The only sport that seems to have more trouble with athletes using illegal performance enhancing drugs than baseball is professional cycling. The latest big name to go down is German Stefan Schumacher. Some of you may remember him winning both time trials in this year’s Tour de France and wearing the yellow jersey for two stages. He was caught using CERA, an advanced form of blood doping agent EPO, using a new lab test. Two other riders, who combined with Schumacher for 5 of the 21 stage wins in this year’s Tour, were also recently caught using the advanced test.
Even Bjarne Riis, winner of the 1996 Tour de France and coach of this year’s winning team, recently admitted he used EPO to win the race. The top rider for Riis’ team in 2006, Ivan Basso, was prohibited from riding that year due to his relationship with known blood doping doctors. Basso had taken second place in the Tour the last year Lance Armstrong rode it and looked poised to be the next dominant champion.
Other top finishers in the most prestigious bicycle race have been exposed as cheaters. Michael Rassmusen took fourth in 2005 and held the yellow jersey in 2006 for most of the race until he was removed by his team for missing multiple drug tests. 1997 Tour winner, and five-time runner up to Lance Armstrong, Jan Ulrich disgracefully ended his career due to relationships with the same doctors as Ivan Basso.
Unfortunately, American riders are no strangers to blood doping. In 2003 Tyler Hamilton took fourth overall in the Tour de France despite a broken collarbone suffered in Stage 1. However, multiple failed drug tests in 2004 landed him a two-year ban from cycling but he managed to keep his Olympic gold medal on a technicality. Even more infamous is cyclist Floyd Landis who earned the dubious honor as the only professional rider to ever be stripped of the overall Tour de France win. He was later found a cheater for his testosterone to epitestosterone ratio and stripped of his yellow jersey.
This is only a few of the many cheaters who have been caught. Numerous other top riders and Tour stage winners have been busted for EPO and other illegal drugs. No one can be sure how many have gone undetected. Lance Armstrong’s return to cycling has created a huge stir and rekindled debate over this burning, lingering issue of blood doping in professional cycling.