Doping at the Tour de France

Doping at the Tour de France
Spectators' banner during the Tour de France 2006

There have been allegations of doping in the Tour de France since the race began in 1903. Early Tour riders consumed alcohol and used ether, among other substances, as a means of dulling the pain of competing in endurance cycling.[1] Riders began using substances as a means of increasing performance rather than dulling the senses, and organizing bodies such as the Tour and the International Cycling Union (UCI), as well as government bodies, enacted policies to combat the practice.

Use of performance-enhancing drugs in cycling predates the Tour de France. Cycling having been from the start a sport of extremes, whether of speed by being paced by tandems, motorcycles and even cars, or of distance, the suffering involved encouraged the means to alleviate it. Not until after World War II were sporting or even particularly health issues raised. Those came shortly before the death of Tom Simpson in the Tour de France of 1967. Max Novich referred to the Tour de France in a 1973 issue of New York State Journal of Medicine as "a cycling nightmare".[2] In the eyes of a 1998 German observer:

For as long as the Tour has existed, since 1903, its participants have been doping themselves. No dope, no hope. The Tour, in fact, is only possible because - not despite the fact - there is doping. For 60 years this was allowed. For the past 30 years it has been officially prohibited. Yet the fact remains; great cyclists have been doping themselves, then as now.[3]


Early doping in cycling

Major Taylor racing in Paris 1908

Drug-taking in cycling predates the Tour de France. "It existed, it has always existed," said the French reporter and author, Pierre Chany, who followed 49 Tours before his death in 1996.[4] The exhaustion of six-day races on the track was countered by the riders' soigneurs (the French word for "carer"), helpers akin to seconds in boxing. Among the treatments they supplied was nitroglycerine, a drug used to stimulate the heart after cardiac attacks and which was credited with improving riders' breathing.[5] Riders suffered hallucinations from the exhaustion and perhaps the drugs. The American champion Major Taylor refused to continue the New York race, saying: "I cannot go on with safety, for there is a man chasing me around the ring with a knife in his hand."[6]

Also used was strychnine, which in small doses tightened tired muscles. A track rider of the era said he had developed such a tolerance to the drug that he took doses large enough to kill smaller men.[7] The use of strychnine, far from being banned, was thought necessary to survive demanding races, says the sports historian Alain Lunzenfichter.[8]

The American specialist in doping, Max M. Novich, wrote: "Trainers of the old school who supplied treatments which had cocaine as their base declared with assurance that a rider tired by a six-day race would get his second breath after absorbing these mixtures."[9] John Hoberman, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, said six-day races were "de facto experiments investigating the physiology of stress as well as the substances that might alleviate exhaustion."[10]

The first backers of races on the road were newspapers. Although Le Vélocipède Illustré, which was behind the world's first long-distance road race in November 1869, said its purpose was "to further the good cause of the bicycle" because "it must be determined that the bicycle can be raced over considerable distances with incomparably less fatigue than running",[11] it can't have escaped the circulation department that the race would do the newspaper's sales a lot of good as well. In an era before radio and television, newspapers could build the drama of a race for weeks, rely on customers buying a further copy on the day to prepare for the riders to pass and then another next day to see what had become of them. Few people had travelled 130 km, at least not often, and the idea of doing it by bicycle and at as high a speed as possible when the roads were potholed and bicycles had wooden wheels and metal tyres was exciting. The result was that newspapers outdid each other in promotions. In 1891, came a race from Bordeaux to Paris. In the same year, Le Petit Journal went twice as far by running Paris–Brest–Paris over 1,200 km.

The whole lot was topped, deliberately, during a meeting at L'Auto in Paris when journalist Géo Lefèvre suggested a race right round France, not just one day but six, "like the six-day races on the track."[12] The idea of bringing the excess of the indoors to the roads of the outdoors was born. And with it came the practices which had seen riders through their suffering.

1903-1940s: Doping as acceptable means

The strongest drug in the early Tour de France was strychnine. Other than that, riders would take anything to survive the tedium, the pain and the exhaustion of stages that could last more than 300 km. That included alcohol, which was already strong in French culture and sometimes purer than water after World War I destroyed water pipes and polluted water tables, and ether. There are photographs of riders holding ether-soaked handkerchiefs to their mouths, or leaving them knotted under the chin so the fumes would deaden the pain in their legs.[13] The smell, enough to turn a man's stomach said Pierre Chany,[14] discouraged some but also showed the extent of suffering by others. Roger Lapébie, winner of the Tour in 1937, said he smelled ether "in the bunch near the finish; it used to be taken in a little bottle called a topette."[15] Its use lasted decades; riders were caught using it as late as 1963.

