I'm not quite sure why some of the people here on ST have so much animosity towards doping athletes... The "cheaters". There is an implication that they are cheating and stealing from the other athletes in their given event. What most people don't understand, is that doping in professional sports is more pervasive than many could ever guess.
What people do not understand, is that the playing field is NOT level to begin with. All of these big, bad "cheaters" just happend to have gotten caught. I suppose that I am implying that most of the athletes in the peleton at an event like the TDF are doped. It is possible that I am wrong, but I don't think so. I AM sure of one thing: If all of the athletes who are/do/did dope in the TDF were caught and banned, we would have a very boring month of July.
Let's look at tier 2 pro cyclists, who battle it out in the lesser races, or even our local "pro/1/2s". Many of these guys are genetic/physical/athletic anomalies, just like the guys in the TDF. Many of these guys won all of their local races when they were in their youth, and showed amazing promise. They also train as hard as any TDF athletes, riding every day. BUT, something prevents them from reaching the top ranks. What is that "something", I wonder? The pressure to get to that next level, and the desire to acheive their dreams is something that one can't understand unless if one has been on the cusp of that level. It is my guess that most people will do whatever it takes, be it extreme training, crazy nutrition, or other "outside" support.
Once you are there, on the top, it must be even harder. The pressure must be incredible from fans, sponsors, teammates, family, etc. The list goes on. I offer this not as an excuse, rather an explanation for why athletes might choose to dope.
It seems to me, and to many others, events like the TDF are inhuman. I do believe that it IS possible to acheive these events without outside support, even though it is not probable. I even believe that LA's acheivements were possible, drug-free.
For the past 6 years, I have worked in an environment surrounded by elite athletes. Through recent aquaintance, I have met 2 US domestic pros. I am very familiar with the commitment that it takes to achieve top levels in athletics.
It my opinion that doping - in professional sports - such as TDF should not be banned. Rather, it should be regulated. I think that would help to level the playing field. Doping will ALWAYS be there, it always has been. That is just my opinion, though.
Regardless, I appreciate ALL of the TDF dudes and their performances with or without drugs. They are all just characters on a TV screen for me, and their performances inspire me - even the dopers (which I believe is most of them). Even with the dope, they have to train at a level that most of us can never comprehend.
On a slightly different note: Can anyone answer this question for me: What was the average speed of this year's TDF? I know that it has gotten faster every year until last year. Did it get faster again this year? I did not hear about that. I would doubt it.
Just some of my thoughts...