Only 22% of Enduro Racers Think Penalties are Fair & Consistently Applied - Pinkbike's State of the Sport Survey

Jan 22, 2023 at 4:02
by Ed Spratt  
Welcome to the 2023 Pinkbike State of the Sport Survey. This anonymous survey is designed to help shed light on key issues affecting the professional field and elite competition. We surveyed the best riders in the world to hear their thoughts, ideas, concerns, and criticisms on mountain biking as we go into 2023, all in an anonymous format. To read the introduction to the survey click here, and to see all the other currently published SOTS articles click here.


The Pinkbike survey has revealed that 49% of EWS racers feel that penalties are not fairly and consistently applied.

Worryingly a further 29% of riders feel neutral on this topic leaving only 22% of racers surveyed finding that the current organisation tackle rules breaches consistently and fairly. The data paints a difficult picture, with racers apparently not having confidence in the organizers that any matter will be handled correctly by the respective authority. In this case, since 2019, the UCI and ITA (International Testing Agency).

As part of the survey, riders who currently find racing as a whole unfair were asked to leave a comment on why they that way. The response from riders has included allegations that there can be elements of favoritism.

Other respondents have suggested that some riders are getting extra track time compared to the rest of the field. There are also comments suggesting some elite riders are conducting unauthorized shuttling of stages and generally bending the rules. Also, very concerningly, there is also a perception amongst some that there hasn't been strong enough punishment for riders caught doping.

It is worth pointing out that while our data represents riders that don't feel rule breaches are being handled to their full extent, there is a general consensus of 65% of riders that the racing is overall fair. This however is notably less than XC or downhill, which both have around 90% of riders feeling that the racing is fair and honest.

When asked if they'd like to leave a comment to represent their views on issues of fairness and sporting integrity, several riders did note that they felt that the lack of consistency was troubling, with particular instances noted of riders pre-riding courses, course cutting, favoritism, illegal assistance on transition stages and lurid accusations of doping. It's hard to say for sure to what extent these comments should be taken at face value, and we'll hopefully be able to delve into the issue further, as well as explore the other trends from the survey, with stakeholders at the elite level of enduro, in the coming weeks.

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edspratt avatar

Member since Mar 16, 2017
2,971 articles

  • 107 0
 Yikes. Policing enduro is logistically challenging. When you have the stakes of professional racing combined with the inability for organizers and judges to be monitoring riders at all times, people are bound to cheat. This is not to excuse cheating - it's despicable and erodes the competitive nature of the sport. When you have levels of dissatisfaction that are this high among riders surrounding the enforcement of rules, you start to question the integrity of the entire discipline
  • 20 0
 Yikes indeed. Rules that are unenforceable only punish the honest ones actually following them. Maybe time for a rethink of the rules. I mean the extra practice and shuttling rules not doping/course cutting.
  • 9 0
 in all of human competition, there has been bending of rules and cheating. the former is the fault of the governing body in not writing airtight rules, and it is almost the duty of the participant to push the rules to the edge(also we get into a prisoners dilemma when some people start gaining advantages via cheating or rule bending). the latter is the fault of the participant, but is also up to the governing body to enforce. If the said governing body is unable or unwilling to do either, then they are not fit for purpose and should be replaced.
  • 6 1
 reminiscent of enforcing rules in golf...much of it based on player honesty since the rule officials and spectators don't have the ability to see every little infraction (improper grounding of club, moving ball, etc.). Recently players have been better with self reporting with the improvement of HD TV coverage and viewers at home being able to report infractions. Maybe this is the only way to improve enduro...more TV/live streaming coverage (win win for fans and competitors). Won't catch everything but its a start.
  • 31 7
 @SATN-XC: sadly, golf was developed in a time of honor, and enduro developed in a time of narcissism.

