Earlier this week Lance Armstrong gave a 50 minute interview where he spoke about his view on his own performance enhancing drug use during his 7 Tour De France (TDF) victories. He stated that if he had the chance to relive his career from 1995 he would still use banned substances in competition. He rationalised this by claiming that it was the culture in the sport of cycling at the time.
“It was an imperfect time… everyone was doing it” was his claim. Looking at the data from the tougher stages of the previous Tour de France races over the last couple of decades it can be seen quite clearly that from about 2011 times are getting slower not faster which suggests that doping is becoming less prevalent within the peloton. With better bike technology, training methods and nutrition amongst other things spectators should be seeing riders make progressive gains with streamlining and precise mechanism shaving time off year on year. Times for the big climbs on the TDF are actually radically increasing as the graphs below show.
The quickest time for Alpe d’Huez, a gruelling 13.8km climb with an 8.1% gradient, was 2 minutes 55 seconds slower in 2013 than in 1997.
Armstrong said that in 2015 there would be no need for doping now but back in 1995 it was totally invasive and the culture of doping made it a level playing field like bringing knives to a gun fight.
Drug testers have stepped up their act and cycling now is much cleaner than before but it will only take a dope to change that.