"You have to be a real a...hole to cover the new generation in dirt, saying it's not clean! The older generations deserve to be criticised, but not the new one which works hard and has a lot of talent - contrary to Kohl."—David Millar, cyclingnews
Is Millar right? Or is his view skewed, perhaps, by hanging out in the rarefied anti-doping atmosphere of Garmin-Slipstream? Let's take a look and see if the data on currently suspended riders backs him up.
As before, the info comes from a search of Cycling Quotient for riders with the status “suspended.” Their current roster has 62 riders, but has varied since I started analysis a few months ago—I added the newer cases and chose to leave a few riders on who have since come off the list (to broaden the range of data), so the list I’m working from includes 65 cyclists.
Findings below the fold…
Age of suspended riders at time of offense
Average: 28.15 years
Median (as many above as below): 27.0
Mode (most common age): 24*
*calendar age, not figured to percent of year
The average isn't surprising--LittleOldLady posted in urula's 27.62 thread that the average age of the pro peloton is 28, so if she’s correct (something I haven’t been able to confirm or refute--if anyone has a source I'll be happy to add it and edit comments as necessary) our average age for dopers is spot on. But there is a depressing nugget in there--if the younger generation were cleaner than their elders, as is often believed/assumed/desperately hoped (see Millar’s quote above the flip), the numbers should skew higher.
Also, if the average age of dopers matches the average age in the peloton, that suggests that doping is pretty consistent across the board, and does not increase as riders get older and start to wane physically—although the use of certain products over others might. More on that in the next segment.
Even if we're off with the average age of the peloton, the evidence still suggests the younger generation isn't clean. Look at the mode--more 24-year-olds have been caught doping than any other age (10 of them). And 23 of the current suspendees (over 35%) were under the age of 25 at time of offense, including a frickin' 19-year-old. Not really surprising when you consider Kohl's assertion that he was doping from the juniors on up. But again, that’s a serious blow to the dream that things are changing.
One thing to take into mind, though, is the time it takes for a doping case to reach suspension. There are a couple of riders on the list, currently under a two-year ban, whose offenses occurred as far back as 2003 & 2004.
Breakdown of when offense occurred among the current suspendees:
2003/2004: 3 (4.6%)
2005: 1 (1.5%)
2006: 10 (15.4%)
2007: 28 (43.1%)
2008: 22 (33.8%)
2009: 1 (1.5%)
Despite the fact that most of the suspendees are serving 2-year bans, at least 30 (46.2%) of their offenses (exact date is not always known) occurred more than two years ago. It takes time for cases to wend their way through the system. The Beijing positives, for instance, occurred in 2008 but were not revealed until 2009, and Davide Rebellin is still waiting for the results of his B sample. Since we’re halfway through the year already, it’s possible that his ban (should it occur) won’t begin until 2010. (Note: to encourage cyclists to confess, bans are usually back-dated to time of positive or time of last race when a convicted rider cooperates, but begin at date of conviction for those who choose to fight it out instead.)
So it is possible that the younger generation is cleaning up, but it might be another two years or so before that will show up in the stats. For now, though, the numbers do not back up anecdotal suggestions that the kids are alright.
And I guess that makes me a real a---hole.
EDIT: Some readers have suggested that the sample might skew young because younger riders might, due to their lack of experience, be more likely to be caught. So far, there's been no evidence presented for this either way, but it's something to think about.
Next time: Who's using what? A breakdown of doping products/practices