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  Friday, 24 May, 2002, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Is cycling damaged beyond repair?
Stefano Garzelli tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs after winning the fifth stage of the Giro
Cycling is hit by another drugs scandal after two leading riders in the Giro d'Italia fail dope tests.

Is it one scandal too many for the beleaguered sport?


Stefano Garzelli, winner of the race in 2000, was thrown out of the race after the banned diuretic probenecid was found in a urine sample.

And defending champion Gilberto Simoni, who tested positive for cocaine metabolites in April, was withdrawn from the Giro D'Italia after claiming victory in the 11th stage.

Cycling's reputation reached its lowest ebb with police raids at the 1998 Tour de France, scenes repeated during last year's Giro, and Marco Pantani remains under investigation following the 2001 incident.

Is the sport now irredeemable?


Genuine drug cheats deserve a life ban, but what worries me is the accuracy of the tests and the possibility of 'spiking'. You'll see a lot of riders taking water from spectators at the side of the road. How simple would it be to add a banned substance to the bottle? In this context, handing out a life ban for a positive test could be grossly unfair.
Tony Brooks, UK

As a chemist I have serious reservations concerning the accuracy of the analytical methods used. If, however, the methods used are accurate and reliable then anyone caught doping should be thrown out for life. The big question is how reliable the tests actually are.
Justin, USA

If the sport continues to receive sporadic coverage, or on terrestrial TV no coverage at all, then it will manage to die a death all on its own. Drugs are a problem in every sport and whilst the cycling world does have its problems it does not characterise the sport as a whole.

I feel that the next generation need to be given heroes, like Mr Armstrong, who dominates the sport as a direct result of dedication and ability, but as it stands there is little chance that terrestrial TV viewers can even see a bike never mind one being ridden so well.
Graeme, England

There is tremendous pressure for athletes to perform
Ron, Canada
Cycling is one of the toughest sports around but I'm fed up of hearing other pros using this as an excuse to dope. Cippolini almost says drugs are justified given the toughness of the sport.

Yes, cycling is doing quite a lot to sort out the problem, but obviously not enough. The bans are too and not enough of a deterrent: Two years should be a minimum.

I've been a cycling fan for 16 years and am pretty disillusioned.
Andy Ball, UK

Cycling has no more of a problem than any other endurance sport - it's just more open about it. The only answer to cycling's drug problems is to ban for life anyone giving a positive test.

All competitive cyclists are licensed by their national body and it would be simple to insist that they sign a disclaimer, waiving all rights to appeal if caught with a positive test. No sign, no ride.

Draconian perhaps, but do we want to clear out the cheats or not? The clean riders will then have absolutely nothing to fear
David Catlow, England

The whole sport lost a lot of its base in the 90s with all of the EPO users and drug scandals. That's why mountain biking is growing. People like to ride to feel healthy, fresh etc.

Go out for a ride with roadies and they talk like an article out of 'Men's Health'; carbo counts, protein level, power drinks. I just like beating them on road rides on a MTB. They are losing sponsors, and sponsors make the sport.
Fraser Wright, UK

Unfortunately, success, money, and power are great bedfellows that rule in professional sport and in life. There is tremendous pressure for athletes to perform for the fans and their sponsors.

Most other sports seem determined not to expose cheats
Adam, UK

The rampant drug abuse problem is destroying the sport and hurting the other few athletes who are clean! I can think of Canadian cycling great Steve Bauer who rode in Europe in the 80s with panache and professionalism.
Ron, Canada

The cycling governing bodies have taken a responsible and active stance with regard to the universal sporting phenomenon that is performance enhancing doping. Due to this stance and the resultant rigorous testing, cycling is beginning to identify and deal with cheats.

However, most other sports seem determined not to expose cheats. The media always forgets this, and therefore cycling appears dirtier than other sports. This is not to say the degree of testing in cycling is unfair (I am certainly not complaining about it), but to compare the sport to others and say that it is 'dirtier' is just foolish.

The money that can now be earned and the pressure for results in professional sport have lead to doping (along with a greed for personal glory). These factors are present in most modern sports, and surely football is a prime example. I imagine that the sport now commands more money and 'glory' than virtually any other international sport....

It is time that testing was conducted at the same rigorous level as seen in cycling across all sports. So how about 'medical' records of players being kept, dawn blood tests and midnight police raids on World Cup football team hotels in Japan and South Korea for starters...? Can you imagine the media outrage!

Cycling as we know it is full of similar cheats
Richard Hodge, Great Britain

It's the reputation of sport that has been damaged, and not that of cycling any more than other sports.
Adam, UK

So a leading pro cyclist is caught out and two others are found to be using an advanced form of dope (Nesp). Big surprise. I'm afraid that cycling as we know it is full of similar cheats and this includes the vast percentage of the peloton.

I'd like to believe the big hitters are clean. It is possible to compete against the top riders: look at Boardman's haul over his eight-year career: not bad is it, especially as Zulle admitted to drug use and beat Boardman to a Tour De France prologue and World Championship TT title in the mid 1990's.

Do we really need our cyclists to die of heart attacks at 39 like Davey Boy Smith, the 'British Bulldog' in the WWF, for the point to be rammed home?
Richard Hodge, Great Britain

Whilst cycling may appear to be full of drug-takers it is only because the UCI and other national bodies are trying to clean up the sport. There are apparently a high number of drug abusers in the FA - the stories get smothered or minimised and the players, if punished at all, receive no more than a slap on the wrist and a 'don't-do-it-again'.