The acceptance of drug-taking in the Tour de France was so complete by 1930, when the race changed to national teams that were to be paid for by the organisers, that the rule book distributed to riders by the organiser, Henri Desgrange, reminded them that drugs were not among items with which they would be provided.[16] In a 1949 interview with Fausto Coppi, the 1949 and 1952 Tour winner, he admitted to amphetamine use and said "those who claim [that cyclists do not take amphetamine], it's not worth talking to them about cycling".[17]

The Convicts of the Road

In 1924 the journalist Albert Londres followed the Tour de France for the French newspaper, Le Petit Parisien. At Coutances he heard that the previous year's winner, Henri Pélissier, his brother Francis and a third rider, Maurice Ville, had pulled out after a row with the organiser, Henri Desgrange. Henri Pélissier explained the problem - whether or not he had the right to take off a jersey - and went on to talk of drugs, reported in Londres' race diary, in which he coined the phrase Les Forçats de la Route (The Convicts of the Road):

Henri Pelissier, 1919
"You have no idea what the Tour de France is," Henri said. "It's a Calvary. Worse than that, because the road to the Cross has only 14 stations and ours has 15. We suffer from the start to the end. You want to know how we keep going? Here..." He pulled a phial from his bag. "That's cocaine, for our eyes. This is chloroform, for our gums."
"This," Ville said, emptying his shoulder bag "is liniment to put warmth back into our knees."
"And pills. Do you want to see pills? Have a look, here are the pills." Each pulled out three boxes.
"The truth is," Francis said, "that we keep going on dynamite."

Henri spoke of being as white as shrouds once the dirt of the day had been washed off, then of their bodies being drained by diarrhoea, before continuing:

"At night, in our rooms, we can't sleep. We twitch and dance and jig about as though we were doing St Vitus's Dance..."
"There's less flesh on our bodies than on a skeleton," Francis said.[18]

Francis Pélissier said much later: "Londres was a famous reporter but he didn't know about cycling. We kidded him a bit with our cocaine and our pills. Even so, the Tour de France in 1924 was no picnic.[19][20]

1950s-1960s: Early anti-doping stance

Pierre Dumas was the first doctor to campaign for the testing and suppression of doping, both within cycling and then at international level at the Olympic Games. Dumas came to the Tour de France in 1952 when the original doctor pulled out. Dumas was a judoka rather than a cyclist and had none of the preconceptions established in cycling. He discovered a world in which "there were soigneurs, fakirs, who came from the six-days. Their value was in the contents of their case. Riders took anything they were given, even bee stings and toad extract." He spoke of "medicine from the heart of Africa... healers laying on hands or giving out irradiating balms, feet plunged into unbelievable mixtures which could lead to eczema, so-called magnetised diets and everything else you could imagine. In 1953 and 1954 it was all magic, medicine and sorcery. After that, they started reading Vidal [the French medicine directory]."[21]

Such was the extent to which stronger drugs entered cycling that the French team manager, Marcel Bidot, was cited to an inquiry by the Council of Europe as saying: "Three-quarters of riders were doped. I am well placed to know that since I visited their rooms each evening during the Tour. I always left frightened after these visits."[19] At the 1956 Tour, it was evident how much drug-taking and the "care" of riders had changed. After stage 14, all members of the Belgian team chose to abandon the race following a "mystery illness". Insiders suspected doping usage as the real reason, while the team attributed the illness to a dinner of 'bad fish' they had eaten,[22] an excuse which was reused in both 1962 and 1991.

In 1960, Pierre Dumas walked into a hotel bedroom on his nightly tour of teams to find eventual winner Gastone Nencini prone on his bed with a plastic tube running from each arm to a bottle containing hormones.[23] However, the hormone injection was not illegal at the time, and indeed only few were disqualified or sanctioned whenever they were found out to use doping.[22]

The Malléjac incident

On stage 12 of the 1955 Tour, the riders went over Mount Ventoux. Ten kilometres from the summit, said the journalist Jacques Augendre, French rider Jean Malléjac was: "Streaming with sweat, haggard and comatose, he was zigzagging and the road wasn't wide enough for him... He was already no longer in the real world, still less in the world of cyclists and the Tour de France."[19] Malléjac collapsed, falling to the ground with one foot still trapped in a pedal. The other leg pedalled on in the air. He was, said Pierre Chany, "completely unconscious, his face the colour of a corpse, a freezing sweat ran on his forehead.[12]

Malléjac was hauled to the side of the road by Sauveur Ducazeaux, an official of another team, and Dumas summoned. Georges Pahnoud of the Télégramme de Brest reported:

He had to force [Malléjec's] jaws apart to try to make him drink and it was a quarter of an hour later, after he had received an injection of solucamphor and been given oxygen, that Malléjac regained consciousness. Taken by ambulance, he hadn't however completely recovered. He fought, he gesticulated, he shouted, demanded his bike, wanted to get out.

Dumas had to strap Malléjac down for the journey to hospital at Avignon. Mallejac insisted that he had been given a drugged bottle from a soigneur, whom he didn't name, and said that while his other belongings had reached the hospital intact, the bottle had been emptied and couldn't be analysed.[24] Malléjac insisted that he wanted to start legal proceedings, and Dumas said: "I'm prepared to call for a charge of attempted murder." The incident was never resolved however, with Mallejac returning for subsequent Tours and denying any wrongdoing for the rest of his life.

Too drugged to pull on the brakes

In the 1960 Tour, Roger Rivière was second to the Italian Gastone Nencini, a rider he planned to beat by tagging along with him in the mountains and then speeding away on the flat. The problem was that Nencini was lighter and a better climber and that he was such a fast descender that, in the view of another French rider, Raphaël Géminiani, "the only reason to follow Nencini downhill is if you've got a death wish."

A monument recording the fall of Rivière.

Rivière was able to stay with Nencini on the climb to the Col de Perjuret, as the pair crossed the summit together. Then came a series of descending zigzags. Nencini took the perfect line and Rivière, trying to match him, overshot a bend, fell into a ravine, and broke his back. There he was found by his team-mate, Louis Rostollan.

