USADA have claimed this as a victory, calling the result “a reassuring reminder that there is hope for future generations to compete on a level playing field without the use of performance-enhancing drugs”.
If Armstrong is stripped of his Tour victories, the new list of “winners” will contain many names familiar to those who have followed cycling’s infamous doping scandals: Jan Ullrich (banned for doping), Ivan Basso (banned for doping), Andreas Klöden (accused of blood doping- the case was closed when he made a 25000 Euro payment to settle the charges, without an admission of guilt. NADA, the German anti-doping agency, have recently expressed an interest in re-opening the case), and Joseba Beloki (implicated though not charged in Operacion Puerto investigations). Of the new victors, only Jaan Kirsipuu has been neither implicated nor proven to be doping. If he is the hope that USADA is banking on, it is a slim one. Along with many who have previously been banned for doping, Basso and Klöden are still riding, still performing at a competitive elite level (5th in Giro d’Italia 2012 and 11th in Tour de France 2012 respectively). The Olympic gold medal in road cycling was won by Vinokourov, another convicted doper.
Nitrates in food reduces the oxygen cost of some forms of exercise and improves high-intensity exercise tolerance. So the researchers gave half a litre of beetroot juice (which is rich in nitrate) or a nitrate depleted placebo to club-level competitive cyclists. The nitrate juice produced better cycling performance when compared to the placebo. On a 16.1 km race beet juice reduced the total time by 2.7% – not much, but presumably enough to matter in a competition.
In any case, this is fun for doping discussions. Should we ban athletes from quaffing beet juice?