- One year after the huge doping scandal in 1998 that involved police raids, arrests and a rider strike, everybody was nervous. French law treats doping as a criminal offence and numerous accounts later written about the 1999 Tour de France paint a picture of a sport terrified of being caught.
- But not everyone got the memo. In his book The Secret Race, former Armstrong team-mate Tyler Hamilton described the elaborate subterfuges used to get EPO, the drug of choice, to the team’s riders. And analysis of 1999-era urine samples done years later, after an EPO test was developed, supports his claims.The tests, which Mr. Armstrong has disputed, showed the drug in 40 per cent of his samples. Among the other riders tested, the drug was present in only 8.6 per cent of samples. The disparity feeds the criticism that Mr. Armstrong won his first Tour by riding dirty in an era that was trying to clean up, thereby showing the rest of the field that they would need to start doping again to keep up.
All of the resources that were put towards cleaning up the sport, all the riders who were changing their ways, all the effort to rebuild a tarnished sport. It was working as it should. But allegedly one of a few riders didn't play ball and he was the one winning all the races, and making millions upon millions of dollars.
I think that's why I believe blanket changes to racing will not solve any big issues. If 99 out of 100 people stopped entering the dark side to win races, that one person can get all the glory. A high win percentage begets more owners, better and better horses and more and more money. The incentive never goes away. And the cycle just continues as you have more trainers trying to keep up.