The Truth About Steroids in Sports

Doping in sports is the eternal cat-and-mouse game, fueled by a culture that rewards winning at all costs.


Besides exposing cycling’s culture of doping and revealing Armstrong to be a weapons-grade tool, the Tour de Lance scandal demonstrated the signifcant limitations of USADA drug testing. You’d never know it the way Tygart waved around Armstrong’s scalp to journalists. Without angry cyclists turning on Armstrong, and the numerous subpoenas and depositions engineered by the signifcant enforcement power of the Justice Department and FDA, Tygart would never have gotten his man. As unsympathetic as Armstrong was, many wondered why the federal government had committed so many resources to expose him. Some in Congress asked that very question, and it’s still not clear how much taxpayer money was spent pursuing the cyclist.

There’s little doubt that Armstrong was guilty, but he had plenty of company. For decades, cycling was immersed in a pervasive doping culture that precluded competing at a high level without pharmaceutical equality with the competition. This is known as the “use or lose” dilemma.

“When it comes to the cycling Grand Tours, during the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s, a culture made it nearly impossible to participate in the sport without [doping],” says Scott, who, besides running a world-class drug testing lab, is also the founder and chief science ofcer of the Agency for Cycling Ethics.

This gives weight to those who claim that Tygart and USADA engaged in selective prosecution. Armstrong was stripped of his seven titles, and Tygart has to know that each year’s runner-up was also likely doping. But each year’s runner-up also wasn’t Lance Armstrong.

Targeting big names is becoming a habit of Tygart’s USADA. On June 5, a USADA ofcial ordered Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn to submit her urine for a drug test while attending a fashion awards show. Fresh from walking the red carpet in a custom-made gown, Vonn was forced to march into a bathroom and pee in a cup. USADA has every legal right to demand out-of-competition tests for Olympic athletes, but humiliating Vonn at a high-profle event is a grotesque stunt and needless power play. USADA’s actions show that athletes aren’t the only ones who exploit the current drug-testing regimen to serve their own personal agendas.

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