The 2014 edition of the Tour de France is scheduled to end tomorrow afternoon and something rather remarkable is going to happen. Two Frenchmen, Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot, are likely going to finish in second and third place respectively. This will mark the first time since 1997 that a man from that nation has finished in the top three at the Tour de France.
Why is this notable? Because of events that occurred during the Tour de France in 1998 and the reaction of the sports federation of France to those events. In that year’s race there was a huge doping scandal in which virtually every rider of the race was implicated. During the race not a single rider was found to have illegal substances in their body but subsequent revelations and testing showed that virtually every sample taken during the race was contaminated. An exception was George Hincapie whose two samples were found to be clean although he has since admitted to using illegal substances before and during that race.
The aftermath of this event triggered cataclysmic changes from the anti-doping agency in France although other countries did not act with the same level of alacrity. Lance Armstrong’s dominance of the Tour de France began the next year in 1999 and those who wanted to compete with Armstrong and his doping machine had to take the same path. Frenchmen could not because of the stringent testing policies created by their federation after the scandal of the 1998 Tour.
Suddenly, after nearly a century of domination, not a single Frenchman could be found on the Podium at the conclusion of the race nor even frequently among the top-ten finishers. All because they were riding presumably without the aid of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). What does that tell you?
Of further interest is the nature of anti-doping regulations now in place for all of the riders of the Tour de France. They are subject to what are called Biological Passports which keep track of all vital information of an athlete and anything out of the normal range is considered a violation. This removes the element of masking filters which eliminate PEDs from the system and yet allow for their use and thus increased performance. The masking efforts are apparently always going to be ahead of the testing efforts and therefore the Biological Passport seems to be the best method to detect the use of PEDs.
The use of Biological Passports does not extend to the professional leagues of the United States.
If the authorities largely cannot catch those using PEDs then the result will always be the use of PEDs by athletes. All results are tainted. Athletes from nations with progressive testing can almost never defeat their counterparts who are using such methods.
The world cycling federation now uses methods long in place in France. Frenchmen stand on the podium once again. I think that says it all.
What do you think would happen if the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and other top leagues in the United States adopted a Biological Passport? I know what I think.