Inga Thompson’s letter to Pat McQuaid


crankpunk came across this letter that was sent in to UCI president Pat McQuaid by Inga Thompson. From Reno, Nevada, Inga has a bit of a past when it comes to cycling. Starting the sport at age 20, in 1984, she rather incredibly ended up in the Olympoics that same year, coming a very credible 21st in the road race. in ’86 she was third in the Tour de France Feminine, was 2nd in the Worlds TT in ’87, 2nd in two Worlds road races, and was a multiple national champ at both TT and on the road (where she won four titles) – so you could say she could ride a bit.

obviously still following the sport, she felt moved to pen a letter to the Big Mac recently, which, with her kind permission, she has allowed me to post here in full. thank you Inga, and may you crank on.


To Whom It May Concern:

As cycling’s latest doping conspiracy has unfolded, I was more than a little surprised to read an article in which the author flatly stated that women’s pro ranks were unaffected because “since there wasn’t the prize money involved, etc., there was just no reason for the women to dope.”

Oh really?

With one general statement, the author can simply wipe away reality and, yes, the many women who have tested positive or otherwise been mired in their own controversies. Where has she been? After spending 10 years in a sport that I passionately loved, I finally, regretfully, sadly, and quite angrily walked away with a sense of disappointment and resignation. Over those final years I was repeatedly subjected to pressures to be a ‘team player’ by the very same people who eventually went on to work with the U.S. Postal Service and the coaches for up-and-coming riders of today that were ‘forced’ to dope.

Watching female athletes about me on an International level test positive at a time when it could be easily buried, seeing their boyfriends and husbands get caught with drugs, getting soundly beaten time and time again, fellow riders dying in their sleep, never able to scream about what should have been obvious to anyone was just too much to take.

Women I had handily beaten in the past were suddenly – and I mean suddenly, as in over-night – “untouchable.” These were riders who were admittedly talented, but riders I had regularly beaten. Now they were defeating me so definitively, so soundly, that it became gut wrenching.

I was frustrated and angry, knowing full well that I was not about to make the same obscene choice they had. But, as a result, I found myself beaten before the race even started. It eventually drove me out of the sport I loved and into retirement much earlier than I would have otherwise chosen to. I was finally sick of the pressures from the management above me to be a ‘team player’ or risk getting pushed out of the elite. It was hard racing those years being black-balled, yet I was good enough to make the team automatically. Nonetheless, the passion for this beautiful sport of ours was slowly just sucked away by the corruption. I just didn’t care to fight this fight anymore.

I remember one of my favorite Dutch women with whom I loved to chat with in the peloton during races. The next time I arrived at an international stage race, I learned she wouldn’t be there. She had died in her sleep … from a heart attack.

“So sad,” said the coach who then, quite callously, offered to introduce me to the young up-and-comer who was replacing her.

Please do recall that a big share of those men who doped during their own pro careers are now coaching women and young riders.

Think about that. Would you hand your son or daughter over to a program if you knew the people overseeing them were ex-drug addicts doing cocaine, meth or heroine? That’s how I feel about handing my son over to the Grass Roots programs or big teams coached by ex-dopers.

Maybe you think I’m being too optimistic about my son here? Well, he has the genes. You should see his natural hematocrit levels. It’s genetic. With my own history of three Olympics and nine worlds, medals at worlds and even the climber’s jersey at the Tour de France Feminine, he has something of a head start. Add to that the fact that his father was a very good cyclist in his own right and the kid has some natural talent.

I’ve watched him on a bike. It’s a beautiful sight. Yet, I find myself discouraging him from riding. If he lives up to his potential as a racer, I have to face the reality of his ending up in the hands of the men who ruined the sport, destroyed lives and continue to do so.

I’ve encouraged him to play football because I know he’s not going anywhere in that sport. Eight-man football in a town where if you’re in high school and male, you will play on the team because there are probably fewer than 20 boys in the entire school. No, he’s not getting a scholarship for football, so I know he’s safe.

