Seeker Archives

Doping Spreading to Amateur Cyclists: Report

A smorgasbord of substances are available to amateur athletes from family doctors and online pharmacies.

New dirty details about doping in pro cycling during the past 20 years were revealed this week in a scathing report by an independent investigative group, including the growing problem of doping by amateur cyclists trying to outdo each other in friendly competition.

U.S. officials say the percentage of these "weekend warriors" using EPO, steroids and growth hormones is on the rise as performance-enhancing drugs have become easy to get from family doctors or online pharmacies.

"We are concerned about this," said Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. "We've had some positive [drug results] and brought cases against some of the riders in these ranks."

Are Tour Riders the Fittest Athletes in the World?

The 227-page report by the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) found that recent reforms are having an effect, but riders are adapting to new rules with "micro-dosing" small amounts of EPO, and using the cover of asthma in order to a doctor's exemption to use certain kinds of steroid-based inhalers. They are also finding new substances to get an edge.

The commission, formed in 2013 by the sport's governing body, interviewed 174 experts, riders, doctors and team officials. It found a flood of new substances or methods used to enhance blood oxygen capacity include Aicar, Xenon gas, ozone therapy, ITPP, Gas6, Actovegin, various forms of EPO such as CERA, "Eprex", EPO zeta, EPO Retacrit, Neorecormon, and Albumina. Most of these are used to help patients with severe anemia or blood disorders.

Products used to increase muscle growth and recovery include Kryptocur, Lutrelef, Gonasi, TB-500, Glucagone, Geref, Menogon, Proviron, Deca Durabolin, Testovis, Triacana, Dynatrope, Monores, and Hypertropin. Others products that have been mentioned to the CIRC are: IGF-1, Kenacort and Redux.

Tour de France: Top 10 Ways the Race Has Changed

There is also widespread use of weight-loss drugs, experimental medicine and powerful painkillers that are causing eating disorders, depression and even crashes in the professional peloton, according to the report.

Just as lightweight carbon bike frames, high-tech clothing and nutrition supplements have trickled down from the pros into the amateur ranks, so, too has the use of many of these drugs, the report found.

There are about 65,000 amateur cyclists in the United States who hold licenses allowing them to compete in road racing, mountain biking or BMX events. That compares to only about 1,500 professional domestic riders.

"The pressures to win at every level in our society are such that athletes if they think they can get away with it they will do it," Tygart said.

Last year, a 51-year old Colorado rider was busted for the second time and accepted an eight-year ban from competition. He tested positive for a banned stimulant in 2013 at the U.S. National Master's Championships.

In 2013, a 61-year-old South Carolinian admitted taking testosterone, EPO and amphetamines to go ride faster and recover more quickly.

USACycling, an organization that promotes cycling in the United States, recently started a testing some amateurs at races, said Micah Rice, vice president for events. He said there have been doctors who have prescribed themselves various drugs to race better. Others were found to be using dual-use drugs, like Viagra.

Is the Tough Mudder Too Dangerous?

"Sometimes you are talking about people that don't understand all the rules," Rice said. "If you are a pro racer, you know what you are not allowed to take and you are pretty careful about it. As a masters' racer, you might have just taken up the sport and all of a sudden you are getting tested. There are a lot of men that are taking everything from Viagra to testosterone because they can get it and they may be a little low on testosterone. Lot of people don't understand that it's not legal in bicycle racing."

Rice said the "Race Clean" program has expanded to cover about one-third of the major U.S. amateur events in the country. With drug testing costing several hundred dollars per sample, he is hopeful that the program's $250,000 budget can be expanded to include more races.

Just as lightweight bike frames, high-tech clothing and nutrition supplements have trickled down from the pros into the amateur ranks, so, too has the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Oct. 10, 2012

-- The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is detailing its doping file on seven-time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong. In August, Armstrong decided to drop his fight against more than a decade of charges that he doped during his career. After Armstrong's announcement, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said it would ban the cyclist for life and recommend he be stripped of all his Tour de France titles. The agency contends Armstrong and five former cycling team associates engaged in a doping conspiracy from 1998 to 2011. Saying that fighting the charges was taking time away from his family and his cause raising money for cancer research, Armstrong said, "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough,'" Armstrong said in a statement. "For me, that time is now." Armstrong retired from cycling in February 2011. The 39-year-old athlete from Texas had initially retired from cycling in 2005, but returned in 2009 to finish third in the Tour his first year back. Here, Armstrong surges during the final stage of the 1999 Tour de France -- the first of his Tour wins.

Armstrong won the Tour de France for a record-setting seven consecutive years from 1999 to 2005. Here Armstrong leads the pack as they climb the Col de la Croix de Fer during the10th stage of the 1999 Tour de France.

When he returned to the sport in 2009 at age 37, he said it was partly to promote cancer awareness through his charity Livestrong. Armstrong was known for his grit and extreme competitive spirit. Here he leads Christophe Moreau of France during the 13th stage of the 2000 Tour de France.

Armstrong's comeback from cancer and his consistent victories quickly made him a fan favorite. Here Armstrong is surrounded by fans on the Champs Elysees after winning the 2001 Tour de France.

Armstrong's storied career is not without controversy. Although he has never failed a drug doping test, rumors about alleged use of illegal substances to improve his performance have dogged him throughout his career. Here, Armstrong listens to the U.S. national anthem in front of the Arc de Triomphe during the podium ceremony of the 2001 Tour de France.

Former teammate Floyd Landis, who confessed to doping himself, has said that Armstrong systematically used performance enhancing drugs. Armstrong has continued to deny the claims, saying via his Twitter account last month: "I look forward to being vindicated." Here, media surrounds seven-time Tour de France champion after Stage 5 of the Tour Down Under on Jan. 24, 2009, in Australia.

Lance Armstrong at home in Austin, Texas, with one of his racing bikes Nov. 19, 2008.

During the peak of his career, Armstrong managed to escape any serious injury from crashes, which can be common in the sport. But he did go down during this July 21, 2003 Tour de France race after his handlebars caught on a plastic bag carried by a spectator.

RadioShack team rider Lance Armstrong during the 16th stage of the 2010 Tour de France. Due to falls -- and likely age -- Armstrong failed to repeat his performance after returning to the sport in 2009.

Armstrong's charity to promote cancer awareness, Livestrong, has raised more than $400 million. Part of the foundation's drive has included selling these rubber wristbands, made by Nike. At times the wristbands became ubiquitous, with many celebrities wearing the gold bands, including Bono, Alec Baldwin, Bruce Willis, Robin Williams, Matt Damon and Ben Stiller.

Armstrong mixed quite intimately with at least one celebrity when he was engage for a period to rock singer Sheryl Crow. Here the couple are shown after Armstrong won the team time trial fourth stage of the 2005 Tour de France. The pair called it quits in 2006.

Armstrong drives on during the 12th stage of the 2002 Tour de France. He would win the stage and the Tour -- again. While the record books soon will likely no longer reflect that Armstrong ever won a Tour de France, Armstrong claims he is at peace with his legacy. "I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours...Nobody can ever change that," he said.