Monday, July 31, 2006

Other sports and doping

Because I can, I will comment on drugs, doping and what have you. It's just my opinion but I personally realised something was truly happening - as against being told by press or dodgy friends what "was" happening - when I spent time in an eastern suburbs gym in Sydney, building up for bike racing (more of a psychological boost than a physical one). This was the mid 1980's. These big, shiny, oily pimply guys were always there lifting massive weights (and gazing into mirrors) and they could sell you "stuff". It reminded me of 'under the stairs' deal at high school, actually, but different stuff. That other stuff you got at the pub and was detrimental to sports performance, or general sanity for that matter. (Not that I did, but some people did do that other stuff, anyway!)

So you could buy any sort of body-building drug at that particular gym, in my experience. Presumably other gyms as well. I also "knew" about the occasional cyclist's drink bottle ("bidon") that (it was suggested) contained alcohol, to give some sort of kick up hills or before a sprint. Don't know how effective it was, but a few people seemed to like it and claimed to "know". Bikes of course are build to carry bidons as well as riders and musette bags, but what about other sports?

'No-Doze' was also big in the '80s for that caffeine kick, and coffee itself gained notoriety in sports where being "aware" and awake was important. Again in cycling there were "special" bananas to be eaten just before a race finish. Now these were reputedly spiked with amphetamines, but who knows the truth? No-one did a laboratory analysis on this sort of stuff at the time and it may have been riders just bragging. But very, very few people were drug tested pre or post race, even at elite State level back then, so anything could have happened. (And I have yet to see a club-level drug test, even now. Tell me if you've seen one!)

So I can imagine, and it is just imagination fueled by innuendo and availability (particularly via the Internet), that some bike racers are using performance enhancing agents to "get noticed"; firstly at club level (basically weekly racing thoughout the year) and probably at State level. They would effectively get away with it. Testing remains something done at higher levels of the sport, not below. Not often, anyway, in my experience, would they get caught. On the other hand I have never myself seen a culture of drug use in cycling at first hand, beyond caffeine and stories of what other riders did. I heard about but didn't see the evidence.

Nevertheless we quite possibly get riders started on this stuff early and then they either chicken out, or get smarter. Or dumber? If there's money involved there's temptation. Of course cycling is not as "wealthy" as some other sports.

So what happens in other sports?

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