there is a significant doping problem in the Asian cycling scene and no one is taking it seriously.
in UCI races that I have taken part in here on the UCI Asia Tour, it is quite obvious to the majority of the peloton, the journalists, the team managers, the mechanics and even the dogs by the road that certain riders – and even whole teams – are doped up.
we all talk about it after the stages. at the hotel. the next morning. on the bus. someone says ‘man I was in the break with those guys, and i tell you, it was not natural.’
some guys appear to be on something like HGH, others on EPO. others still might be on something new altogether, or both. we know it, because we can see it and we can feel it. we see incredible feats not just by individual riders but by whole teams. four, sometimes 5 guys making the break and putting minutes into the chasing pack over nowhere near enough kilometers.
guys spending half an hour on the front then featuring in the sprint.
guys that weigh no more than 58kg powering for half an hour into headwinds and hitting top 5 places in time trials.
big, heavy guys flying up mountains without a care in the world.
i went to one high-level UCI stage race earlier this year and there was no testing.
the same thing in at least one other major tour this year, one i did not attend but heard about from several sources.
we see whole teams disappear for months then come back shadows of their former selves. then later, they are flying again. we see riders go off to Europe, ride like crap, then come back and thrash the living bejeezus out of us.
we hear about positives then see a rider disappear but see nothing on CyclingSnooze or on the regional sites. we hear rumors about cycling federations working to keep things hush hush.
you hear ‘this is ridiculous – ‘it is so obvious’ – ‘are they stupid, why do they win by so much?’
you feel like you are being mocked, blatantly, right out on the road under the full glare of the sun.
and also you will hear: ‘we should complain’.
but who to? what do we do? in fairness I have heard of one case of a concerned competitor complaining and, later, of guys getting tested, but the positives have not gone public and these guys come back and ‘resume’ their previously unbelievable levels of strength eventually. and whether the two were in fact connected i do not know, may have been coincidental.
however it is fair to say that IF that call prompted those tests and uncovered evidence of doping that more tests should have followed, and that certain riders should be highlighted for more consistent testing from now on in.
we want to talk about it. in fact, we want to shout, kick and scream about it. just last week a well known pro on the Asian scene mailed me to check on things he had heard about guys that are ‘heavily suspected’ of doping that are in our races, and we had a whole list of tales, but all are, unfortunately, unpublishable because we have no hard proof.
just last year a well-known journalist came up to me after a stage in a big tour here and said ‘Oh man, when X attacked with 5km to go we were all in the car [he and three other journalists] and we were all cheering when you guys caught him before the line.’
why? because there was/is a general consensus that this guy was/is dirty.
it’s hard to describe what it looks like, hard to say why we can be so sure that a guy is doping, to anyone who hasn’t themselves raced in these kind of races and seen what we see, on a regular basis. but we are fit men, strong, and we know what is possible on bread and water and what is not. we know what a small guy can do on the flat and a big guy on a hill. and we know the exceptional when we see it, can begrudgingly admit that someone is just a true natural. but there are times when you are in a race, going up a hill that is just so steep, so long, or flying into a strong headwind for two hours, and then you see a feat that makes you certain that the man (or in some cases several men, on the same team) performing it cannot possibly be chemically unassisted.
it’s not sour grapes. it’s not bitterness. it’s not because we are bad riders and burning with jealousy. we are indeed riding our own race within the race, fighting for scraps, but that is not the cause of these concerns.
we just know.
it’s 1993 all over again out here. it’s the Wild East. not as rampant as in the Euro peloton back then but here nonetheless. the drugs are so hard to detect and yet the testing is only done through urine, not blood. I could, if I was so inclined, dope my ass off and get away with it all, doctor or no doctor, just by reading the web and managing my doping schedule.
now, at the same time, we have a governing body and national cycling federations that regulate the testing of these events and yet have a heavily vested interest in the image of the sport being – if you’ll excuse the tired old pun – a positive one. they want the sport to succeed in Asia for largely economic reasons, and yet are supposed to be testing for doping infractions.
is that not a conflict of interests?
this is the major factor in the problems we see now in Europe. and i’ll tell you, bring in blood testing over here and you will see something similar.
institutionalized doping on certain teams, with the knowledge and assistance of the management, and ‘rogue’ individuals on other teams that are doping themselves. there is, amongst the peloton, no doubt that this is the case.
and how can you have ZERO testing at an international cycling event? how is this even remotely acceptable? and what does this communicate to the peloton? any guesses?
at the end of these stage races yes, sometimes the guy in the jersey is clean and the majority would agree with that – and I’d still say that for now at least, the majority are clean in the pack – but sometimes the result is a joke. and then it’s another victory for a doper, for incompetence, and for greed.
then there is the issue of ‘ex-dopers’ who have been busted in Europe and South America ending their bans, coming to Asian teams and winning races here. we have issues with that too, and yet there is nowhere we feel we can complain to. want to go to the officials and ask then why there is no testing? want to ask them if they believe that performance was possible?
go ahead, but your manager will most likely not be happy. and you might find that your team doesn’t get into the race the following year. these are the bare bones of this situation, f***ed up as they are.
we need the same level of testing here that they have in Europe, or we will be looking at the same problem we have there with an entire generation of Asian racers.
forget cutting corners and tackle this problem seriously, right now, when we still, barely, maybe, just, have a fighting chance.