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Why do amateur athletes dope?

November 2015

This post was written shortly after two, one male and one female, of the top three (men and women) finishers at the New York Gran Fondo were busted for doping

Being an amateur athlete has its challenges, but when does the stress of not being fast enough finally get the best of one?

That’s really the question.

I’ve thought about doping myself, and this is why…

I ride, as I’ve made abundantly clear in the past, with some very fast folks. I’ve been trying for three or four years now to finish with the lead group. I’m just not strong enough and my aerobic capacity is not great enough that I can make it beyond the 20 mile mark of the 33 mile ride.

Partly I have myself to blame. I won’t not do my share of the work. I won’t hide except in specific situations (I did once on a century with the same group and made it 80 miles at near a 23 mph average pace on open roads – the 33 mile lead group usually finishes between 23 & 24).

However, if I had a little help, call it an easy ten percent boost, I could hang with the big dogs. No, money wouldn’t fall from the heavens and the pats on the back would subside after the second time in a row I stuck with the lead group, but I would be in an elite group of cyclists. I would be riding with the fastest of the fast. Masters champions, a national triathlon champion and categorizes racers… Rare air for a businessman with a family and too many responsibilities and a lack of “want to” to train like those who make my lungs burn on a weekly basis.

This is how it starts.

Little to no thoughts of consequences, after all, who would know? It’s just the Tuesday night club ride…

Fortunately I have a cooler head about such things so I haven’t bothered beyond the odd thought, “Wouldn’t it be neat if…” Unlike some, I have the ability to think beyond silly desires to the consequences tied to such actions, and getting busted by a doping board at a Gran Fondo is not what I’m talking about.

All too often I see knee-jerk reactions claiming evil intentions or a need to be better than others at any cost as the culprit that leads to artificial means of performance enhancement.  I don’t claim to know anything beyond my own experience but I will say this:  I’ve been tempted to go that route to just keep up with the local club guys.  I can’t imagine how tempting it would be if there were actually something riding on it.  This isn’t, of course, an excuse for anyone, including pros. Cheating is cheating, even if everyone is doing it.

It is more to say, however, “Meh, I get it”.

To wrap this post up, if not for my friends, Matt our local shop owner, Mike, Chuck, Phill, Brad, Big Joe, Carla, Allen, Adam and Diane, Mike and Diane, Ron, and especially now, my wife, I don’t know if I’d have found happiness in just being me… If not for them, maybe the temptation to ride with the A crowd would have been too great. I’ll never know now, because all the dope in the world can’t make what I’ve got better.

While I do find doping repugnant, I can certainly understand the desire to fit in.  For those people, I simply feel sorry for them.  It’s as though they’re sick – there’s something wrong in the head that they listen to that says, “I have to be better, faster, stronger than what I’m capable of under normal circumstances”…

But for the grace of God, there go I…

As a PS, if you click on the link above, I actually very much agree with GFNY’s policy of allowing those who have tested positive for banned substances to ride in the event after they’ve served their suspension (WADA’s is Two Years) but they’re banned for life from competing in the event.  They have to start at the back of the field and their times won’t be recorded.  This lets them ride and be a part of the “society”, but definitely punishes them harshly for their past misdeeds.  My hat is off to them.




  1. I’m with you on this one; I absolutely understand what would drive even amateur athletes to dope. The desire to win, to be that little bit better, to be able to stick with the pack or make the break for little or no extra training, that desire is a strong one! I guess it get’s stronger the more you have riding on your performance too. I get it, but I don’t approve of it.

    Even if I did a few rounds of EPO, I still wouldn’t be as fast as the top guys around here, haha!

    • bgddyjim says:

      Thanks, but remember my perspective… I’m an ex-drunk. If some EPO is good, more is better and too much is just about right. Guaranteed I’d do enough to tease Lance Armstrong. That’s just how I roll. Chuckle.

  2. velo26 says:

    We all have made bad choices at some point in our lives and if your a young rider chasing points to move up a cat or you are in discussion with a pro team but it depends on how the rest of your season goes, that young rider may feel at that moment in time he has no choice.

  3. James L says:

    I am glad you wrote about this, its nice to see that perspective of wanting to belong to a group – I guess like anything else in life!

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