Cycling is one of the sports that displayed the earliest cases of doing. Before the close of the 1800s, a cyclist died due to trimethyl overdose. During the height of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, Kurt Jensen, a well-known Danish cyclist succumbed to overdose of amphetamine while participating in the Olympics.
Perhaps one of the most memorable deaths is of Tom “Tommy” Simpson. He was one of the celebrated cyclists in the world. Born and raised in Britain, he was competed and won grand tours, stage races, and classics, including Tour de France. In 1967, while he was competing of Tour de France, he developed a stomach bug, which started to affect his performance. Probably he tried to remedy the situation by taking in some brandy and amphetamine, which turned out to be a deadly combination, especially since he was exposed to heat. He died of exhaustion and dehydration during the competition. Nevertheless, his demise is one of the reasons for the creation of a special committee of International Olympics Committee (IOC) that deals with doping, or the act of taking drugs in sports.
Kinds of Drugs
Anabolic steroid still remain to be one of the most common forms of drugs taken by athletes, perhaps because of the many choices available including DHEA and Nandrolone. Its component, testosterone, increases the production of erythropoietin, which also boosts red cell production. The increase in red cell allows cyclists to train longer and harder.
In order to combat exhaustion and to reduce weight gain, some cyclists consume salbutamol and amphetamines, which are collectively called stimulants. These also keep their mind and body active. Diuretics, on the other hand, are such a dangerous substance for cyclists particularly when they’re exposed to long drives or heat. They can eventually lead to dehydration. However, they become helpful during urinalysis since they tend to “hide” the presence of drugs in the urine.
Blood doping is also gaining a lot of attention these days. It is very much like EPO; both of them involve blood. But in the latter’s case, erythropoietin is injected into the body. In blood doping, the cyclist receives an analogous blood (or a blood extracted from his own body). Both are known to alter red blood cell production, forcing it to “create” more red blood cells, which then increase oxygen uptake and promote better blood flow.
Many cyclists have already been subjected to investigation and/or stripped off their titles. Some of them are extremely popular in the field.
In 2006, fresh from winning Tour de France, Floyd Landis was stripped off his winning after his drug test revealed above-the-limit testosterone levels in the body, which then means his urine sample included synthetic testosterone.
Alberto Contador was a young cyclist who was one of the subjects of Operacion Puerto of Spain, one of the biggest anti-doping investigations in history. The main objective was to reveal the huge network of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes and those who took advantage of doping. Contador, along with the other riding team members, were later cleared. Yet around 4 years after, while trying to compete for Tour de France, Contador found himself in almost the same scenario when his urine sample revealed presence of clenbuterol, though the level was minute some believed it to be negligible.
The most famous story is that of Lance Armstrong who was under doping investigation for most of his professional cycling life. The last straw was when USADA (United States Anti-doping Agency) charged him in June 2012 not only with doping but also with trafficking for the years 2009 and 2010. Though he filed a lawsuit against the organization, he didn’t strongly pursue the case. Thus, even if wasn’t proven to be guilty, he was stripped off all his titles and is not allowed to play any kind of sport.