to paraphase a classic saying....the cheating will continue until morals improve.
  • 6 3
 @Mtbdialed: Not much in World Cup DH. No shortcuts since Herbold, drugs don't help the athletes win like they do in Enduro, and the only time it doesn't seem completely fair is when the weather changes.
  • 14 0
 @kcy4130: Shuttling should absolutely not be allowed in EWS and it'd be fairly easy to enforce by recording course entry during practice runs and requiring GPS tracks of riders practice and race runs, then confirm tracks for top 10 finishers.
  • 49 1
 Re: Shuttling
Why not hide a load of those camouflage game cameras around the place? Keep the locations secret, but let riders know that they exist on the course. Review the footage after the race, perhaps with respect to some form of confidential reporting system?
Anyone caught shuttling is banned from the remainder of the series, and the footage of them cheating is released...
Surely the embarrassment of being caught AND irritation of destroying your whole season should be enough to deter offenders?
  • 13 0
 @SATN-XC: There is one golf player who stands out as notoriously liberal in his interpretation of the rules and moral code of the game; just yesterday he declared himself in the lead of a tournament (at one of his clubs) - and he didn't even play the first round!
  • 1 0
 @dthomp325: I read it more as racers getting to a venue early and shuttling before official practice day, but I could be wrong. I agree it shouldn't be allowed, but if it's impractical to enforce then I don't know? I just mean rules or enforcement need a rethink if the current system is so unsatisfactory to decent portion of racers.
  • 2 0
 @slimboyjim: This is a great idea! To complement that, they could have EMF lines to cross on the climbs, placed somewhere well out of the way of any alternate routes they could shuttle. Everyone has to cross the line, and if someone isn't picked up crossing the line or seen on the camera between stages, it would pretty clearly indicate cheating.
  • 2 0
 @Mtbdialed: well put. In a multiplayer game, the Nash equilibrium is for all players to cheat. It’s on the governing body to change the payout matrix such that cheating is not the strictly dominant strategy. You can be as high-minded as you like about the integrity of the sport, but don’t blame the players for responding to the gameplay incentives that currently exist. This was baseball in the 90s, road cycling in the 00s.
  • 1 0
 @kcy4130: that makes sense, policing before the event is difficult. Obviously they can delay course release until the event, but in many areas there are only so many trails and you can ride them all with a shuttle.
  • 2 0
 And this is exactly why I don’t bother watching enduro racing. What is the point when the results aren’t trustworthy?
  • 3 1
 @slimboyjim: if Rude or Melamed get caught, that's no good for revenue. THAT is the issue with such a policy.
  • 6 1
 - Liaisons only on set routes, with mandatory GPS tracking, via a beacon fixed with a seal to the rider, e.g. wristband that cannot be taken off without being destroyed.
- Beacon has to be worn non-stop from announcement of track until end of event, prevents illegal riding of tracks.
- Unannounced checks of beacon/rider.
- Reporting system, to figure out the riders who officials must have a closer look at.
- Career ending fines (as Swiss we know a thing or two about this from our traffic fines Wink , where excessive speeding can result in your car being taken and destroyed, besides the monetary fine and jail time).

I know the beacon thing is a bit orvellian, but hey - they all use Instagram etc. and have no problem sharing their whole life with Meta
  • 2 0
 @silvanoe: Orvellian? like.....orville redenbacher??? LOL

