International Cycling Union (UCI) president Brian Cookson has described encouraging youth riders to dope as ‘nothing short of child abuse’. While he said that he didn’t believe the practice was widespread, he does feel it may be happening in certain parts of the world.
The Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) report concluded that youth cycling was particularly vulnerable to doping. With testing concentrated at elite level, doping may go undetected at lower levels and the report makes the point that if youth riders want to reach higher ranks, the incentives are there to dope at an early age.
Speaking to the BBC, Cookson said:
"One of the things that caused me real concern was the suggestion that there may be evidence that doping is creeping into the youth ranks as well. Frankly, if people are supplying youth riders with doping products and procedures, that's nothing short of child abuse. People should be subject to criminal proceedings."
He said that he wanted to look into it ‘with a bit more seriousness’. “I think it may well be [happening] in certain parts of the world. It's not widespread but let's look at it."
The CIRC believes that doping is increasing where testing is less comprehensive, such as in under-23 racing and in senior teams below World Tour level. It also says that for similar reasons doping in amateur cycling “is becoming endemic”. Over-40s racing was singled out in particular.
“Masters races were said to have middle-aged businessmen winning on EPO, with some of them training as hard as professional riders and putting in comparable performances. Some professional riders explained that they no longer ride in the Gran Fondos because they were so competitive due to the number of riders doping.”
The report states that one of the major dangers of doping in amateur sport is that it to some degree normalises the practice.
“The more widespread doping at the amateur level means the concept of doping is reinforced at the broader amateur level i.e. within the wider fan base. Internet chat rooms provide significant information in the many discussions about doping.”
Not all national anti-doping organisations test amateurs with one telling the commission “they are only amateurs and we concentrate on professionals”. Of those that do, budget constraints typically restrict the amount of testing that can be done.