Why again, won’t I encourage my son to pursue cycling? I’d be handing him over to ex-dopers, now coaches, directors or team managers. Many have since confessed their sins and declare themselves to be “reformed,” or “on the wagon,” so to speak. WOW, they all found “God” at the very same time. Would this have anything to do with the subpoenas? What about all the dopers that didn’t have to fess up because of a subpoena?

Wake up cycling fans. This latest scandal can’t simply be dealt with by saying “let’s just forget this and move forward for the good of the sport.” Remember? That’s what we said after the 1984 Olympics blood doping scandal. That’s what we said after the Festina Affair. That’s what we said after Operación Puerto. That’s what we said after the Telekom team imploded. No. I’ve heard the same arguments for years. “This bad press is just hurting us, stop digging and move forward.” But we can’t move forward until there is full transparency of past and present practices. No one wants to hand their child over to drugs.

Not only was potential victories, honor, fame, money stolen from me, now my Ethics of making the right choice to walk away is being stolen from me. People assume that if I was at an International level during the Lance era, I, too, must have doped. I didn’t make that choice, yet I am being painted with the same brush. At this point everything – including my own past – is being stolen from me.

By now, we all know that Lance’s samples from 1999 were re-tested in 2005 and they showed evidence of doping. A lot of people – including the UCI – went into full defensive mode and denied there was a problem. Do you want to know what I thought? I wanted to know how many more samples are out there. At this point, I am publicly urging that WADA and other doping agencies and governing bodies open up the freezers and test EACH and EVERY sample still available.

I, for one, want proof of my innocence. I’m not looking for medals or even stolen prize money at this point. I want my honor back. I was among those who made the right choice during the most difficult time in the sport. I want that on my résumé. I’m not the only one that wants proof of my bravery to make the right choice in the most difficult of situations.

I’m pretty sick of listening to these dopers whine about how hard it was to walk away because of the pressure.They just had to dope because of the peer pressure or they didn’t want to stand up and do the right thing. Frankly, it’s pathetic that they didn’t have the backbone to make the right choice under pressure. Really? I’m supposed to feel sorry for you? They need Spinagra. It helps you grow a spine under the pressures of doing the right thing. And now, they want to be coaches? Coaching our children! We DON’T want coaches that couldn’t do the right thing under pressure. We WANT men and women as coaches. coaches who can make the right choices! Hiring newly reformed ex-dopers will NOT inspire confidence in sponsors or the public. Only a COMPLETE purging can restore the confidence that has been lost.

Meanwhile, let’s focus on what’s important and ISN’T semi-repentant dopers. What counts now is the sport we should be able to offer our children. No parent that loves their child will hand them over to semi-repentant dopers.

Let’s look at the past, clean out the sport; then and only then, can we finally do as the apologists say and “move on.”

Inga Thompson, 1984, 88, 92 Olympic Cycling Teams; 1985, 86, 87, 89, 90, 91, 93 World Team Member; 1987, 1991 Pan American Team; Team 7-Eleven 1985-1989

*this letter was originally posted by Inga on the FaceBook page, Doping, which you can access here.

Author: Lee Rodgers

Cycling coach, race organiser, former professional cyclist and the original CrankPunk.

12 thoughts

  1. she does make a solid point. totally change my view of dopers. she’s right, those dopers stole the money, fame or even dignity of non-dopers!

    1. yup, she makes a few great points. better late than never for all this to be sorted out – or at least to come out – but for people like Inga, it still hurts, quite obviously. the real solace though is knowing in your heart that you did it clean and that joy were, to borrow a cliche, the best you could *naturally* be. not cheating people is, contrary to what a lot of human behavior may actually indicate, actually quite a good thing!

  2. So many think ‘everyone doped’. There were, and will always be, people who want to compete with honor. The people who say everyone doped are the ones who did or would cheat, or just have no clue. There will also always be cheaters.There will also always be people with integrity.
    Even now with all this doping behavior being uncovered. I agree with Inga, who would want to expose their child to a culture of cheating and lying? I was there during Inga’s time and I’ve experienced a very similar view although not quite the same level of achievment.
    All of the current ‘Heads of State’ need to go. The UCI needs to be overhauled.The UCI is full of ‘dirty cops’ now. Someone like Greg LeMond is in my opinion the most credible person to be in a leadership possition now. He has been outspoken against doping since long before all of this really came to light.
    I’m going to ride my bike today, in the rain, to try and catch up to those faster than me. That’s always been my way to hopefully gain an advantage. Nothing unfair about that. My days of being competetive are long behind me and yet there seems to be no escape from the doping drama.
    Dopers will never be able to steal the joy of riding from me. They also can’t rob me of the beauty of the grand tours and many other memorable cycling events. But we as passionate cyclists can take away or at least minimize the dopers ability to negatively impact us. Corporate sponsors are already doing that….


