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Drugs and Doping in Professional Cycling

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AX-3-DOMAINES, FRANCE - JULY 16: Lance Armstrong of the USA riding for the Discovery Channel cycling team in the climb to AX-3-Domaines during Stage 14 of the 92nd The Tour de France between Agde and AX-3-Domaines on July 16, 2005 in AX-3-Domaines, France.
Robert Laberge / Getty Images

Professional cycling has been rocked by several major scandals over the past few years. Some of the riders at the very top of the sport have been taken down by accusations of cheating and critics say cycling’s image is tarnished beyond repair. And on top of it all, the pharmaceutical and physiological hijinks taking place are complicated enough that casual fans and non-scientists are both left scratching their heads.

If you are interested in trying to understand what’s behind the cheating in professional cycling, here’s a primer on the whole sordid affair, capturing the major players and issues that have surfaced in professional cycling.

A short list of plagues that have wrecked professional cycling

Cheating - Can Professional Bicycling Police Itself?

The sport’s governing bodies liked to talk tough, made themselves out to be serious about wiping out this problem. But at the same time, they made it sound like it was an isolated problem that they would be burning down the house to get rid of a few termites. Buts it's clearly more than an isolated problem as the USADA evidence against Lance Armstrong revealed in October 2012, showed to be the case.

The 2006 Tour de France, for instance, saw Ullrich, Basso and six other riders kicked out on the eve of the Tour because of their implication in the Operation Puerto doping scandal. Four of the five final finishers behind Lance Armstrong the year before gone, just like that. And then Floyd Landis comes in and take the yellow jersey in what looked to be one of cycling’s great comeback stories, an improbable 80-mile solo attack during Stage 17 through the Alps after falling six minutes behind the day before. But then he turned out to be juiced, too, and for many, it was like having their hearts ripped out and stomped on with bike shoes.

It’ll be painful to finally clean up this mess once and for all, but these are necessary steps for professional cycling to take if there is to be any hope of one day luring back the sponsors and fans who have vanished as a result of these dark episodes. They left, shaking their heads and asking skeptically if there was anyone clean in professional cycling.

And for the answer, only time will tell.

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