Drug cheats in cycling, particularly at events such as the world famous Tour de France are actually more common than most people realize. For the first 60 years of its existence starting in 1903, the Tour de France allowed the use of drugs. In fact, it had been a common practice since the race had started. Today, there has been a tremendous effort to clean up the sport, but each year like clockwork racers are caught and punished for either using a banned substance or illegal practices such as blood doping.
Top 10 Cycling Drug Cheats
Such behavior is frankly not common at all with amateur cyclists who ride for fun. In fact, if you love to ride your bike in the open countryside, along trails or perhaps in the city, then it pays to have bicycle insurance for protection. You never know when an accident may occur, that is why it is important to have insurance to cover your bicycle.
What follows are the top 10 drug cheats and cheaters in cycling history. Each of these cyclists had generally achieved some type of fame before being caught or admitting to what they had done.
A man who was once the most celebrated Tour de France Champion in the history of the sport. Lance Armstrong overcame incredible odds which included surviving testicular cancer to win the Tour de France seven times admitted in a recent interview that he used banned substances to help him win each race. The admission, while expected, still shocked the sports world considering that Armstrong had never once failed a drug test during his entire cycling career. While many other cyclists have either admitted to or been caught cheating, no one was bigger than Armstrong in the sport.
2) Eddy Merckx
Considered by many to be the greatest pro cycler ever, Eddy won four Tour de France races in a row from 1969 to 1972 before being upended by Luis Ocana for a year before returning to win the yellow jersey in 1974. His cycling exploits became legendary. However his career was plagued by drug use. Eddy tested positive for illegal drugs three times and was expelled from the 1969 Giro d’Italia. However, he never tested positive for any of his performances at the Tour de France.
Certainly one of the most talented and dashing of the young cyclists, this Spaniard won the 2007 and 2010 Tour de France along with numerous other titles in Europe before being stripped after testing positive for doping just after the 2010 race. Contador is considered one of the most talented “climbing” racers to have ever raced. However, doping allegations have followed him throughout his career. Currently, Contador has served his suspension and is eligible to race again.
4) Floyd Landis
After the success of Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis won the 2006 Tour de France. However, he was soon stripped of his title for using performance-enhancing drugs. He fought the allegations for years before finally admitting to continual doping and accused other racers, most importantly Lance Armstrong who had never tested positive, of also using drugs or cheating.
5) Jan Ullrich
Before there was Lance Armstrong, there was German Jan Ullrich who won numerous races throughout his career which peaked with the 1997 win at the Tour de France. His win sparked a boom in bicycles in Germany and his other most notable finish, a silver medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, seemed to cement his reputation as one of the best cyclists on Earth. However, he has been subsequently stripped of his titles after admitting to blood doping.
One of the most accomplished cyclists in the 20th century. Jacques won the Tour de France five times starting with a single win in 1957 and followed by four in a row from 1961 to 1964. His greatest strength was in the time trials where he excelled to the point of being nicknamed “Monsieur Chrono”. While he was never caught taking illegal substances, he has confessed to blood doping and even debated a French government minister on national TV proclaiming, “Leave me in peace, everybody takes dope.”
7) Joop ZoetemelkThis native of the Netherlands won the Tour de France in 1980 and finished a remarkable 16 times, a record that was tied by George Hincapie in 2012. Perhaps more remarkable than his Tour de France win was his six second place finishes at the event. However, Joop did test positive in 1977 for pemoline, 1979 for steroids and 1983 for nandrolon although that result was retracted later. He admitted receiving a blood transfusion during the 1976 Tour de France, but did not view it as cheating.
This Frenchman managed back to back wins in the Tour de France in 1975 and 1976. He is perhaps best known for ending the reign of Eddy Merckx run at the Tour de France. His exploits however were tainted somewhat by the admission to using steroids during his 1975 win and participation in the Tour de France in 1977. His downfall was being caught taking drugs before the 1977 Paris to Nice race and never being the same afterwards.
The winner of the 1983 and 1984 Tour de France, Laurent was just barely beat out of a third title by Greg LeMond in 1989. His many achievements in cycling however were tainted somewhat by testing positive for a banned substance in 1989.
10) Riccardo Ricco
It may have been the nature of how Ricco was caught cheating that made him infamous. On February 6th, 2011, Ricco was admitted to a local hospital in critical condition. Suffering from kidney failure, it turned out that he was tried to perform a blood transfusion on himself using blood that was 25 days old. In the hospital, Ricco admitted to the doctor what he had done and the doctor reported him to the authorities. On June 11th of that year, Ricco was formally suspended for using prohibited methods.