the question of doping in Asia and a conflict of interests

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.

'so, can i go race in Asia now?'
‘so, can i go race in Asia now?’

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.

Author: Lee Rodgers

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

43 thoughts

  1. Dude that is so sad to hear. As a casual cycling fan I keep hoping that the sport is correcting itself then I read this. WTF, can’t they get serious about testing?

  2. It is like cheating on an exam. It is viewed as fair if everyone has an equal opportunity to cheat. Although Taiwan’s athletic culture is a bit anemic, the doping culture goes back to the 50’s and 60’s when every victory was an ideological victory in the Cold War. Not much has changed, only the actors.

    1. hi Andrew, have to say I was not talking about Taiwanese riders – in fact I would say that if there are ‘clean’ nations, TW is one. based on the ‘evidence’ i’ve seen, if you get me.

  3. Thats insane no testing? This year they introduced testing at the bigger amateur races in the northeast US, and these are amateur races not uci pro races

    1. yeah Japan also, a pretty decent domestic scene with careers to be made and also no testing. when i lived there and asked a club mate why there wasn’t any, he looked at me, shocked, and said ‘Japanese people do not dope.’

      oh. ok then…

  4. its easy enough to run testing for blood and urine from horses in all these countries… “funny” that they are often the exact same drugs in question (i.e. veterinary drugs rather than human being used by pro cyclists)… for what its worth, steroid holidays in Thailand are a well known body builder treat… its simple, over the counter and cheap… scarily!

      1. not even close on the $ fig Lee, if ppl are telling you that, then it’s bollox or there’s some profit taking going on. from usada, it’s between $500-$600, depending on how many you do (volume discount, test em all!!!). btw, haven’t forgotten about our chat, just have to catch my breath up here at 6000ft and dodge the textbooks that are trying to bury me~

  5. While you make some good points it is hard to take you seriously when you cannot even be bothered starting sentences with a capital letter.

      1. Good to see you also have an understanding of basic grammar. Oh wait you don’t!

        In the real word if you want to be taken seriously you need to write correctly. Writing something so poorly cannot possibly be taken seriously by anybody in a position to bring about change.

        Oh and coming to his defence with that type of language just shows that you cannot take things seriously when written so poorly.

    1. a little strange that the author of the article himself replies without capitals to begin his sentences (multiple times) and yet you deign it worthy to post on my specific post?

      and yes, I intentionally started with a little “a” just for you…

      1. It was not a reply to you. Reply to the original post.

    2. A hypocricital negativity vent. Well done that fool.
      It is, good to see! a comment – on grammar. so, filled with it’s own : grammatical errors.
      So now CP, you may consider yourself suitably chastised. Anything that you say about cheating bike riders is not at all relevant since they are probably practicing grammatically correct doping!

    3. BTW, champ. Check it:

      “While you make some good points it is hard to take you seriously when you cannot even be bothered starting sentences with a capital letter.”

      Is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. You missed a comma.

      While you make some good points, it is hard to take you seriously when you cannot even be bothered starting sentences with a capital letter.

      The comma separates the 2 ideas (good points vs taking you seriously). Without it, you need to parse the sentence twice, and the 2 ideas run together, which is clearly not the intent given the use of the word, “whilst”.

      So pull your hypocritical frackin’ head in.

  6. Great post yet again, crankpunk. It’s not only Asia where the heavy guys go uphill well and the light guys are kickin’ it in TTs.

      1. no, thank you for writing it – very interesting story that gets roughly no mentions in the European media

  7. ooF, someONE long Ago just DECideD that we should usE CAPitals. you don;T see manY capitals in jAPANESE kanji do you? or in hierOGLyphiCs? or in 1000s of oTHEr languages. it’s a conVENTioN of our langUAge, created by mEn, much like ouR soCiAl conventIONs and rules – and lOOk wherE followIng thoSE got us…

    it aiN’T mathEmatics. it is a mattER of style and Substance. in any case, i’d rather that tHE ‘grammar’ be BAD and the thoughTS thoroughly set ouT and expLAINED than the other way round.

    studIES have shown howEVEr that worrYINg about such triFles as THIS directly correspond to one’s LEVel of ANALness. and ultimaTELY YOU do HAVe a choice:

    DoN’T ReAD it.

    i am a grammaR sOcIaLiSt – FREE ThE cAPITALS!

  8. I like how you can somehow tell the difference between the riders on HGH and the riders on EPO… This seems like a bitter rant. They must’ve forgot their drugs on days you happen to do well. But totally taken their drugs on days you didn’t do well.

    Make a difference by naming names and telling your actual stories with “no hard proof.” That’ll get people talking, make sponsors angry and get officials to work.

  9. This article reminds me of what happened some years ago in China. A young promising rider, who had been also at UCI Aigle Center for 1 or 2 years, suddenly dissapeared by the racing scene.
    As I do love to follow asian races, I asked my Shenzhen’s mate what happened and he told me something like “..the rumor says that he got a positive result at a doping control so the federation told him to stop racing for a while”.
    Indeed he appeared again like 7-8 months later.

    1. sounds familiar, sadly. happened recently in Hong Kong also. the story eventually emerged in a corner of a newspaper somewhere but that was all.

    2. but i’m not bitter. angry yes, bitter no. it just is this way and i accept it to a degree, evidenced by the fact that i have a UCI license and race these events. i’m 41, in a second career, amazed to be even putting on a number in these races. my income doesn’t depend on results, nor my self-worth. in that regard i am very fortunate. most guys are younger and scrambling to make a living. i love racing these events but there are, very often, two races in one. to those of us racing them it is plainly obvious.

      i could give you a list of at least ten current and ex-pros that i am in contact with that would validate that statement, but i don’t have their permission nor would i request it. they are riders, not officials. not their job, though, god knows, their jobs and their positions suffer because of this ill status quo.

      and did you miss Acquarone saying ‘We all knew’? how about telling him to name names? when the director of a grand tour is saying ‘WE KNEW!’ – but – implicit – ‘we could do nothing ‘ – then talk about ‘bitterness’ . how bitter would you be to be staging one of the world’s greatest events but you, and, as he said, most of the peloton, KNEW that riders were doped? how bitter if a guy tests positive on stage 1 yet animates the whole race, then gets busted? the whole system aids the dopers. if you question that, google ‘grand tour winners past 15 years’ and check.

      if i name names and get sued are you going to chip in? awesome. i’ll send you my bank details.

      about doing well on days they ‘forgot their drugs’ – check the asia tour results and work it out. certain teams aren’t there and it is a mish mash of a top ten – certain teams are there and they blanket the top ten. your comments are reminiscent of Verbruggen’s and MacQuaid’s towards Kimmage when he spoke out – just another underachiever throwing out accusations.

      you really do not know what you are talking about. but thanks for the comment.

  10. Hey Crrankpunk,
    Enjoy your commentary on the doping scene. Other clean riders must surely felt they were robbed of opportunity, especially those that try to make their cycling career stick. Did many of them quit..? Knowing they will enter races they cannot hope to win…..

    1. thanks Bad, cheers for the comment. yes, many of us quit, i was one. others mail me often, and i know others still who raced as pros, didn’t dope and for sure were robbed of advancing because of others who did dope. the sad thing is that it was so accepted – and if you see what McQuaid and the UCI have been doing, still is, generally. or seems so…

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