Rivière quickly passed the blame for his fall and his broken back on the team mechanic, accusing him of leaving oil on the wheels and the brakes for not working. The mechanic was outraged, and the doctors soon found the real reason - that so much painkiller was in Rivière's blood that his hands were too slow to operate the brakes. He had taken a heavy dose of the painkiller, Palfium, to help him stay with Nencini on Col de Perjuret.[22] Rivière later admitted to being a drug addict, telling a newspaper how he had doped to beat the world hour record,[25] and admitted downing thousands of tablets a year.

The Wiel's affair

The stage from Luchon to Carcassonne in 1962 set off 10 minutes later than scheduled because the German rider, Hans Junkermann, had been ill most of the night. At first he wasn't going to start. When he said that after all he felt well enough, the organisers gave him the extra time to get ready. Junkermann was leader of the Wiel's-Groene Leeuw team and was allowed his privilege because he was in eighth position.

Junkermann soon dropped to the back of the field and after 50 km he lost contact. On the first hill he got off his bike and sat by the roadside. "I ate bad fish at the hotel last night," he told onlookers. The same complaint came all day. A total twenty riders fell ill, and eleven others abandoned the Tour that day, including the former leader, Willy Schroeders, the 1960 winner Gastone Nencini and a future leader, Karl-Heinz Kunde.

Jacques Goddet wrote that he suspected doping but nothing was proven - other than that none of the hotels the previous night had served fish, the hoteliers being anxious to clear their reputation. Pierre Dumas spoke of "certain preparations" and speculated the riders were given the same tainted drug by one of the soigneurs.[22] Team managers grew angry at the several days of newspaper reporting that followed and came close to calling for a strike.

1965: Criminalization of doping

In 1960, the Danish rider Knud Enemark Jensen collapsed during the 100 km team time trial at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and died later in hospital. The autopsy showed he had taken amphetamine and another drug, Ronicol, which dilates the blood vessels. Pierre Dumas then led a committee of doctors demanding tests at the following Games. A national anti-doping law entered French legislation in June 1965.[26] Performance-enhancing drugs were now illegal in France, and the first anti-doping testing began at the 1966 Tour. That year, amphetamine use in France was running at almost a third of those tested.[20]

Alec Taylor, team manager of rider Tom Simpson who died following doping usage in the 1967 Tour, said officials treated controls in fear, knowing what was there, afraid of what they might find.

Race officials, federations, even the law on the Continent have been lax. Before Tom's death I saw on the Continent the overcautious way riders were tested for dope, as if the authorities feared to lift the veil, scared of how to handle the results; knowing all the while what they would be. They called on the law to act, enabling them to shelter under its wing and feel secure from interminable court actions and claims. They let the show carry on while the law acted light-heartedly, without vigour and purpose - and its deterrent had no effect.[27]

The first anti-doping test and a strike

Testers arrived at the Tour de France for the first time in 1966, in Bordeaux, although only after word had spread and many riders had left their hotels. The first competitor they found was Raymond Poulidor, who became the first rider to be tested in the Tour. He said:

"I was strolling down the corridor in ordinary clothes when I came across two guys in plain clothes. They showed me their cards and said to me: 'You're riding the Tour?'
"I said: 'Yes'.
'You're a rider?'
"I said: 'Yes'.
'OK, come with us.'
"I swear it happened just like that. They made me go into a room, I pissed into some bottles and they closed them without sealing them. Then they took my name, my date of birth, without asking for anything to check my identity. I could have been anyone, and they could have done anything they liked with the bottles."[28]

A few other riders were found, including Rik van Looy; some obliged and others refused. Next morning, the race left the city on the way to the Pyrenees and stopped in the suburb of Gradignan, in the university area of La House. The riders climbed off and began walking, shouting protests in general and in particular abuse at Pierre Dumas, whom some demanded should also take a test to see if he'd been drinking wine or taking aspirin to make his own job easier.

The death of Tom Simpson

File:Provence ventoux simpson1.JPG
Memorial monument of Tom Simpson at the Mont Ventoux.

Tom Simpson was the leader of the British team in the 1967 Tour de France. At the start of stage 13 on Thursday 13 July, he was still suffering the effects of a stomach bug he had endured earlier in the race. It was a blisteringly hot day, and he was seen to drink brandy during the early parts of the stage. In those years, the organisers limited each rider to four bottles of water each, about two litres - the effects of dehydration being poorly understood. During races, riders often raided roadside bars and cafes for drinks, and filled their bottles from fountains.

About two kilometres from the summit of the day's main climb, Mont Ventoux, Simpson began to zig-zag across the road, eventually falling against an embankment. While his team-car helpers wanted him to retire from the race, Simpson insisted on being put back on his cycle and he continued for another 500m or so before again beginning to falter; he toppled unconscious into the arms of his helpers, still gripping his handlebars. A motorcycle policeman summoned Pierre Dumas, who took over team officials' first attempts at saving Simpson, including mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Dumas massaged Simpson's heart and gave him oxygen. A race helicopter then took Simpson to hospital but Simpson was declared dead soon after his arrival.