At least cyclists with positive drugs tests get banned
Mick, UK

At least we're trying our hardest to wipe abuse out. Along with Nordic skiing, who else is using as stringent EPO\NESP et al testing?
Paul Stratford, UK

Given half a chance footballers cheat (diving, stealing ground at free kicks, etc.). This is true in most "sports". Why should cycling be any different? At least cyclists with positive drugs tests get banned. Video evidence of wilful cheating at football which is missed by the referee is ignored.
Mick, UK

The sport is only damaged beyond repair whilst the media continue to use the subject for easy headlines. Maybe the reason that so many riders are testing positive is because the UCI is about the only national body of an endurance sport to admit there is a problem here.

Maybe we shouldn't blame the riders, but blame the teams and race organisers for asking them to ride six hours a day for three weeks. Drugs will always happen in every sport and cycling shouldn't be ridiculed because they are trying to do something about it.
Leon, UK

In the competitive world of pro-cycling, competition to get into these high profile teams and then events is ferociously contended by aspiring riders. Most of whom will struggle to make the break and will indeed not make it at all.

Cycling is highlighted because of its stringent rules
Ed Stringer, UK

These riders who sully the efforts of honest competitors should be excommunicated from the sport without hesitation. This is an issue concerning attitude and discipline. Both attributes that should be 'de rigour' for any competitor or manager in any sport. It has to be stopped by hook or by crook.
Stu Barry, England

The simple fact is that almost every athlete takes some form of supplement. The goal is to take the most successful combination of supplementation without overstepping the legislative guidelines. Cycling is highlighted because of its stringent rules, for anybody to say that drug abuse is not rife in every competitive sport is simply kidding themselves.
Ed Stringer, UK

Keep reporting the sport of cycling. Put the drug issues into the context of the sport, not the other way round. The competition and personalities of the sport should be given first priority. That will put this problem into a truer perspective. From an ex-pat Brit and former road racer now living in the USA.
Alan Sharp, United States

No. All sports suffer at the top end. It's good that they are catching so many of the abusers. The controlling authorities are not trying to hide the problem as in other sports. It is worrying that so many are being caught and that the benefits must still outweigh the risks. Keep up the pressure and the problem will become less evident.

As long as the best rider in the world and current tour of France winner Lance Armstrong is clean then the sport is OK.
James, England

To cut out drug use now is going to require a whole change of culture in the sport
Graham Small, Wales

It is one of the most demanding sports with the most stringent testing procedures. The cheats are being found out and we will move on. Cycling is the only organisation sorting out its problem and not just talking about it. Try writing something about the sport. I'm sick of having to read about Nicole Cooke's achievements in German. It's a disgrace.
J Cumberland, England

Professional cycling has been using drugs to enhance performance for years. I'd almost go so far as to say that it has become institutionalised. This has been so obvious that it is difficult to understand why people are so surprised when some of the top riders test positive!

They must be so blinded by the brilliance of their favourite riders that they miss the obvious reason behind their superhuman performances. To cut out drug use now is going to require a whole change of culture in the sport. As yet, I see no sign of that happening.
Graham Small, Wales

Doping in cycling is not as endemic in the English game as it is in Europe. Why is there no cycling on BBC TV???
Danbo, England

As a competitive cyclist and sports masseur involved with cyclists for the past six years, I hate to say this but professional cycling does have a drug problem. I myself have been asked if I wished to provide drugs to the cyclist under my control.

he wasn't cheating his fellow competitors, only levelling the playing field
Marco Addiscombe, England

The problem is not the riders' fault totally, but some of the blame has to fall at the feet of the sponsors and team managers. Because without the pressure from the sponsors to perform, the riders would be happy to perform to the best of their ability not beyond it.
Marcus Bergin, England

I'd have thought it was common knowledge by now that most pro cyclists take illegal substances as well as performance enhancers that are so new that they haven't even made it onto the banned list yet. Garzelli probably does have a clean conscience because he wasn't cheating his fellow competitors, only levelling the playing field.

At least cycling has strict testing policies - with surprise hotel raids and regular random blood tests. How many other sports do you know who do this? I'd be interested to see how many football and tennis players would test positive if their governing bodies carried out regular blood tests.

With the demands professional sport makes of our athletes, I don't think this problem is confined to cycling.
Marco Addiscombe, England

Probably the only way to save the reputation of cycling is to change the object of the sport. In its revised format, the winner would be the rider who can take the most drugs without falling off his bike.
Chris B, England

It's time that the media stated the facts, not hearsay and innuendo!
Mike Henstridge, England

The future of professional cycling is on the brink. What company will be willing to support a pro-cycling team in this scenario? The epic and courageous images of the cycling are gone, and the public is only aware of drugs and cheating. Be careful, the pro cycling as we know it could soon disappear.
Javier Archeni, Spain

I believe Garzelli to be the victim of some kind of plot to further denigrate cycling in the eyes of the general public. I prefer to believe Garzelli when he says that he wouldn't do anything to damage his career.
Steve Tracy, Japan

The problem is that results are often released before the full facts are known, and the media don't wait for the facts before coming to all sorts of conclusions. Cycling has some of the most stringent tests there are, and it's time that the media stated the facts, not hearsay and innuendo!
Mike Henstridge, England

And not a few days before, Pantani was complaining about the Italian Olympic committee investigating cyclists allegedly using banned substances. I think his nickname should be changed from "The Pirate" to "The Sheep" as he's always bleating on about how unfair it is to be investigated!

I for one am fed up trying to defend these riders. It's about time they all owned up to their wrong-doings and left the sport to those who are clean. How are we to attract new riders and sponsors if the top riders are so dishonest and selfish?
John B, UK

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18 May 02 | Cycling
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