News for January 18, 1997

Two former riders blast open the doping silence

The use of human growth hormones and blood doping is systematic in professional cycling, two former racers told the sports daily l'Equipe on Thursday.

"IF you believe the doping controls then everything's fine but a team manager told me once you can't get into the world's top 50 if you don't use EPO," Gilles Delion said.

EPO, or Erythroproietin, stimulates production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Human growth hormones, or HGH, are steroids used to help athletes recover more quickly to train harder. There are no reliable tests for either drug.

"We have gone beyond the acceptable,"said the 30-year-old Delion, whose biggest win in a professional career stretching from 1989 to 1996 was the Tour of Lombardy classic in 1990.

He says before 1990 the Italians were lagging well behind the rest but they have since made sensational progress.

Italy's national Olympic committee (CONI) said on Tuesday it was still investigating claims of systematic drug abuse in Italian cycling made in a report prepared by Sandro Donati, secretary of the CONI's scientific committee on doping.

It reportedly named riders, their doctors and team managers involved in the use and prescription of banned drugs, according to the Italian press.

Delion says talking about drugs is taboo in the world of cycling.

"But when you see somebody you know is weaker than you leave you standing you know something is wrong," he added.

He said the same riders wouldn't win without drugs.

"The only people making money out of this are the doctors," he adds.

Nicholas Aubier says he was forced out after four years as a professional cyclist because he did now want to take drugs.

"It's got to such a state of affairs that the rider who does not take drugs is considered abnormal," adds the 25-year-old.

Former Irish professional Paul Kimmage broke the law of silence when he exposed the systematic use of stimulants and cortisone in cycling when he published a book, "A Rough Ride", in 1990.