Drug usage was only hinted at in the news coverage, particularly by Jacques Goddet, who referred in L'Équipe to Simpson's "errors in the way he looked after himself." Then a British reporter, J. L. Manning, broke the news that two empty tubes and a third full of amphetamines were found in the pocket of his jersey.[29] Manning was a serious and well-respected journalist. His exposure, the first time a formal connection had been made between drugs and Simpson's death, set off a wave of similar reporting in Britain and elsewhere. The following month, Manning went further, in a piece headed "Evidence in the case of Simpson who crossed the frontier of endurance without being able to know he had 'had enough'":

The question of whether Tommy Simpson's death in the Tour de France might have been prevented has one clear answer. Yes, and it should have been. Three days after this year's race, the French authorities announced that next October and November a French and Italian rider would be prosecuted for alleged doping offences in last year's Tour. France had surrendered the need rigrously to prevent doping to the discreet requirement of not tackling it on a big tourist occasion until a year had safely passed. It takes two days at most to analyse samples: it took a year for France to authorise prosecutions.
[...] Is France trying to hush up the scandals of the Tour? I say yes. The first act of hushing up is not to attempt detection, let alone waiting a year before taking action. How much husher can you get?

Steroids and allied drugs

Merckx at the 1974 World Cycling Championships held in Montreal.

During 1974, a number of riders were tested positive for amphetamines, including Claude Tollet at the Tour. In 1977, a test for amphetamine-like drug Pemoline was perfected, catching five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx among others. Far from abandoning drugs, riders and their helpers concentrated on finding alternatives that could not be detected. Five-time Tour de France winner Jacques Anquetil argued that stopping riders using amphetamine would not stop doping, but merely lead riders to use more dangerous drugs. In the 1970s, cycling moved into the steroid era. According to Dr Jean-Pierre de Mondenard, steroids were not used to build muscle bulk, but rather to improve recovery and thereby let competitors train harder and longer and with less rest. There is also a secondary stimulant effect.

De Mondenard argued that such was the acceptance of steroids and then of corticoids that only the cost - which he put in prices of the time as between 35,000 and 50,000 French francs - was likely to restrict use. Only the richest or the most ambitious riders could afford that. And the rewards could be high: Bernard Thévenet won the 1975 and 1977 Tour de France editions by using cortisone. "I was doped with cortisone for three years and there were many like me," he said.[30] The experience had ruined his health, he said.

Testing took time to adapt, but in 1978 Belgian rider Jean-Luc van den Broucke was found positive of steroid use, and said:

In the Tour de France, I took steroids. That is not a stimulant, just a strengthener. If I hadn't, I would have had to give up. [...] On the first rest day, before we went into the Pyrenees, I had a first hormone injection. I had another one on the second day, at the start of the last week. You can't call that medically harmful, not if it's done under a doctor's control and within reason.
There was a mass of steroids used in the Tour, everyone will admit that. How can we stay at the top otherwise? Even at Munich [at the world track championship] it was used a lot. I hope the riders will get together next season and take action. Who can ride classics and long-distance Tours the whole year through without strengtheners?[31]

The Pollentier incident

Riders became adept at circumventing controls. Their advisers learned to calculate how long it would take a drug to move from blood into urine, and therefore how much time a rider could risk waiting before going to a drugs test. And sometimes riders simply cheated. In 1978 the world discovered how it could be done.

The rider was Michel Pollentier, who that year was Belgian national champion and therefore wearing his national colours of red, yellow and black. By the end of the stage which finished on Alpe d'Huez he had taken the race lead and could change his champion's jersey for the maillot jaune.

Pollentier was called to the drugs test with José Nazabal and Antoine Guttierez. Nazabal gave his sample but anticipated the positive result by leaving the race that night. When Guttierez went to provide his sample, the doctor - a man called Le Calvez spending his first day with the race - grew suspicious and tugged up his jersey, revealing a system of tubes and a bottle of urine. He then pulled down Pollentier's shorts and found him similarly equipped. Reports in the press called the supply of urine - somebody else's urine - as being in a bottle. Riders called it a "pear". In fact it was a condom. The tube ran from there to the riders' shorts so that pressure on the condom, held under the armpit, would give the impression of urinating.[32]

Pollentier's manager, Fred De Bruyne, who was in the test caravan, told a news conference:

I congratulated Michel and then sat down. On my left was Guttierez, trying to provide a sample for the doctor, while Pollentier was in the other corner. They both had difficulty in urinating... Suddenly, the doctor cried out: 'What are you doing?' to Guttierez. I looked round and saw there was some urine in the Frenchman's test flask and a small plastic tube in his hand. He was confused and tried to say the tube had been in his pocket. I was overcome with surprise and thought 'I'm glad he isn't one of my team'. But then, about a minute later, panic returned when the doctor pulled down Pollentier's shorts and revealed this plastic tube which you all now know about.[32]

The doctor said that Pollentier had not actually used the tube and so the test would go ahead as normal. At 8pm, the organiser, Félix Lévitan, told the press that the UCI had ruled that Pollentier would be fined 5,000 Swiss francs and start an immediate suspension of two months. The question was obvious: if a rider was prepared to take drugs and win a stage, knowing he would be tested, how many times had the ruse been shown to work before?

1990s: The era of EPO

When other drugs became detectable, riders began achieving the effects of transfusion more effectively by using erythropoietin, known as EPO, a drug to increase red-cell production in anaemia sufferers. EPO became widespread, as a flurry of exposures and confessions revealed in 2006 and 2007. "When I saw riders with fat arses climbing cols like aeroplanes, I understood what was happening," said the Colombian rider, Luis Herrera.

