My latest post, in which I admit to doping

There was a time in my life, not so long ago — okay, maybe longer than I care to admit — when cycling was my life.

It was right after my starving writer phase, which, as it turns out, isn’t nearly as romantic as it sounds when you’re the one starving. And since no one wanted to read my writing – or more precisely, no one wanted to pay me so other people could read my writing (whoa, déjà vu!) – I shifted my focus to something that paid every bit as well.

So for the next 6 months or so, I rode my bike.

I built my own wheels. Stripped my bike down to the bearings and rebuilt it from the ground up to make sure every part was lubed, tightened and adjusted to perfection. I stretched. I read about cycling. I dreamed about cycling.

And I rode. At least 50 miles a day, every day. Other than the occasional attentions of a cute little pastry chef, that was my life, from the time I got up until I slid my aching thighs back into bed.

And I would have snorted peanut butter, black tar heroin or thermonuclear waste if I thought it would make me a better rider.

I’ve been thinking about that lately, after our local Bike Snob pointed out yet another cyclist caught doping, on a team dedicated to riders with questionable reps.

I’ve written before about my disappointment when Floyd Landis lost his appeal, even though my initial reaction, as I watched him race, was that he had to be on something to rebound the way he did after bonking so badly the day before.

It also broke my heart when fellow Colorado boy Tyler Hamilton was busted. And I’ve long wanted to believe that Lance Armstrong is merely super-human, despite the insistence of the French, as well as Greg LeMond’s apparent insistence that he was the only clean Tour de France winner since Maurice Garin crossed the finish line in 1903.

(Am I the only one to notice that only Americans with names starting with L are allowed to win le Tour? Which means I’ll be putting my money on Levi Leipheimer if Astana can get back in.)

Then again, who’s to say that the great racers of the pre-testing era, like Bernard Hinault or the legendary Eddy Merckx, weren’t on something themselves? There’s no reason to believe they were, of course, just as there’s no proof they weren’t, other than the fact that they dominated their eras every bit as much as Armstrong did his.

But they weren’t tested, so we’ll never know for sure. And even getting repeatedly tested over a seven year period doesn’t seem to convince some people.

But then, that’s what we do. We take things.

Because if there’s something we think will make us ride a little better, a little farther, a little faster, we’ll try it. Whether it’s Lance Armstrong’s energy drink or a shot of gel for that extra boost in the middle of a ride.

Don’t believe me? Just check out the checkout counter of your nearest bike shop, and count the number or gels, bars, shots and other assorted sugar-based supplements. Or pick up a copy of any cycling magazine and see if the supplement ads outnumber the bike ads this month.

It just seems to me that there’s not a lot of difference between the creatine & amino shakes I downed back then, and doping with EPO or testosterone. One is legal, while the others aren’t. But they all build strength and boost performance.

It’s just a matter of degree.

Timur explores downtown, while a group of riders take a slightly longer tour around the city. Will manages to get back home from Newport Beach car free, despite a series of rail-based misadventures. And this just in, Damien and Gary announces that the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights has been passed by the L.A. City Council, not that it will mean anything if our local bureaucrats don’t pay any attention to the city leaders. Still, we all owe a big round of thanks to the Bike Writers Collective, who not only kicked it all off, but pushed it over the goal line.

Thank you, guys. We owe you.


  1. Yeah, I was running Track in the 90s when creatine got popular. I always felt it should be banned. At some point, as in all things, it gets a little arbirtrary, but with creatine – you can’t get a lot more of it just by eating differently, so it was pretty artificial.

    For that matter, caffeine is banned in large doses, but not really tested for. At the marathon distance, I feel it should be outright banned. The evidence is so strong that it makes a big difference.

    I’ll tell you what, when I hit middle age I probably will take hormones under the supervision of a doctor if I can afford it = it can be such a quality of life boost. But I also wouldn’t compete if I were – it just wouldn’t be fair to the people who were.

    Ramble ramble . . . there is no point to this particular comment!

  2. Aha – I’ve been searching in my mind for a suitable criteria for what’s natural and should be legal, and what’s not. It hit me before I went to close this tab:

    Anything that would have been, at least in nutritional make up, part of the average stone age diet, should be legal. Everything else should be banned.

    All our athletes would be eating organic fair trade free range!

  3. bikinginla says:

    For the most part, I have to agree with you. On the other hand, once you get to my age and discover that the body just doesn’t respond the way it used to, artificial means start to look a lot more attractive. Maybe the criteria should be, young guys like you can’t take anything that’s not natural, while old farts like me can use anything we can get our hands on… you know, to level the playing field.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go hook up my coffee I.V.

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