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Are We Beating the Cheating?

By Christopher Ashley

The cycling press and, more importantly, the fans of Tour Cycling have become increasingly concerned about cheating. But with cyclists’ bodily fluids under greater scrutiny than ever before, maybe chemical doping is the least of the sport’s problems.


In 2017, Sagan was disqualified from Le Tour following the race jury’s application of article 12. 104, which took the view that Sagan’s right elbow caused Mark Cavendish to crash – whether intentionally or not. We saw endless analysis, professional and otherwise, of this moment.

What this frame-by-frame analysis fails to tell us is whether Sagan had situational awareness of Cavendish in the lead-up to this video – and what the history between the two riders was. And whether you can make a serious argument for pro cyclists deliberately taking others out of the race.


During Le Tour 2010, the race jury disqualified Mark Renshaw for headbutting Julian Dean who was, arguably, in a position to mount a challenge to stage 11 winner Mark Cavendish. Renshaw was the lead-out for Cavs so it’s at least true to say that, sometimes, pro cyclists’ urge to win can get the better of them.

Fast forward to Le Tour 2019 and the race jury acted decisively to disqualify Luke Rowe and Tony Martin. The video above makes the case for the disqualification but, above all else, demonstrates how “enforcers” can behave in an anti-competitive manner and many cycling fans may view this as cheating.

Spycraft in the post-truth world

Bryan Fogel’s stunning documentary Icarus shed light on the dark international forces that corrupted cycling, before exposing problems with doping that extended far beyond cycling. Cold-war era spy techniques were used to swap and tamper with samples – including those thought to be in “tamper-proof” containers.

Many political commentators hail the era of the post-truth world so maybe the testing doesn’t matter as much. After all, if you don’t believe the credibility of the testing, it really doesn’t matter whether the result is positive or not.


Click this link to see a TEDtalk on “How stats fool juries”. It explains how many of us misunderstand basic statistical problems, let alone complex medical science. Given that anti-doping agencies are guaranteed to find any prohibited substances in a sample, why do we still have doping controversies?

I agree with the Wiggins’ opening statement in this video. It strikes me that the “fans” of the sport who don’t wish Froome to race don’t seem to understand the UCI’s rules. And they distrust WADA’s scientific judgement. I’d implore anyone to read this excellent article to understand the complex rules the UCI has to navigate, under the guidance of anti-doping professionals.