EPO's problem for testers was that like testosterone and, before that, cortisone, they couldn't distinguish it from what the body produced naturally. For the first time, said Jean-Pierre de Mondenard, authorities had to settle not for the presence of a drug but its presence in unusual quantities. Testers set a haematocrit limit of 50 per cent and "rested" riders who exceeded it. Bjarne Riis, the Danish rider who won the Tour in 1996, was known as "Mr 60 per cent" among riders.[33] On May 25, 2007, he admitted he had used EPO from 1993 to 1998, including 1996 when he won the Tour.

Cynicism set in among both riders and officials. Jacques Goddet, organiser of the Tour from 1936 to 1987, said in 1999:

I brought controls to the Tour in the wake of Tom Simpson's death in 1967 - and the riders went on strike. After the discoveries made [in to the so-called 1998 Festina scandal, see below], I feel real resentment towards the medical and scientific powers who deceived us for 30 years. The controls are almost always negative, which means that the labs have been making serious mistakes, mistakes that have only served to speed up the growth of this evil. The controls we developed after Simpson's death were a lie, covered up by the highest scientific and medical authorities, and I condemn them.[34]

1998 Festina scandal

On 8 July 1998, French Customs arrested Willy Voet, a soigneur for the Festina team, for the possession of illegal drugs, including narcotics, erythropoietin (EPO), growth hormones, testosterone, and amphetamines. Voet later described many common doping practices in his book, Massacre à la Chaîne.[35] On 23 July 1998, French police raided several teams' hotels and found drugs in the possession of the TVM team. As news spread, riders staged a sit-down strike during the 17th stage. After mediation by Jean-Marie Leblanc, the director of the Tour, police agreed to limit the most heavy-handed tactics and riders agreed to continue. Many riders and teams had already abandoned the race and only 111 riders completed the stage. In a 2000 trial, it became clear that the management and health officials of Festina had organized drug-taking within the team. Richard Virenque, a top Festina rider, finally confessed after being ridiculed for maintaining that if he was doping he was somehow not consciously aware of it - as the satirical television programme, Les Guignols de l'Info, put it: "à l'insu de mon plein gré" ("of my own free will but without my knowing").

In the years following the 1998 Festina affair, anti-doping measures were put into effect by race organizers and the UCI, including more frequent testing and new tests for blood doping transfusions and EPO use. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was also created to help governments in anti-doping.

Evidence of drugs persisted and in 2004 came new allegations. In January, Philippe Gaumont, a rider with the Cofidis team, told investigators and the press that steroids, human growth hormone, EPO, and amphetamines were endemic to the team. In June, British cyclist David Millar, also of Cofidis, and time trial world champion, was detained by French police, his apartment searched and two used EPO syringes found. Jesus Manzano, a Spanish rider then recently dismissed by the Kelme team, told the Madrid sports newspaper AS he had been forced by his former team to take banned substances and that they had taught him to evade detection. The Kelme team itself was ultimately a casualty of the disclosures, which Manzano judged to be “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”[36]

Lance Armstrong accusations

L'Équipe cover accusing Armstrong of doping. The title translates to "The Armstrong Lie".

Doping controversy has surrounded seven-time winner Lance Armstrong, although there has never been evidence sufficient for him to be penalised. In part, suspicion has arisen from his association with Italian physician Michele Ferrari. There have been allegations by Armstrong's former assistant, Mike Anderson, that Armstrong used a substance with a trade name similar to "androstenine". This resulted in a lawsuit against Anderson and a countersuit against Armstrong.[37]

In late August 2005, one month after Lance Armstrong's seventh consecutive Tour victory, the French sports newspaper L'Équipe claimed evidence that Armstrong had used EPO in the 1999 Tour de France.[38] The claim was based on urine samples archived by the French National Laboratory for Doping Detection (LNDD) for research. Armstrong denied using EPO and the UCI did not penalise him because of the lack of a duplicate sample. The UCI confirmed that its own doctor Mario Zorzoli leaked the 15 forms tying Armstrong to the positive tests to L'Équipe.

Also in 1999, Armstrong tested positive for a glucocorticosteroid hormone. Armstrong explained he had used an external cortisone ointment to treat a saddle sore and produced a prescription for it. The amount detected was below the threshold and said to be consistent with the amount used for a topical skin cream, but UCI rules required that prescriptions be shown to sports authorities in advance of use.

2006 Tour de France

Operación Puerto investigation

An anti-doping banner displayed during the route of 2006 Tour de France prologue

In 2006, several riders, including Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, were barred from the eve of the race amid allegations by Spanish police as a result of their Operación Puerto investigation.[39]

The Astana-Würth team could not start because, despite a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, five of its nine Tour riders were barred after being officially named in the Operacion Puerto affair. With only four riders remaining (Alexander Vinokourov, Andrey Kashechkin, Carlos Barredo and Luis León Sanchez) the team didn't have the minimum number of riders demanded by the rules to enter.[40]

The cyclists excluded from 2006 Tour de France were:

Floyd Landis accusation

Floyd Landis on the Tour de France, July 23, 2006.

