Bjarne Riis used to get spanked out of the back of the peloton on hills as steep as a motorway flyover on a regular basis, a handful of months later hes climbing with the best of the non-specialists in the world in the TDF. And then goes on to win.
I'm not sure that's refuting what I'm saying. If, in that example, drugs were used to transform his performance, how can we be sure that all it didn't do, was level the playing field with those he was truly competing against?
It made a champion out of a mediocre domestique.
How can you be sure, though - how can you truly compare where he was in the relative hierarchy - who was clean, who was using.
There are figures bandied about that a good response to EPO can add over 30% to your performance, that takes you from 4.5w/kg at threshold (a good second cat) to 6w/kg, which is what the likes of the best riders in the world can put out. Not quite carthorse to grand national winner, but not far off.
I've no doubts of the effects, that's not in dispute - I'm talking about the situation with the landscape, too - if the rest of the peloton is using, then how can you be sure that exactly the same suggestion of turning a journeyman into a champion, isn't true of countless others? And given that it will almost certainly be those using at the front of the pack, surely they are only there because of their drug use.
Were they all completely clean, would the results be different? I don't know. I struggle to care, though. Drug use is - or at least was - so rife, that it becomes merely an intellectual hypothetical.
And we can't be sure how leveled the playing field was. We don't know how every rider in the top 50 responds to the dope, or how good they were before. Or if they were all doping......
Tho, statistically, its unlikely that the field was anywhere near level.
That's my point, really. Yes, I truly know, PEDs can transform the performance of people. It can also transform their attitude, because of some psychological boost they get. Problem is, in sports where drug use was so rife, for the front of the pack, it simply becomes another equaliser, largely. You could argue some might benefit more - well biologically, and naturally, some may already have more capabilities - you could argue some get more of a psychological or attitude boost, some may take more (in the examples, where the benefits are still scalable).
The only scenarios I see the potential to suggest somebody got there merely by use of PEDs is where PED use is so scarce in some particular sport, or discipline, that it made them a rarity. Thing is, realistically, how could most ever appraise that?
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