Cheaters are morally depraved, problem solved. Dusts hands.

May 03 2010 Published by under Cycling, Doping, Scientific Misconduct

"I am not a victim. It was my decision to dope. I can assure you, I have never told by a boss to dope, but I have also never experienced a rider being asked why he suddenly became so fast,"


BikeMonkey Guest Post
The latest pro-cycling cheater is one Thomas Frei, recently of the BMC team. He was caught using EPO, unceremoniously dropped from his team and spoke to the press. His comments are refreshingly honest.

"Of course I would have gone on doping. The money tempts you, it is the same for everyone," said Frei in an interview with Swiss website NZZ.ch.

Ahh, the fight for glory, right?

As for himself, he said that he started his pro career clean. "Then came the hard stage races, and I learned that infusions were used for recovery. Everything was legal, but I still didn't want any of it. But at some point it started [for me], because everybody does it. The doctor gives you the first shot, and then it isn't long until you give yourself the first illegal shot."

There's the rub. It ain't physiologically possible to do that job, even just the job of domestique, on pasta. They all know that. We all know that. The circumstances are ripe for doping just to survive. Just to have a paycheck. Just to have a team slot for the next season.
There couldn't possibly be a lesson for science careers in here anywhere.

8 responses so far

  • Anonymous says:

    "There couldn't possibly be a lesson for science careers in here anywhere?"
    But of course there is! In any competitive environment, if there's a way to gain an advantage, even if such way is illegal, as long as large enough number of participants do it, as long as the gains justify the risks, there will be those who choose to go over to the Dark Side.

  • bikemonkey says:

    But Anonymous, this is just because those people are scummy cheaters with weak morals in the first place. Right? All we could possibly need to do is to run the baddies out of science and the problem will totally be solved.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm all for throwing the baddies out of science, if you can find them. We do not have, yet, a urine or blood test that could tell us a baddy from a goody. We actually do not even have a penal system that is detering enough to scare the bady from thinking about being bad. And if and when we catch a bad one, it usually ends up with a slap on the wrist.

  • bill says:

    *applause*

  • Jan says:

    I think that doping in cycling is a classical case of "prisoners' dilemma". If a drug is performance-enhancing and has a only moderate probability of being discovered in tests then cyclists cannot afford not to take it. And, no, harsh convictions or honor codes can't help there. It's the unfortunate combination of "winner takes it all" and low success rate of rule enforcement.
    Science does not have the "Winner takes it all rule", so it probably very different.

  • Anonymous says:

    "Science does not have the "Winner takes it all rule", so it probably very different."
    Really? In science you may not compete on the national or international level, but you still compete at your university level, where the winner keeps his/her job and the loser goes home. Some losers, as we all witnessed several weeks ago, are even willing to kill when they lose i.e., U of Alabama.

  • bikemonkey says:

    Jan, this cyclist was just a domestique this season. He may have had hopes of ascending to team leader status but that later success is always uncertain in cycling. There have also been plenty of prior cases in which the admitted cheater acknowledged his goal was just keeping a pro contract.
    Science is not different. At least, not very different. Even as a domestique/postdoc you have to produce. You have to make progress toward publishable figures. Either for your own "story" or as a part of the whole in mega labs.
    Some days (months) in science, you just aren't getting successful results.
    The director sportif (PI) has to make a decision. Is the person just not capable of ever contributing? Is the person in a building phase which will pay off in spades down the road? Is the person just a bad fit for this team (lab)?
    The rider (postdoc) who is not producing has a very real chance of not having the contract renewed. And then having to face seeking another team, going back to the lower-tier pro circuit or deciding to retire from competition.
    The EPO (Photoshop) is just sitting there....everybody is doing it...just this once to get past a slump....nobody will ever know....

  • Jan says:

    I agree that science has its problems with cheating but not more than any other human endeavor.
    In (high-performance) sports the problem is far greater because the
    payoff for small performance improvements is so disproportionate. If A is 10% better than B (easy to measure in sports) A will be famous and B will be domestique, or A is professional and B is hobbyist. The rule-of-thumb might be: the larger the payoff difference for marginal performance difference the greater the incentive for "cheating". I don't think that this payoff gradient is as steep in science as in sports.
    I would rather say that a larger problem in science is proper measurement of quality, which is impossible in the short-term (in contrast to sports). Thus, science suffers much more from self-promotion, agenda-setting and fashionable fads than from cheating (at least in maths, my area).

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