On July 27, 2006 the Phonak team announced that Floyd Landis, winner of the 2006 Tour, tested positive after stage 17 for an abnormally high ratio of the hormone testosterone to epitestosterone. On the day the allegations were made public, Landis denied doping.[42] Landis' personal doctor later revealed the test had found a ratio of 11:1 in Landis' blood; the permitted ratio is 4:1.[43] On 31 July 2006 The New York Times reported that tests on Landis' sample revealed some synthetic testosterone.[44] He was later stripped of his title and banned from cycling for two years.[45]

2007 Tour de France

The 2007 Tour de France was dogged by controversies from the start. On 18 July, two German television companies pulled out of coverage[46] after T-Mobile's German rider, Patrik Sinkewitz, tested positive for testosterone on 8 June at a pre-Tour training camp.

Alessandro Petacchi, a sprint specialist, tested positive for salbutamol at Pinerolo on 23 May in the 2007 Giro d'Italia, the day of the third of his five stage wins in the event. Petacchi, an asthma sufferer, was suspended by Milram and forced to miss the Tour de France.[47] He was later cleared after the drug was deemed to be therapeutic use.[48]

On 19 June it was revealed that the leader, Michael Rasmussen, was under suspicion for missing two out-of-competition doping tests. The Dane had been dropped by the Danish Cycling Union and his Olympic place was under review.[49] However with information available at the time, Rasmussen had not committed an offence under UCI rules[50] and he remained in the Maillot jaune. On 8 November Rasmussen admitted providing false information to the UCI.[51]

Then on 24 July it was revealed that Alexandre Vinokourov had tested positive for blood doping after the time trial in Albi, which he won by more than a minute[52] As a result the Astana Team withdrew. Vinokourov's teammates Andreas Klöden and Andrey Kashechkin were fifth and seventh at the time. Vinokourov also tested positive for blood doping after winning Monday's stage 15.

Following the Vinokourov announcement, Tour director Christian Prudhomme said professional cycling needed a "complete overhaul" to combat doping.[53]

A day later, after winning the 16th stage on the Col d'Aubisque, it was alleged that Rasmussen had lied to his Rabobank team about his whereabouts on 13 and 14 June, prior to the Tour. For breaching team rules, he was removed from the race. It was later revealed that the Tour organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation, had pressed Rabobank to remove Rasmussen. On the same day, Team Cofidis pulled out following the positive test on their rider Cristian Moreni.[54]

The Tour continued to be embroiled in doping controversies even after it finished. It emerged that Spanish cyclist (and 16th placed rider) Iban Mayo had tested positive for EPO on the second rest day, on July 24. He was suspended by his team Saunier Duval-Prodir.[55] Mayo had previously tested positive for synthetic testosterone during the 2007 Giro d'Italia,[56] but the UCI found that he had not breached any doping regulation.[57] Mayo placed 16th overall in the 2007 Tour.

Tour winner Alberto Contador also continued to be linked to doping allegations, focussing on his relationship with Eufemiano Fuentes and his role in Operación Puerto, but without new revelations.[58][59] Contador was tested in the Tour after stages 14, 17, and 18 and no discrepancies were reported. Several participants, such as Sébastien Hinault, implied that he is no better than Rasmussen.[60] On July 30 German doping expert Werner Franke accused him of having taken drugs in the past.[61]


After each stage, four riders are tested: the overall leader, the stage winner, and two riders at random. In addition, every rider is tested before the first day's stage, normally a short time-trial. Most teams are tested in their entirety at some point during the three-week race. Additional testing may take place during the off-season, and riders are expected to keep their national cycling federation informed of their whereabouts so they can be located. Many teams have their own drug testing programs to keep the team name clean. Teams, such as Quick-Step, have pulled riders before they compete in major competitions. Tom Boonen was pulled for cocaine before the 2008 Tour de France.

Status of Tour de France winners

Years Name Status Details
2011 Cadel Evans Never tested positive
Alberto Contador Tested positive Named in Operación Puerto doping case, but later declared clean.
Tested positive during 2010 Tour de France for "a very small concentration" of the banned stimulant clenbuterol. He has been provisionally suspended by the UCI.[62]
2008 Carlos Sastre Never tested positive
2006 Floyd Landis Tested positive
Banned for two years
Tested positive for high testosterone to epitestosterone ratio;[44] Oscar Pereiro named as winner in default - Clean but cleared after testing positive for salbutamol. In 2010 admitted to taking EPO, testosterone, human growth hormone and blood transfusions along with female hormones and insulin.[clarification needed]
1999–2005 Lance Armstrong Never tested positive
Never sanctioned
Associated with Michele Ferrari, who is suspected of prescribing doping agents.[63]
Allegations by former assistant for Androstenine use.[64]
Alleged EPO use in 1999 Tour de France.[65]
Tested positive for glucocorticosteroid hormone without prescription given in advance.[66]

According to court testimony by former teammate, Frankie Andreu, Armstrong admitted to doping to his doctor when in hospital for cancer treatment.
Floyd Landis accused Armstrong of doping in 2002 and 2003, and claimed that U.S. Postal team director Johan Bruyneel had bribed former UCI president Hein Verbruggen to keep quiet about a positive Armstrong test in 2002.[67][68] [69] Landis also maintains that he witnessed Armstrong receiving multiple blood transfusions, and dispensing testosterone patches to his teammates on the United States Postal Service Team.[70]