    1. hi Tim, yeah i do think that if you’re a parent with a 12 or 13 year old kid these days and they say ‘i wanna be a pro’, you’d probably look at them thinking ‘more like a dope fiend…’! but seriously, i do think that that a positive that can come from this – kids and their parents now will be more watchful of the shady characters, managers, team leaders etc, that in the past have had little or no checks upon them. it should also all help young riders to make their voice heard – whereas until very recently a young rider might feel immense pressure to dope cos it all seemed so normal, not i think they have the knowledge that this is in fact not normal, nor acceptable.

      time will tell, but i hope this will be the case…

      and yes i fully agree, this is OUR sport. what we saw on TV from 92/93 until very very recently was another game altogether, and they were welcome to it… crank on!

  3. Wow, CP. I bet this letter struck a chord with you,. Inga Thompson’s story of her race career and subsequent disillusionment in the 80s and 90s sounds an awful lot like your own. Just think about the THOUSANDS of talented world-class racers who felt exactly the same as you two did. Just think about the THOUSANDS of talented world-class racers who quit for exactly the same reasons you two quit. Just think about what the stats would have looked like if all the winners were clean.

    Every time I read a story about a rider who was pressured to dope, or a rider who doped and cheated the tests, or a rider who doped and got caught, all I can think of is how much it all sounds like some grubby cult. It’s oh-so-subtle at the beginning, but it eventually takes over your entire life. And just like a cult, you don’t understand how insidious it is until you’re free.

    I know loads of us have spent months (years?) vilifying Armstrong et al, and admittedly mostly for very good reasons, but just imagine for a second or two what it must be like to be a serial cheater. Lies beget more lies which beget even more lies. It must be emotionally exhausting. I sometimes…sort of…almost…feel sorry ’em.

    This is why EVERYBODY needs to break the fucking silence already. The truth shall set you free (at least emotionally, if not actually criminally). You pressured your riders to dope? Come clean, you’ll feel better. You doped? Come clean, you’ll feel better. You lied about doping? Come clean, you’ll feel better. You knew about doping but turned a blind eye? Come clean, you’ll feel better.

    Because honestly, somebody always talks. Sure, that SPECTRE volcano teeming with thousands of Blofeld minions in “You Only Live Twice” LOOKED cool, but there’s no way that many people can be in on a “secret” without SOMEBODY leaking SOMETHING. People talk. People ALWAYS talk. And if wat they have to say ain’t pretty, it’s better to head ’em off at the pass.

    And last but not least, it’s time to take out the trash. Pat McQuaid and the UCI have a long and sordid history of obfuscation, misdirected anger, and bully tactics. (Sound familiar? *CoughLanceArmstrongcough*) The house needs to be rebuilt, but the guys who destroyed the house shouldn’t be the same guys who are entrusted with rebuilding it.

      1. agreed, M&M. and yes her letter did resonate, but i am only one of many. thankfully, we are being heard…! onwards and upwards!

  4. I’ve raced with Inga and she is one of the coolest chicks in cycling ! She was competing in Elite men’s races in France in ’91 – and placing – and went on to take 2nd at worlds ! Her letter says it all. McQuaid needs to go, hopefully the UCI will get stumped in their suit against Paul Kimmage and maybe sentenced to paying huge damages, then maybe they’ll start to act in the interest of the sport instead of money. I stumbled across your blog (Philippe Gilbert – luddite story) and am glad I did. Keep it up please…

  5. Aw, this was a very good post. Taking the time and actual effort to produce a great article but what can I say I put things off a whole lot and don’t seem to get anything done.

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