anyways, modeling anything after the european propensity for draconian and tyrannical measures of control, isn't the way the logical world does anything. You could say, what you are suggesting is.....Orwellian. Wink
  • 78 0
 Seems like enduro belongs back in amateur hands where it’s a very fun racing format for groups of friends to participate….
  • 10 9
 Sadly, capitalism disagrees. Enduro is fundamentally a sport that lends poorly to professional racing due to logistics of monitoring cheating, but does extremely well in the marketing and sales department. Money talks.
  • 19 1
 @Venturebikes: it doesn't really do well in the marketing department. Enduro bikes sell well because they allow people to have one bike that does it all. But not many people really care about EWS, especially compared to DH which is a lot more spectacular and more interesting to most people. Enduro is cool at a local level as it allows to race without too much risk compared to DH, while spending a lot more time actually riding. It is also cool to ride as Enduro while not behind the tape is basically just Mtb.
  • 3 0
 @Balgaroth: exactly this - I own an enduro bike, race enduros and I guess I own various "enduro-specific" gear. Could I even tell you who won last year's EWS? No, and I certainly couldn't tell you what their sponsors were. Might very occasionally watch some EWS videos and think I'd like to ride there, so it's maybe good for the host venues and that's it?
  • 1 0
 If you were to use a cricket analogy I'd say Enduro is a test match (long, boring, makes terrible tv and is best left as the preserve of amateurs) whereas DH is T20 (short, mental, makes great TV and is worth making a profession of).
  • 3 0
 @Balgaroth: 100% this.
I own a enduro bike, ride enduro (when I'm in the mountains at least) but I couldn't tell you who was last year' winner in the EWS...
  • 1 0
 Already there with my buds...
  • 85 17
 Yeah the EWS also had a zero tolerance policy regarding doping with promised lifetime bans right till two shooting stars got caught. But I guess sipping from someone else's waterbottle is part of the game
  • 14 36
flag peterguns (Jan 25, 2023 at 10:15) (Below Threshold)
 Get the facts
  • 10 31
flag neroleeloo (Jan 25, 2023 at 10:34) (Below Threshold)
 @bashhard :Youre clueless
  • 13 24
flag neroleeloo (Jan 25, 2023 at 10:35) (Below Threshold)
 @peterguns: you’re absolutely right, the fact that you got neg prop shows how the average PB reader aren’t interested in the truth…
  • 21 11
 Yeah end a career for over the counter pre-workout, lol.
  • 18 3
 Zero tolerance towards what? What class of banned substances? For example, should someone caught using Adderall (or Higenamine or Oxilofrene) get the same ban (lifetime?) as someone caught using Testosterone, HGH, EPO, blood transfusions, various steroids, or 50 hits on the "asthma" inhaler?

Not biased or being too specific about which of these are considered more egregious forms of cheating, just pointing out that there are different classes of banned substances. I know this has already been cordially discussed by all the smart PBers in the 2019 articles/comments.