1998 Marco Pantani Tested positive
Banned for six months
Failed a blood test in 1999 Giro d'Italia; Insulin found in his hotel room in the 2001 Giro d'Italia[71]
1997 Jan Ullrich Never tested positive
Banned from the 2006 Tour
Tested positive for amphetamines (off season, not taken for athletic performance gain)[72]
Involved in the Operacion Puerto case[73]
1996 Bjarne Riis Never tested positive
Confessed doping use
Confessed having used EPO in 1996[74]
1991–1995 Miguel Indurain Tested positive
Never sanctioned
Tested positive for salbutamol in 1994, though it was not banned by the UCI at the time[75]
Greg LeMond Never tested positive
1988 Pedro Delgado Tested positive
Never sanctioned
Tested positive for probenecid in the 1988 Tour de France, although it was not illegal for cyclists at that time[76]
1987 Stephen Roche Never tested positive
Never sanctioned
According to an investigation in Italy into the practices of Francesco Conconi, Roche received EPO in 1993[77]
Bernard Hinault Never tested positive
1983–1984 Laurent Fignon Tested positive In 1989 Fignon tested positive after a team time trial[78][79][80]
tested positive for amphetamines at the Grand Prix de la Liberation in Eindhoven on 17 September 1989.[81][82]
1980 Joop Zoetemelk Tested positive Tested positive in the 1977 (pemoline[83]), 1979 (steroids[84]) and 1983 Tour de France (nandrolon, although that was retracted later[83])
Bernard Thévenet Never tested positive
Confessed doping use
Admitted using steroids in the 1975 and 1977 Tour[30][85]
1976 Lucien Van Impe Never tested positive
Eddy Merckx Tested positive Merckx has tested positive four times, but never at the Tour de France. He was expelled from the 1969 Giro d'Italia after testing positive for Reactivan.[86]

He tested positive for Mucantil after winning the 1973 Giro di Lombardia. The drug was later take off the banned list.[86]
After the 1975 La Flèche Wallonne, Merckx tested positive for Stimul, blaming it on a doctor.[86]
In 1977, he was caught for taking the amphetamine pemoline, along with Freddy Maertens and Michel Pollentier.

1973 Luis Ocaña Never tested positive
1968 Jan Janssen Never tested positive
1967 Roger Pingeon Never tested positive
1966 Lucien Aimar Tested positive
Banned for one month
Missed the 1969 Vuelta a España due to a one-month doping ban.
1965 Felice Gimondi Never tested positive
Jacques Anquetil Confessed doping use Debated with French government minister on television, saying "Leave me in peace; everybody takes dope."
After winning Liège–Bastogne–Liège in 1966, was temporarily disqualified after refusing a drug test, saying he had already been to the toilet. He was later reinstated after he engaged a lawyer as the case was never heard.

