Cheat, or Quit | Within 1000 Days, Neo-Pro Cyclists Make a Difficult Choice
History has shown that society is very critical of athletes who take drugs to gain a competitive edge. Sometimes referred to as “doping,” taking steroids and other performance enhancers is considered to be “cheating” by fans and organizational bodies, even when the evidence shows that everyone is doing it.
Why is society so critical of athletes who take steroids? One explanation is that fans are simply unaware that doping is ubiquitous in professional sports. In a recent episode of Straight Talk MD, international anti-doping policy expert, Professor Paul Dimeo, explains that, in cycling, “doping” is practically a requirement, and how all new cyclists must face the conundrum at some point: Cheat, or give up your dreams.
“There’s a Scottish cyclist called David Miller, and he was caught with EPO. He wasn’t actually tested positive, but because he was in a team where other people had been caught, he had his apartment raided and they found syringes. Then eventually, under police interrogation, he confessed. But he hadn’t used them for very long, and in his autobiographical account, he says that when he arrived in the early 2000s, people said to him, “There’s no way you can do this clean. You’re gonna have to make a tough choice at some stage. Do you want to stay and compete at the highest level, or do you want to give up? If you want to be on a team and stay clean, you won’t get a good position in the team, and you won’t get a high place in any of the major events.”
"There's no way you can do this clean. You're gonna have to make a tough choice at some stage."
“There’s a lot of evidence which does suggest that cyclists were given that difficult choice to make. Tyler Hamilton, one of Lance Armstrong’s teammates, says that there’s this “thousand day” rule, almost a three year process. The first year, a neo-pro, a young professional, would turn up full of idealism, hoping to do it clean. Then the second year, he would come to realize, like David Miller did, that actually this may not be possible. And the third year would be the point where they had the choice. They had to make the choice whether to stay and dope and compete, or basically give up; give up their ambitions.”