Cycling’s Biggest Threat: Amateur Doping

After a 20 mile ride, a master’s team is happy to enter the finish straight. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

by Caley Fretz: Published Jun. 6, 2016, Updated Jun. 17, 2016 on VeloNews.com

American cycling has a doping problem, and it’s no longer at the top.

The unintimidating blue polo shirts that U.S. Anti-Doping Agency testers wear must be terrifying to see for an athlete full of the substances they’re looking for. A knock on December 5, 2015, brought Michael Buckley to his door. Outside, two blue polos. Inside, a decision.

There are two options for someone in this moment: Let them in, or shut the door. USADA is not the FBI; it can’t get a warrant or take blood and urine by force. But once testers have eyes on their quarry, closing the door is as good as testing positive. In refusing a test, an athlete automatically accepts a ban. Buckley wouldn’t have been the first to do so.

He didn’t. There was always the chance that they wouldn’t find anything, after all. They did.

Three weeks later, Buckley was handed a ban for two selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs), LGD-4033 and ostarine, an exogenous anabolic steroid that was confirmed by carbon isotope ratio testing, and anastrozole, a drug normally used to combat breast cancer.

But Buckley isn’t the story here, nor is what the testers found in him. He is but one of a dozen amateur cyclists caught doping in the last few years. More importantly, he’s one of thousands who have doped.

Amateur bike racing in the United States has a drug problem, and it is fundamentally impossible to use drug testing to catch all amateur drug cheats. Too many riders, too little funding. So if you can’t catch them, how do you stop them? You scare them.

The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) has just over 1,000 professional cyclists on its control list and spends millions of dollars each year policing them. We’re all familiar with the results, or lack thereof, depending on one’s perspective.

There are roughly 50,000 amateur bike racers in the United States, and the budget to police them barely hits six figures. None of these amateurs is on a biological passport, and less than one-tenth of one percent will ever have USADA knock at their door.

Amateur bike racing in the United States has a drug problem, and it is fundamentally impossible to use drug testing to catch all amateur drug cheats. Too many riders, too little funding. So if you can’t catch them, how do you stop them? You scare them.

The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) has just over 1,000 professional cyclists on its control list and spends millions of dollars each year policing them. We’re all familiar with the results, or lack thereof, depending on one’s perspective.

There are roughly 50,000 amateur bike racers in the United States, and the budget to police them barely hits six figures. None of these amateurs is on a biological passport, and less than one-tenth of one percent will ever have USADA knock at their door.

An anonymous 2014 survey of 4,000 athletes conducted by Scottish anti-doping researcher Paul Dimeo determined that 10 percent of Category 1, 2, and 3 amateurs in the United States had used performance-enhancing drugs at some point in their racing careers. Using USA Cycling’s membership figures for that year, that works out to approximately 1,720 riders muddying up the results of races from coast to coast…

Read the rest of the story on VeloNews.com

One thought on “Cycling’s Biggest Threat: Amateur Doping

  1. I was offered a cornucopia PED’s as a lowly Cat. III waaaaaaaaaay back in the mid-late 90’s, never accepted. Pretty disgusting to think that it’s worse now than what we all thought was for sure peaking out 20 years ago.

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