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Cheating: Amphetamines in Professional Cycling

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Tom Simpson, British bicycle racer, died during the Tour de France in 1967.

Tom Simpson

A relatively less common problem in professional cycling is the abuse of amphetamines as a performance-enhancing drug.

These days, amphetamines are the drug of choice only for the unimaginative or unsophisticated cheat. Whether you call it crank or speed, it’s the same thing, but fortunately use of these off-limit uppers seems to be pretty rare these days; at least no high profile busts since Tour of Spain winner Angel Arroyo had his title yanked in 1982 for testing positive.

Amphetamines are a stimulant, and mimic the effect of adrenaline on the central nervous system. Users may feel more alert, more energetic and less fatigued.

Abuse of amphetamines remains tied to one of cycling’s most tragic stories, the death of British rider Tom Simpson on Mont Ventoux during the Tour de France in 1967 due to heart failure brought on by a combination of heat, dehydration, physical stress and the drugs he had taken on the morning of the race.

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