Last year, I ran a daily email following the stages in the Tour de France. A number of friends participated in a fantasy game where you allocate a team and win points if the riders are placed in each stage.
Whilst trying to rally support for a game in this year’s edition, the news broke that Jan Ullrich, the likely contender to win the tour this year, and Ivan Basso who was also on the podium last year, have been suspended due to alleged doping.
The accusations centre around blood transfusions: the riders have blood extracted at a previous time. This is then stored and re-transfused just before major races, giving them a 10-15% performance advantage as their blood is extra-oxygenated.
I’m not so motivated to watch and report on the tour this year. Lance Armstrong’s two possible successors are out, and many other teams are reduced to less riders as there are many suspended athletes.
Doping has been a scourge to cycling, but I think it’s unfairly singled out since endurance for an event like the Tour puts the athletes very much under the spotlight. 200km+ per day for 2-3 weeks makes phenomenal demands on the body.
Look me in the (virtual) eye and tell me that there aren’t performance enhancing methods going undetected in major sports.