Richie (1999) In his discussion of the emergence of bicycle racing in England in the second half of the nineteenth century shows how, from very early on, the sport was a heavily professionalized and commercialized enterprise and that
(t)he use of the complex, expensive, new machine in the young sport tended to establish a functional economic, athletic, and social relationship between competitors, promoters and manufacturers...(512) These early bicycle races were staged by entrepreneurs as entertainments and were motivated by the potential for profit. For participants they were as much work as sport, with bicycle manufacturer/sponsors depending on their respective riders to perform well thus proving the superiority of their product. It was also important for bicycle companies to display the durability and reliability of their machines and so races were often extremely long and run over grueling terrain. This relationship between racers and commercial sponsorship came to define the economics of the sport not only on the professional level but also among amateurs. In its early years promoted products tended to be cycling related but, over time, came to include all manner of commodities including candy, sausage, flooring, air conditioners, super markets, automobiles, flooring, national
lotteries and postal services, etc. Termed “team sponsors” they
were, more accurately, advertisers trading public exposure for their product name in return for financial support.
In part because physical demands were extreme * with riders both past and present often referred to as “hard men” * participants often come from the working classes of Europe and also, at least in its early days, of America. Whether correctly or incorrectly, cycling was perceived as a way of avoiding a future in the coal mines of northern France and Belgium or the olive groves of Italy and Spain. It is not surprising then that the use of medications that might ease the “days work” of a rider and maximize his earning potential became a common feature of this subculture with riders as early as the 1870's routinely using a variety of substances. Rabenstein documents how early bicycle racers employed “artificial stimulants. . . cognac, beer, wine and sparkling wine. . .
kola. . . caffeine. . . nitroglycerine. . . sugar pieces containing ether.
. .cocaine-injections. . . heroin. . . bay-rum drops and cola-essence”
among other preparations. (1997: 1) The use of medications within the sport was extensive and routine. (see also Hoberman, 1992: 124; Hoberman,
2003) In his autobiography, the American world champion Marshall
“Major” Taylor commented in connection with an 1896 six-day race at Madison Square Garden that:
On the way to the track one of my trainers gave me a glass of water into which he had dumped a powder which he claimed cost $65.00 an ounce, and which would allow me to ride without any sleep until the race was over. This was only the third day of the race. Later I found out also that this powder was nothing more than bicarbonate of soda, but it kept me going for the next eighteen hours without a wink of sleep. (1971:
It is not what Taylor actually took that is of interest, but the matter of fact way in which he accepted, even in retrospect, what he believed to be a performance aid. So commonplace were they that, as Maso observes, during the 1930 Tour de France founder and organizer Henri Desgrange required participants to pay for their own “stimulants and doping.”
(quoted in Ruediger Rabenstein from Benjo Maso, Het zweet der goden.
Amsterdam, 1990: 192.)
It was not, as Waddington (2000: 98) and others have observed, until the decade of the 1960's that the practice of doping was at all regulated or, for that matter, even viewed, as “unacceptable.” This taken-for-granted attitude toward doping products largely went unquestione d until the first modern documented death from amphetamines of the Danish rider K. E. Jensen during the 1960 Rome Olympic road race. Due of this death, the first tentative doping controls were instituted in 1961 in Belgium followed in 1965 by anti-doping laws. Similar laws took effect in
1966 in Italy and France. It was, however, the death of the British rider Tommy Simpson on the ascent of Mt. Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France that first provoked a public outcry against drug use in cycling. (Rabenstei n, 1997: 4) From this point forward, cycling has been periodically shaken by drug scandals the some of the most serious of which include the disqualification of Eddy Merckx during the 1969 Giro d’ Italia and of Michel Pollentier while leading the Tour de France in 1978, the discovery that the 1984 U.S. Olympic track squad had engaged in the practice * although not technically banned at the time * of blood doping, the dramatic Team Festina scandal during the 1998 Tour de France, and the expulsion of Marco Pantani for a high hematocrit level (see below) prior to the start of the penultimate stage of the 1999 Giro d’ Italia which he was leading.
In the hot house environment of racing bicycle technology was pushed to increasing efficiency, as was the efficacy of performance enhancing substances. From the spurious concoctions of the late 19th century, to the amphetamines which characterized the post WWII era of Tom Simpson, cycling moved * as did other sports * to strength building drugs such as androgenic anabolic steroids and testosterone, adding the blood doping of the early 1980's and, beginning in the early 1990's, to new classes of drugs which began to make their way into the peleton. Two of these new substances that became been especially common among professional cyclists during this decade were human growth hormone (HGH) and erythropoie
tin (EPO), both highly effective in enhancing performance.
As has always been the case surrounding PES use, rumors abound concerning other substances said to be in circulation, some of these include IGF-1 (see Voet, 2001: 105) and Interluken (Voet, 2001: 128) both having effects similar to HGH and PFC (perfluorocarbon), a “synthetic blood” product that increases oxygen-carrying capacity, both still are classed as “experimental” by the pharmaceutical companies developing them. (see Wadler,1999)