Not sassing as I don't know exactly what the AFLD and WADA rules at the time dictated, but I believe riders that have tested positive for banned substances were relegated suspensions based on the AFLD/WADA guidelines/rules.
  • 6 0
 Only one rider's comment (out of six) explicitly mentions doping. Seems it's mostly other way of cheating that are the main concern. Which is sorta encouraging, at least doping seems less of a concern now than formerly.
  • 19 6
 @neroleeloo: You and @peterguns have presented exactly zero facts and sources backing up your claims. Expect the down props until you change that.
  • 6 3
 I'm all for bans of those caught intentionally and knowingly using a banned substance to give themselves an unfair advantage. I'm assuming the two top riders alluded to here are Rude and Maes. Maes IMO was clearly not seeking advantage and was likely looking out for his health and wellness based on the guidance of an on-course Dr. Rude's (Also Graves at the time) was a far tougher one to overlook and a rough pill (supplement?) to swallow as a huge fan of his.
  • 4 0
 @WasatchEnduro: having had to obey wada rules in the past it’s very easy to be compliant. It’s all on 1 website where you can check everything
  • 6 0
 @neroleeloo: Enlighten us then.
  • 66 0
 Injections in the backside and a shuttle? Don't tempt me with a good time
  • 5 3
 Yeah this quote was wild lol. Part of me doesn’t believe a lot of it because of the number of go pros out on the course these days. Like, if you see someone cheating just film it…
  • 8 0
 @BamaBiscuits: What if it was your own teammate? Who maybe drives the sponsorship opportunities for your team? Seems like there are a lot situations where riders could have conflicting forces acting on them. Considering what we saw about salaries too, one may not be wanting to risk anything to jeopardize what little they get.
  • 4 1
 Don't worry that guy was just being treated for syphilis
  • 1 0
 @BamaBiscuits: I wish it was that black&white
  • 1 3
 i'd really like to read the specific part in andy rule book where it's forbidden to get an injection. Inject whatever you want, as long as the substance is legal.
  • 42 5
 In my mind, Enduro should be entirely blind. Yeh, local riders will have an advantage but it'll even out over the year.
  • 126 0
 I agree, if we blindfold them it will hardly matter whether or not they're doping!
  • 27 0
 I'd also like to see it where you have to carry everything yourself for the entire day, tools, food, spares etc.
  • 3 3
 Racing is always on the edge, and, as far as I can tell, you can't ride like that on a blind track without constantly going over the edge. Not sure how that would work out. Motocross is also very dangerous sport, but those pros actually have the financial means to recover their health (or whatever health you can have after getting 10 concussions and braking your collar bone some 15 times) whereas EWS pros don't.
  • 11 1
 @c-radicallis: Nah, look at some of the Trans races out there and the original European Enduros. Guys like Nico Lau were awesome at being able to race hard and blind. Racing on the edge is called DH (and it's not like practicing the same DH track over the course of a weekend (or every year for two decades!) results in less injuries...).
  • 4 0
 @c-radicallis: since you bring up the cousins of 2 wheeled sports, their enduro is raced after a track walk but zero practice. So is Alpine Skiing actually. Allowing for track walk and no practice would dramatically reduce the risk for a given speed. Maybe use less dangerous tracks as well, track design is another major player in how many crash and injuries you will get during the race.
  • 4 0
 @c-radicallis: I think that is the point... you have to back it off a bit and balance the edge more carefully. Pros are smart enough to figure that out. Although to agree with you, there are probably many features/drops/jumps that are just not safe to ride totally blind. Maybe only blindfold one eye @ryanandrewrogers?
  • 3 0
 @Balgaroth: Yeah, i thought about having a track walk, but i don't think it's feasible given the total length of the stages.
  • 2 0
 I agree. Practice laps are for DH. I want to see more distinction between enduro and DH.
  • 1 0
 @ryanandrewrogers: Gold! Still laughing!
  • 3 0
 @DC1988: this. I don’t like that they can get outside support during the day. They should be out for the day not back at the pits for new tires or whatever
  • 33 0
 Ouch. That's quite a brutal set of statements. Eeek
  • 13 19
flag DoubleCrownAddict (Jan 25, 2023 at 11:05) (Below Threshold)
 This article might be the worst thing that ever happened to Enduro besides all the doping, good work Pinkbike.

2023 is looking like the climax year of EWS hate, with ESO taking over and ruining World Cup racing. How was Chris Ball allowed to do this so easily without resistance??

If they can't figure out a way to make the EWS coverage entertaining this year, just make Enduro amateur and force the Enduro racers to race world cup dh if they want to make a living riding bikes.
  • 25 1
 Dopers and cheaters in the elite category should be made to enter an unregulated "group B" category in which HGH/testosterone-overloaded geriatrics dominate. The relegated former elite rider must then take a CLEAN win in this juice freak category to be promoted back into the elite field.
  • 35 0
 Yes. Bring on the supermod class.
  • 13 2
 @sspiff: I want this so bad for the Olympics. I want to see what peak human performance looks like. A stock GT-R is fast, but add twin turbos and do a tune and all of a sudden you have a 1500hp beast. I want to see the human equivalent, whether it's cycling, weightlifting, sprinting, swimming, etc.

Absolutely bring on the supermod class.
  • 12 0
 @jsnfschr: @jsnfschr: We got to see it in the TDF 1999-2005. And we have the benefit of knowing exactly how it worked because there were so many documentaries and books on the topic. We got to see a doped field being dominated by an absolute beast, who was probably on the best program ever seen in sport.

That was probably the best example of what you are looking for, plus we got a great look behind the curtain as to how it all happened.