See also


  1. ^ [1][dead link] History, Drugs and the Tour de France by Tim Moore
  2. ^ Novich, Max M: Drug abuse and drugs in sports, New York State Journal of Medicine, vol 73, no 21, 1 November 1973
  3. ^ Halter, Hans: 'Alles verstehen, alles verzeihen', Der Spiegel, Germany 3 August 1998
  4. ^ Penot, Christophe: Pierre Chany, l'homme aux 50 Tours de France, Éditions Cristel, France, 1996
  5. ^ Novich, Max M., Abbotempo, UK, 1964
  6. ^ Bearings, US, 24 December 1896, cited Ritchie, Andrew, Major Taylor, Bicycle Books, US, 1988
  7. ^ Woodland, Les (1980) Dope, the use of drugs in sport, David and Charles, UK
  8. ^ Lunzenfichter, Alain: C'est pas du Jeu!, L'Équipe, France, 10 December 2007
  9. ^ Novich, ibid. Cited De Mondenard, Dr Jean-Pierre: Dopage, l'imposture des performances, Chiron, France, 2000
  10. ^ Hoberman, John; Dopers on Wheels: The Tour's sorry history, retrieved December 2007
  11. ^ Le Vélocipède Illustré, Paris, 1 April 1869
  12. ^ a b Chany, Pierre: La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, Éditions La Martinière, France, 1988
  13. ^ Coups de Pédales, Belgium, 2006
  14. ^ Penot, Christophe (1996) Pierre Chany, l'homme aux 50 Tours de France, Éditions Cristel, France
  15. ^ Tour Guide, UK, 1992
  16. ^ Maso, Benji:Zweet van de Goden, Holland
  17. ^ Archive extract from Quando Volava l'Airone, part of a programme called Format, Rai Tre television, 1998
  18. ^ Londres, Albert: Les frères Pélissier et leur camarade Ville abandonnent, Le Petit Parisien, 27 June 1924, France
  19. ^ a b c Woodland, Les Yellow Jersey Guide to the Tour de France, Yellow Jersey, London
  20. ^ a b De Mondenard, Dr Jean-Pierre: Dopage, l'imposture des performances, Chiron, France, 2000
  21. ^ Council of Europe report, cited: Yellow Jersey Guide to the Tour de France, Les Woodland, Yellow Jersey, London
  22. ^ a b c d Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC), Drugs and the Tour De France by Ramin Minovi
  23. ^ Jean-Pierre de Mondenard, "Dictionnaire du dopage" (2004), p.896
  24. ^ Zoom, ORTF, France, 11 July 1967
  25. ^ France Dimanche, France, cited Cycling, UK, 4 November 1967, p17
  26. ^ Loi n°65-412 du 1 juin 1965 tendant à la répression de l'usage des stimulants à l'occasion des compétitions sportives
  27. ^ Taylor, Alec, Cycling, August 1967
  28. ^ Poulidor, Raymond: J'appartiens à le légende, L'Équipe, France, 12 July 1999
  29. ^ Manning, J. L., 'Simpson was killed by drug', Daily Mail, UK, 31 July 1967
  30. ^ a b Chany, Pierre: L'angoissant combat de Bernard Thévenet, Vélo, France, no 125, 1978
  31. ^ Soetaert, Eddy: De biecht van Jean-Luc van den Broucke, Het Volk, Belgium, 18 October 1978.
  32. ^ a b Wilcockson, John: The Tour de Farce - Pollentier, pills and that plastic tube, Sunday Times, UK, 23 July 1978
  33. ^ Je ne cherche pas à être aimé, Le Journal du Dimanche, France, 9 July 2007
  34. ^ Goddet, Jacques, Procycling, UK, December 1999
  35. ^ Voet, Willy (1999). Massacre à la Chaîne ISBN 2-290-30062-4. Translated as “Breaking the Chain”, ISBN 0-224-06056-2
  36. ^ “Ex-Kelme rider promises doping revelations” Velo News, 20 March 2004.
  37. ^ "Armstrong's lawyer: We won't be 'blackmailed'". MSNBC. 2 April 2005. 
  38. ^ “L'Équipe alleges Armstrong samples show EPO use in 99 Tour” Velo News, August 23, 2005.
  39. ^ "Tour elite thrown out as Ullrich and Basso caught up in drug crackdown" Guardian, 1st July 2006
  40. ^ Astana-Würth leaves the Tour
  41. ^ a b c d e "Wednesday's EuroFile: Astana 5' cleared by Spanish courts; Landis sets post-Tour schedule". Velo News. 2006-07-126. 
  42. ^ Yahoo! Sports - Sports News, Scores, Rumors, Fantasy Games, and more
  43. ^ "Landis sample 'well above limit'". BBC News. 2006-08-02. Retrieved 2006-08-02. 
  44. ^ a b Macur, Juliet (1 August 2006). "New Finding Challenges Tour Champ’s Claim". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  45. ^ "Backup Sample on Landis Is Positive". Velonews. 2007-09-20. 
  46. ^ German television pulls plug over drugs Daily Telegraph
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  49. ^ Michael Rasmussen rides into a storm Daily Telegraph
  50. ^ Three missed tests are required before an automatic ban or suspension
  51. ^ - Danish article on - "UCI: Rasmussen står til to års karantæne" (English: "UCI: Rasmussen is up for two years exclusion")
  52. ^ Alexandre Vinokourov faces two-year ban Daily Telegraph
  53. ^ BBC News 25 July 2007
  54. ^ Leader Rasmussen kicked off Tour BBC News
  55. ^ "Mayo positif et suspendu" (in French). l'Equipe. 2007-07-30. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  56. ^ "Bergspezialist Iban Mayo beim Giro positiv getestet" (in German). Die Welt. 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  57. ^ "Mayo cleared of doping as UCI probes Petacchi, Piepoli". Eurosport. 2007-06-14. Archived from the original on August 12, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  58. ^ Andrew Hood (July 24, 2007). "Contador on cusp of greatness: Puerto Questions". Velonews. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  59. ^ Laurent Vergne (July 27, 2007). "Contador: "Je suis clair"" (in French). Eurosport. Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  60. ^ "Les réactions" (in French). L'Equipe. July 26, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  61. ^ "'Zege Contador grootste zwendel' (Victory Contador major scam)" (in Dutch). ANP. July 30, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  62. ^ "Press release - Adverse analytical finding for Alberto Contador". UCI Press Department. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  63. ^ "Postal officials downplay Armstrong- Ferrari link". 
  64. ^ "Armstrong's assistant says he saw androgens". 
  65. ^ "Lance denies 'credible' report he used steroids". 
  66. ^ Fotheringham, William (28 July 2006). "Tour's 40 years of hurt: an inglorious history of drugs". The Guardian (London).,,1832066,00.html. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
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  68. ^ Peter Cossins (2010-05-21). "Kimmage: Landis allegations will decide the sport’s future". 
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  71. ^ "Former Tour champ Pantani has doping ban lifted". CBC News. 13 July 2002. 
  72. ^ "Armstrong maintains Tour lead; Ullrich banned". CBC News. 23 July 2002. 
  73. ^ "Puerto blood confirmed to be Ullrich's". 
  74. ^ Nizza, Mike (25 May 2007). "Tour de France Champion Admits Doping". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  75. ^ "Drugs in Sport: Indurain allowed to use 'banned' drug". The Independent. 30 August 1994. Retrieved 23 October 2010. 
  76. ^ Abt, Samuel (22 July 1988). "Tour de France; Leader Wins Drug Appeal". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  77. ^ "Tour de Farce as Roche linked to doping scandal". 
  78. ^ "Veertig jaar doping in de wielersport(Dutch)". 
  79. ^ New York Times, October 7, 1989, Fignon Drug Results
  80. ^ International Herald Tribune, September 29, 1993, Fignon:French Cycling's Angry Young Man Coasts to the End of His Bumpy Road
  81. ^ New York Times, 7 October 1989, Fignon Drug Results
  82. ^ International Herald Tribune, 29 September 1993, Fignon:French Cycling's Angry Young Man Coasts to the End of his Bumpy Road
  83. ^ a b - Sport - Doping in de Tour is van alle tijden
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  85. ^ "Ex-Tour champ Thevenet defends his doping past". CNN. 
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