Bicycle racing has been dogged by doping throughout its history, with accounts of substance use going as far back as Tour de France racers employing nitroglycerine, ether, strychnine, and even amphetamines to dull the suffering of massive days on the bike and improve performance from the early 1900s to later in the 1940s when a half-hearted stance against doping began to form. That's road racing, though, a place where performance-enhancing drugs are much more of an endemic problem than in our world of singletrack and fat tires... right? Sadly, that's far from being the case.
Unfortunately, cross-country racing also has a past that's littered with dopers, and while the UCI does test racers from both the cross-country and downhill disciplines, history has shown that it hasn't been that difficult to fool the system. Enduro racing isn't overseen by the UCI, however, and Enduro World Series racers are currently not screened for any performance enhancing drugs on a regular basis, especially out of competition. That'll change in 2018 when the EWS says that they'll kick off their own testing program, although I'd like to think that none of the racers will be caught doping because, well, none of them are doping.
Doping is a human problem, not a drug problem, and as soon as you put a bunch of humans on bicycles, all competing in one of the most demanding forms of racing, and one that also lacks a serious and established testing protocol, the chances are decent that some aren't abiding by the "spirit of enduro racing.'' After all, it's no secret that some racers have been known to prefer the odd 'alternate line' that may or not be considered cutting the course. If a select few racers are willing to cut out parts of the track to improve their results, I don't doubt that some might also not have a moral issue about powder, fluid, or patch that could make them stronger or recover quicker.
Below, Cedric Gracia weighs in with his thoughts on doping in mountain biking, and particularly when it comes to enduro racing.
The Enduro World Series does currently have an anti-doping policy of sorts, found on page 18 of their rule book
, that states: ''The Enduro World Series organizers and EMBA will respect and assist any National Cycling Federation operating anti-doping controls at Enduro World Series events,'' which I take to mean that they've depended on the host country's cycling federation to run doping controls. They also take a hard stance against any racer with a shady past, saying ''... any cyclist, regardless of cycling discipline, who has previously been found guilty by any court or regulatory body of any use of or involvement with banned, performance-enhancing drugs will not be entitled to compete or take part in any Enduro World Series event.'' That's a hard - and welcome - stance against those who have previously broken the rules.
Doom and gloom notwithstanding, the upside to the Enduro World Series' relatively blank slate when it comes to testing and doping, as well as their independence from the UCI, is that the series could employ a much stricter protocol when that time does come. More on that down the road, though. So while we may not want to think about our EWS heroes or pack fodder using performance-enhancing and banned drugs, today's poll question tackles exactly that. Weigh in on the poll and tell us your thoughts in the comment section.