I'm not just throwing shade here. History was made in that era. In more ways than one.
  • 5 0
 @jsnfschr: every athlete is not taking any performance enhancement substance in the Olympics setting. The omympics represent pure, regular display of athleticism /s
  • 4 0
 @Rexuis-Twin: some sports are already like that, take body-building open class, strongman and untested/equiped powerlifting. You won't get much more juiced up than those. For our sports, while I could see it make a big difference in XC racing for instance, for more tech disciplines like DH or Enduro or Trials I doubt the difference would be that much. Juice don't give skills, speed or flow.
  • 1 0
 @Balgaroth: I agree with you. And I didn't even think of those sports you mentioned, but that is all true. I just wanted to mention that in cycling, we have already seen what is most likely the best and most effective way to build a hyper-cyclist.
  • 1 0
 @Rexuis-Twin: Agreed, but I'm curious how much further you could take things if you didn't have to hide it.
  • 1 0
 @lehott: Clean as a whistle...
  • 2 0
 @Balgaroth: It would add to less fatigue though at the end of a stage/run/day where you can go all out longer and make less mistakes. It'll make all the difference in picoseconds.
  • 2 1
 @Rexuis-Twin: UCI could conduct a field experiment over the course of a season in which randomly selected athletes across all disciplines are given a course of performance-enhancing drugs. Of those selected, half receive performance-enhancing drugs, half receive a placebo, to find out the actual effect size of doping in each cycling discipline. They may find that the results are significant enough in some that the monitoring costs or enforcement are worth it, or they may discover that in others it’s such a negligible effect that it isn’t worth the cost of monitoring. What a fascinating study that would make. I wish sport cared about science as much as science cares about sport.
  • 2 0
 @Balgaroth: they dont give Skill Speed or Flow in a grabity based discipline. But they do allow for greater strength and anerobic capacity to be built that aids in the ability to manipulate the bike more heavily for longer as well as helping one bear the energy costs of the liasons with much less effect than someone not on The Science

Plus, Steroids, Peptides(BPC 157) and SARMs(TB500) for injury recovery put you way ahead of the game should one cop a serious owie.
  • 1 1
 @Balgaroth: @Balgaroth: While I agree with the premise, the new format of semis and final on the same day, after qualification the day before, plus timed training and open training lead to the requirement of needing great recovery. Specific PED's do just that, alongside blood doping.

To race two high-intensity races on one day means you will be tired in the second race, no matter whom you are. The ones that will rise to the top will be those most recovered, and fatigued riders skills will not always save them.

There is a buried incentive in the semis to push hard - not only the near equal points for winning, but 7th place and lower get more points in the semi than in the final. The lads and ladettes will be pushing on Sunday morning.

All this adds up to looking for "help" for some people.
  • 20 1
 What do you mean an international sporting organization is corrupt!?

FIFA, IOC, UCI,... Why would we expect ESO to be any different or that they wouldn't being handed additional power and responsibility despite these allegations?
  • 16 0
 @mikelevy this would be a great podcast topic, can we get an EWS racer to talk about some of these concerns?
  • 7 0
 They could even hide the identity by voice manipulation like the “illegal trail builder” episode if the racer didn’t want to out themself
  • 6 0
 Yeah- get the rider who alleged someone got a needle in rear after the shuttle up... I want that story
  • 5 0
 They wouldn’t even need to disguise the voice. Just use the regular shitty audio equipment they use for every other podcast.
  • 10 0
 So it's British lines then instead of French Lines? More of these quotes please!
  • 1 0
 I guess the difference is that French lines are still technically between the tape
  • 2 0
 I'm guessing that was the only juicy quote they had in that direction.
But since the UK riders are only really at the sharp end in the women's field - are they pointing the finger at Hattie, Ella or Bex?
  • 10 0
 All your heroes are juiced
  • 7 0
 I really doubt John Daly is on anything besides double Jack on the rocks....
  • 23 0
 @Mtbdialed: He's sauced not juiced. Important distinction haha
  • 9 0
 Just do away with all the rules. Problem solved.
  • 2 1
 So just ride the RM-Z450 then?
  • 1 0
 @Snowytrail: with the kick starter lever removed. . . . .
  • 3 0
 In an event like this where judges aren't watching all the time, perhaps there is an opportunity to look to other sports that need to run on the honesty principle. Sailing for example. Most racing does not have on the water judges/referees; judging and penalties are protest driven. Once a formal protest is filed, it can't be ignored. It is either dismissed with reasons, or it heads to a hearing.

