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Doping Snapshot: A look at currently/recently suspended riders

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Part I: Doping and Nationality: who’s getting caught where?

Doping is on our minds lately: Kohl's newest confession, the delay in results from the biological passport, the breaking news of Antonio Colom's positive...

In this post, I'm going to start analyzing the riders currently under suspension for doping offenses, and continue in one or more future posts. Where are they from? How old are they? What are they using? Where are they using? Who is catching them? Who isn't catching them?

Data comes from CQ's list of suspended male cyclists. I first pulled the list and started working on it a couple of months ago (thanks to whoever mentioned it--I searched and couldn't find your post)--in the meantime, a few riders have finished their suspensions and others have been added. I kept the info on the ones who are now off the list to broaden the range of data, so the list I'm working from consists of 65 riders. The numbers in various instances won't add up to 65 because there is little data available for some of the cyclists, while others have multiple offenses. I'll note these cases as we come to them.

The list does NOT include those who have tested positive but not yet been officially sanctioned (Rebellin, Pfannberger), nor those whose suspension by a national commission has yet to be applied globally (Valverde).

This installment looks at the nationality of the riders on the list, where they are being caught, and who is--and isn't--catching them. Future installments will look at the age of suspended dopers at time of offense, and the frequency with which various doping products are showing up.

Let's get started on the flip...

EDIT: Per request, here are some numbers regarding how many riders from each country are in the peloton. Top 10 countries by active riders in CQ's database (these were pulled during the off-season for another post):

1. France: 639
2. Italy: 596
3. Belgium: 479
4. Spain: 450
5. Germany: 417
6. Netherlands: 341
7. USA: 318
8. Australia: 254
9. Russia 190
10. Great Britain: 188

For comparison: Columbia: 286; Costa Rica: 79. You can look up other countries you're interested in at CQ (search by Nationality).

Suspendees by nationality

Italian    15
Colombian    12
Spanish    6
Austrian    3
German    3
American    3
Australian    2
Belgian    2
Brazilian    2
Costa Rican    2
Danish    2
French    2
Kazakh    2
Polish    2
Portuguese    2
Russian    2
Bulgarian    1
South African    1
Ukranian    1

Most of the countries on the list have between 1-3 suspended riders, but three stand well above the rest.

Italians obviously lead the pack in suspendees, by a long shot—23% of the total (15 riders). So...boo Italians for being cheats, or yay CONI for suspending them when other national federations look the other way? Or a little of both? Despite a spotty record in the past CONI does currently seem committed to cleaning up the sport, and that almost certainly reflects in these numbers. Consider, thought, that there are other countries that are vehemently anti-doping--Germany and France come to mind, and yet only 3 Germans and 2 French are currently suspended. Is there less to find among German and French riders, or is the official stance more bluster than substance?

Colombians make up 18.5% of current suspendees (12 riders). I don't know anything about the cycling scene in Colombia, but for what it’s most of them were caught in their home country—none were busted in European races.

The Spanish claim the third spot on the podium, with 6 suspendees, or about 9.2%.  So, is it true that Spanish cyclists have little to fear in Spanish races? Well, 4 of their 6 suspended riders were busted in competition—every one of them in a foreign country (3 in France, 1 in Portugal). 2 were caught in out-of-competition tests, but I'm not sure who caught them. Do the Spanish catch anyone? Yeah. See below.

Any evidence of national bias?

For that, we have to look at where the riders are being caught, and then who is being caught in which locale.

In the 63 cases where the info is available:
47 (74.6%) riders were caught in competition
8 (12.7%) were caught in out-of-competition testing
4 (6.3%) were suspended for missed/avoided tests
4 (6.3%) were caught through investigation, not positive tests

I don’t know who caught the riders nabbed in out-of-competition testing. Could be the UCI, the rider’s national federation, the national federation where they live or were visiting at the time. Unfortunately, this isn’t usually reported. The riders caught in OOC testing are: Italian (2), Spanish (2), German, Kazakh, Portuguese, and Ukranian (1 each).

Just about three quarters of suspended riders are busted in competition. In the 46 cases where locale is known, who is busting whom?

France: 12 (26%)
Who are they catching? Italian (4), Spanish (3), Austrian, Bulgarian, French, German, and Kazakh (1 each)

Colombia: 9 (19.6%)
Who are they catching? All Colombian.

Italy: 7 (15%)
Who are they catching? Italian (5), Polish and Russian (1 each)

Brazil: 3 (6.5%)
Who are they catching? Brazilian (2), Colombian

Germany: 2 (4.3%)
Who are they catching? German, Polish

Portugal: 2 (4.3%)
Who are they catching? Portuguese, Spanish

1 each (2.1% each): Australia (Australian), Austria (Austrian), Belgium (French), Costa Rica (Costa Rican), Dominican Republic (American), El Salvador (Costa Rican), South Africa (South African), Spain (Italian), Switzerland (Russian), Turkey (American), USA (American)

France is leading the way in catching cheats during competition—12 of the currently-suspended crew were nabbed in French races (8 of them in the Tour). Only one of them is French, though, compared to 4 Italians and 3 Spanish riders. France contributes the greatest number of active cyclists in the CQ database—but since only the top three in a race get tested automatically, the underperforming French might be tested a bit less than the others. Or: they really are cleaner than other countries. Or: as Bernard Hinault suggests, they’re getting away with it. It really would suck, though, to think that they dope along with the others…and still don’t win.

Italy is doing okay, especially in catching their own—7 nabs, 5 of them Italian riders. But 8 of the currently-suspended riders nabbed in the Tour, and none in the Giro? Everybody in MSR is clean? Uh huh. Hey, keep it up at the Gran Fondo dei Monti Ausoni!

Spain: sucks. They managed to catch one rider, an Italian, in the 2007 Clasica de Almeria. Well, it was the winner—they had to test him. Is it true that dope tests in Spain are open book?

Belgium: incredibly suspect. Lots of high-profile races in the spring, chock-full of Italians, Spaniards, and other guys who get caught elsewhere. Bad publicity to nail someone in de Ronde, Het Nieuwsblad eh? They have caught one of the currently-suspended riders. In a kermesse in Houtem. EDIT: gav points out that the UCI tests at the "major races," so they bear responsibility if riders aren't getting caught at de Ronde. Still wading through the UCI website to see if I can find a definitive list.

EDIT 2: The UCI anti-doping regulations refer to an "A list" of races where the UCI is in charge of controls and a "B list" where national federations take responsibility. I can't find an A list or B list in searching both their site and the internet. But it seems that the A list corresponds to the UCI's International Calendar--if that's what they mean, then Belgium is not off the hook for the spring season--the UCI is in charge of de Ronde, Gent-Wevelgem, and the Ardennes, but Belgium should be testing at their other races, including Het Nieuwsblad, KBK, Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Prijs, Brabantse Pijl, Driedaagse de Panne, and Scheldeprijs. Still a lot of chances.



Next time: Age at time of offense. Is it true that the younger generation is cleaner?