former journeyman pro and admitted doper Joe Papp, who recently pleaded guilty to dealing human growth hormone and EPO acquired from China to an estimated 187 customers, older athletes comprise the bulk of amateur drug use. "Based on my experiences, in the U.S. the majority of athletes seeking doping products on the black market are amateurs, and believe it or not, they're masters athletes," says Papp. "I think that's in part because older athletes can afford these products, but it's because of ego as well. People don't want to let go of their youth. Say you're 41 years old and you want 10 percent of your threshold power back. If you can get by the ethics of doping, and don't think it's going to kill you, it's a no-brainer."

Along those same lines I found this article from a site in Australia. It talks about whether amateur doping sanctions should be better publicized. From the article:

I’ve never seen intentional doping at the amateur level of cycling but I have no doubt that it happens. Many people passionately believe that sanctioned riders should be named and shamed by Cycling Australia and the national federations to help discourage others from making the same choice and to let it be known that people are getting caught. What do you think? Would any good come out of it?

What do you think? Please no name dropping and if you know something and would like to contact USADA you can call 1-877-Play Clean (1-877-752-9253).

Related Stories

News Item: 



Certainly it's the older guys doing; they're the only ones who can afford it, and there is zero chance of being tested. EPO was invented here in Boulder, but that doesn't mean you can go to the factory on 55th and get a deal.

Like others have said, I find the issue interesting, but that's it. I ride for my own reasons and rewards. A good article just published in Outside:

Random Tests

Whether it's the empty packet of T that was found at Boulder res last fall, amateurs drilling pros to win local races, or the incident involving Chuck Coyle, I think there are some reasons to be suspicious of some top Pro 1-2 and 35+ racers.

I too read the Outside article and the most disturbing part was how easy it was for him to obtain the Testosterone legally and how little chance he had of ever being caught. I don't think we should have many drug tests, but a few a year would be a reasonable deterrent. Other than a racers moral compass (which we know is non-existent for some), what is the deterrent right now?

Personally, I'd rather pay $40 a year to support an amateur anti-doping program than pay for faulty timing chips.

I'm curious, when are we going to hear more about the additional 150+ customers who bought dope from Joe Papp's website?

I know plenty of mountain

I know plenty of mountain bikers that will smoke pot then ride you into the dirt, I can't imagine what they could do without all that smoke in their lungs.I don't think it's a stretch to think an average amateur racer would take something that is proven to get onto the podium.

Doping in amateur cycling

It's not feasible to do dope testing in amateur events because there isn't enough money in the sport.

In the lower categories, no one is doping, or even if they are it would not matter because they are just wasting their money and wasting good drugs

There is doping in the Pro 1/2 and in the Masters racing like some of the previous commentators have mentioned. To dope test Cat 1/2 racers at major events seems warranted, otherwise not much to be done