Sure, without witnesses it can be tough to prove, but a rider stacking up a pattern of protests from a variety of different competitors certainly is going to deliver a reputation that would be discouraging of unfair play.

Overall in my experience, the majority of sailing competitors are honest and don't knowingly break the rules. The system works for the most part.
  • 1 0
 whats the equivalent of a penalty turn? Let all the air out of your tyre and pump it back up before you can continue?
  • 1 0
 @AyJayDoubleyou: That would be a good one. Smile Doesn't have to be exactly the same obviously, just the principle. But if you were voluntarily taking a penalty, it would probably be a time penalty reported after the fact in bike racing. Egregious rule violation could be a voluntary retirement from the stage or race if the rider is ethical.
  • 3 0
 If some competitors are even willing dope in amateur races, I suppose that it's impossible to police an enduro race to a degree where all cheaters will be caught. So sad. On the other hand, it gives us, the honest riders, to race for fun in a different perspective. Enjoy the riding, have good time with your mates and others around, and be even more satisfied in case of a good result knowing you have ended up before all cheating dickheads. And of course be proud of your personal integrity.
  • 2 0
 I was wondering if it would be better to mandate a gps tracker on the bikes, where you could see the speed of transfers, and investigate accordingly. If someone was going up a 6% at 35km/h then we would have proof, for instance
  • 1 0
 great to see grassroots Enduro racing is so close to the pro game haha. i notice cheating and rule breaking all day long when racing. sometimes happening directly in front of marshals. everybody knows rules won't be enforced tho. very annoying to see. and even pushing me towards not attending anymore
  • 1 0
 I don't even think this even got covered, but so far in the 2 EWS100/qualifier events i've participated in it seemed everyone knew the course map in advance.
Not everyone is going to avoid riding those trails in advance in the spirit of the competition.
  • 1 0
 I can confidently say that there is no drug that will save as much time as cutting track. would like to see a crack down on course patrol, during practice at the EWS Whistler in 2019 I watched two riders miraculously pop out of the bushes, cutting two switchbacks... That's some serious line choice.
  • 2 0
 race taping is that poor, hate the flags method from ski. or even course designers leaving corners open for all to straight line.. lets race the trail not how to avoid content going off course
  • 5 0
 Mama Mia
  • 4 0
 Beers are the only thing that should be secretly stored off trail.
  • 2 2
 I think a French person wrote this… “There have been different rules for different people. The riders from the UK definitely get favoritism. They can break rules and have no consequences, whereas if a French or another national broke the same rule would have been punished”
  • 1 0
 Now, what I would like to know is..

- did the alleged cheaters, dopers and privileged athletes participate in the survey?
- If so, what were their answers?
- how does this all affect the results? : - D
  • 2 0
 Title should read : 78% of enduro racers have either cheated. Or plan to chest in the future lol
  • 2 1
 With all that cheating on the EWS, i wonder what kind of cheating goes on in E-EWS. Batteries hidden in the bushes, bikes with ICE engines, motor with flux capacitors....
  • 1 0
 Surely they can put gps trackers on the bikes. The organisers know the route. Anyone going above a certain speed on the liaison gets flagged for investigation.
  • 1 0
 Do racers in any discipline ever think that penalties are fair and consistently applied?
  • 1 0
 If we get rid of the money there would be less incentive to cheat! BOOM! I fixed the issue right?
  • 1 0
 Ban all racing but DH, XC in Olympics and pro road Tours (and the daily Belgium crits)
  • 1 0
 "Everybody's on steroids"
-Nate Diaz
  • 1 0
 remove the rules and just see how fast they can go lmao
  • 1 0
 Clearly talking about Tweed Valley
  • 1 0
 Whoa, those are some hefty allegations there.
  • 1 0
 everyones on roids too
  • 1 0
  • 2 3
 Why is neutrality worrying? Trying to induce drama is so cringeworthy.
  • 3 5
 i didnt even know so many people cared about enduro...
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