“Doper-lovers are no different to battered wives”

“What is he on about?” I hear you thinking.


First off, this was a comment I overheard recently in a bike shop. It forced my eyebrows up and got me thinking.

The guy’s assertion was that because these cycling fans that keep shoveling the love onto exposed dopers are forever getting trounced by new evelations of cheating and fraud yet keep going back, it’s akin to abused partners returning to their spouses despite the fact that they know it will end in tears and, most likely, bruises yet again.

My first reaction was ‘yeah, he’s right’.

You could posit cycling as a professional sport itself as ‘the aggressive spouse’ in that formula, I thought, and it might just work.

After all, abused partners can just leave, right? Yet they don’t, much like those fans who still kneel at the pedestal of Hincapie or Pantani.

Read the forums (especially from America, where a good many think those good ol’ boys just did what they had to do to survive) and you’ll be struck by how many commentators still flock to defend those proven categorically to have been cheating for years.

Should we really be surprised though? A recent survey showed that convicted dopers that own up to their doping see a huge fall in their approval rating amongst sports fans. But what happens when the athlete maintains their innocence? The approval rate dips slightly but still stays high.

Seems people would rather be lied even though the evidence points to guilt, rather than being made to feel like a chump that’s been taken for a ride.

Some brands make direct emotional plays on this mis-directed and delusional love, such as Rapha recently with its Marco Pantani-inspired kit, to sell their stuff.

The blog that is connected with the Pantani jersey talks about how the Italian was mentally ill and vulnerable – which is very true, yet makes no attempt to hide the fact that all profits go nowhere – certainly not towards a charity treating mentally ill athletes, for example – other than into Rapha’s own delicately designed and very expensive back pocket.

The riders (and the brands that make money from being associated with teams that contain dopers (Specialized with Astana) and individuals (Oakley and Nike with Armstrong)) have monetized the art of duplicity, getting rich from their riders’ doped up success whilst the sport they profess to love is left to rot.

The act of doping is a direct middle finger to the sport and to its fans, and yet, as mentioned, there are those who always trot back for more.

Just like a battered wife to her violent husband.


Well no, not really.

Despite initially agreeing with the guy in the bike shop, on closer inspection I realized that this was not a fair assessment. In fact, it was one that ignored the truths regarding spousal abuse and avoided the reality that these fans who keep going back to worship at the pedestal of their fallen idols are indeed mentally insane.

I laughed as I just wrote those last few words, but bear with me.

Before I go on I would like to say this is not intended to be a flippant nor facile article that belittles those who suffer from spousal abuse, in fact quite the opposite. What I intend to do is to demonstrate how the mental and emotional pressures that abused spouses are suffering from is so very different to the ‘doper-lover’.

Much of the rhetoric about inter-relationship abuse is met by outsiders (ie those not being abused themselves) with the question “Why don’t they just leave?”

This is a question that simplifies and distorts the problem and places the responsibility firmly into the lap of the abused.

First of all, an abused woman very often simply has nowhere to go.

The cycling fan? Where does he have to go? Well, anywhere. There are scores of cyclists out there worthy of respect. Nicole Cooke, Sir Chris Hoy, Taylor Phinney, local riders who ride clean, others like Will Routley are riders who have shown that you can win clean at the highest level.

There are others on the World Tour circus who sound clean and look clean to consider too.

Secondly, a battered partner can very often not afford to leave.

Can the cycling fan not afford to leave the abuser?

Course they can. Most are fairly minted, for one. And if their circle of bike buddies still herald the achievements of the Grand Dopers then they should either find a way to voice their opinions or finds new friends.

That is called ‘growing a backbone’, not gathering the Herculean courage to leave a man who might, and might actually intend to, kill you.

The third reason that abused people in relationships have such a hard time leaving is that batterers tend to be very controlling individuals.

Now clearly in cycling these dopers – oh wait. OK, I’ll give you that one.

These fans invest time, energy and very often money (buying the same brand of bikes, jerseys, DVDs, magazines that have their idols in them, and of course their ‘i’m only sorry i got busted’ books) in these guys and they have most likely defended them online or on bike rides or even to their non-cycling friends.

They also stay silent about national and international federations that have allowed (and in some cases actually facilitated) doping.

If they actually do know that this is ridiculous, it must kind of be like becoming a vicar, then realising after 20 years that you don’t believe in God.

How much would that suck?

Whatever goes on in the head of those cycling ‘fans’ that still defend the Old Boys (and the New) who juice is beyond me. I can see the threads of what looks like reason there peeping out of their heads but they just trail off to nowhere in the end.

Much like a computer with a virus, that is a problem I cannot even begin to try to fix.


The Official DoperFanBoy Club Theme Song…



Author: Lee Rodgers

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

7 thoughts

  1. Great article…. a very interesting point of view. My 2 cents is that pro sports in general will always have doping problems because of the money involved. So the solution is to abandon pro sports. Not that we would not have sports but people would pursue them on an amateur basis. My stand is I contribute as little as possible to pro sports. Sure if a race is streamed free over the net I might watch but I wont pay for it. I try to buy products will no regard to sponsorship and would pass up some products because of their sponsorships. Sure I have team jerseys but only because they were so cheap I could not pass them up.

    1. thanks Bryin for the comment, much appreciated. I think that one point that people miss when it comes to doping is this – for many guys, it isn’t the money, it is the kudos. look at how bad doping is in the amateur ranks in Masters racing, or on the Gran Fondo scene in Europe. these guys don’t get cash, not substantial. they do get FB likes though, and articles written about them, and nice shiny kit from sponsors, and, most importantly, respect and admiration from local riders, and even internationally. the USA and the USSR pursued doping programs when it wasn’t about $, but ideologies. so, it ain’t always the dough that drives this.

  2. Come one Lee… get off you damn horse already. Just because your a washed up hack that couldn’t make it in the big leagues stop trying to blame everyone but yourself. It was one thing to blame the “dopers” but now you’re going after the fans? Come on dude, really?

    The true reality is that most people (and by most I meant the majority) look at the doping as it was something the entire peloton did. No matter what you say or do, doesn’t change the fact that the “fraud-o’s” as you call them are consistently the highest attended events in the country and they’re numbers keep increasing. Shit even Hincapie’s event received a record increase in attendees after the media went wild with the story about Lance being there.

    So go ahead keep writing about this stuff… all you do is make them more popular!!

    1. NAC i know records are hard to come by these days but maybe you could change the MP3? it’s getting a little samey.

      a bit of wit might rescue the drone.

      lots of people still buy Michael Jackson records and still think he was a nice chap.

      don’t make it right though does it?

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