Discover more from Joe Laverick
my thoughts on doping
the most contentious subject in world sport: cheating.
I wrote this article for Cycling Weekly a few weeks back, and received a fair whack of kickback on social media. Apparently the things I wrote were “outright ridiculous” and “just wrong”. Maybe that’s the case. Maybe I’m a naive 22-year-old who doesn’t understand the world that I’m living in.
I’m writing this not contracted to any sponsors or team, you could say that I’ve got nothing to lose. Equally, I’m not going to comment on every single person who has been rumoured to dope because bike riders and fans can be very quick to throw accusations.
You hear rumours that certain teams have very good doctors. Wonder how some riders get so skinny so fast. There are some performances which are so unbelievable that you question that even if they were doping, whether they’d have balls big enough to do it. Surely if you were cheating you’d be a little subtle about it?
Side note, have you ever thought about how ironic the phrase “unbelievable” is?
In my four years racing at the continental level, I’ve never seen anything to suggest that anyone I’ve been close to has been doping. I’ve seen guys take paracetamol and ibuprofen, I’ve taken them myself in racing, but that’s hardly newsworthy.
My only brush with that side of the UCI rules was in the summer of 2022 where I had cortisone injections to fix a back injury. After months of rehab, nothing was helping my injury and it was causing me grief both on and off the bike. With plenty of visits to specialists in and out of cycling, I was advised that cortisone was the only option.
I was crapping myself. Even though all the correct paperwork was sent to the UCI, it still felt a little wrong. The cortisone worked wonders and within a few days my injury was fixed.
My first year out of the juniors was 2019 which coincided with the UCI’s crackdown of tramadol. I’ve heard the stories, but I’ve never seen anyone use tramadol. Then again I don’t even know what it looks like, or how you’d administer it.
I have no doubt that there is something wrong with anti-doping tests. Nobody ever gets popped for doing drugs, instead it is police investigations which cause the house of cards to crumble. I’ve raced internationally since my first year junior, and in that whole time I’ve only had to do one anti-doping test. Granted, I’ve hardly been lighting up world cycling but one test in six years is a bit of a joke.
Let me put it straight: I think it’s bullshit that teams such as W52-FC Porto got away with cheating for so long. It was an open secret within the sport, but it took a police investigation for it to fall. The UCI did nothing, they raced a .PRO race with drugs, and got away with it.
I raced those guys in Volta ao Algarve in 2021 and was in the break with one for 160km or so, I couldn’t believe how strong he was. At the time, it was widely presumed (and now proven) that team was doping. Does not say anything at the time make us part of the problem? Does that make me a part of the omerta?
Motor doping seems to be the elephant in the room which I’m not aware about. When you look at it black and white, Femke Van den Driessche is the only high profile rider to be caught with a motor in her bike at a major event (2016 World Cyclocross Championships). I am happy to be corrected if I am wrong.
I know some people have thrown claims that the British TT scene is rampant with motors. If that’s true (and I don’t think it is), then those guys are very good at keeping it a secret. I’ve been inside that scene for a very long time now and hear of most things that are happening officially or unofficially. I’ve never heard a whisper of anything of the motor kind.
Motors will have been used in the pro peloton in the past, I don’t doubt that. Whenever you are at the top of elite sport with so much at stake, there will inevitably be some amount of cheating taking place. If you are using a motor, fuck you. If you’re using a motor on the British TT Scene, double fuck you.
What I don’t understand is why is there a guilty until proven innocent verdict amongst certain crowds? Am I dismissing doping in the modern day peloton? Hell no. There are guys out there that will still be cheating. The question I pose is the following: how is a rider supposed to prove that they are clean?
I first came to cycling in 2014, I’ve not got any family history in the sport, so it’s fair to say I haven’t been “burnt” yet. I don’t know what it’s like to have my heroes come crumbling down or have teammates lie to me like generations before.
Pro cycling is lacking accountability. Considering its checkered past, it is unusual that there isn’t more investigative journalism, or questions asked. Equally, nobody wants to be that guy or girl. It’s a tough job being the person who brings the house down, David Walsh could probably attest to that.
I’m all for people calling out suspicious performances, it’s what our sport is lacking. But sometimes, it’s just absurd. Some people accused Phil Gaimon for doping, that guy has a tattoo of a sponge with “CLEAN” written on it, for God’s sake.
Have you learned anything new from this article? Probably not. But then, if there was a huge conspiracy happening in the sport, I hope that it wouldn’t take someone like me to break it. When it comes to writing about doping, there will be no pleasing everyone. In my opinion, writing something is better than nothing. No, cycling isn’t completely clean, but what sport is?
If you are wanting to read of some wild stories from cycling’s doping past, buy a copy of Andy McGrath’s “God is Dead”, you won’t be disappointed.
While you’re here…
I’ve added both paid subscription and a ‘Buy Me A Coffee’ link to this post. As the year progresses, I’m planning on building this blog and putting out articles which I’ve always wanted to write but for whatever reason, haven’t wanted to pitch.
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