By Sal Ruibal
I’ll bet you thought I’d be writing about the “Crybaby Mountain Biker” dude this week. We’ll get to him, but let’s deal with some other dopes, too.
“Crybaby” is tangentially tied in to this because he’s Belgian and was trying to make the Belgian Olympic team. That makes him the second-biggest jerk in Belgian mountain bike history.
I have a lot of respect for Belgium and its great cycling traditions, but when it comes to mountain biking, its record is pretty sketchy. That’s mostly because its greatest mountain biker, Filip Meirhaeghe, was also a big-time doper. Not smoking dope, but injecting EPO.
Meirhaeghe won a silver medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. He won the mountain bike world championships in 2003, the silver in 2002, the bronze 1999 and 1998.
Pretty damn impressive. But just before the 2004 Olympics in Greece, Meirhaeghe admitted to using EPO after having tested positive during the 2004 World Cup. His excuse was simple: He wanted to win gold at the Olympics. He got an 18-month suspension and became a road racer.
And there’s another prominent MTB champ with a doping record: Italian drama queen Paola Pezzo, winner of the first Olympics women’s mountain bike race in 1996 in Atlanta and again in 2000 in Sydney. She tested positive for the banned steroid Nandrolone after winning the 1997 World Cup finals, got a six-month suspension and was back on the top step of the podium in Sydney three years later.
Mountain bikers can be pretty smug about how our record of performance-enhancing doping (as opposed to munchies-enhancing dope) compares to our skinny road bike cousins. But if dorks are doping in gran fondos, you can bet your Pinto that dorks are doping in all levels of mountain biking.
They don’t get caught because mountain bike race promoters barely have $200 bucks for Port-a-Johns let alone $10,000 for drug testing guys and gals who are racing to win a free jersey and $50 gift certificate from Performance Bicycles.
I have mentioned in earlier blogs and Bike magazine stories that mountain biking has its roots (literally) in the cultivation of marijuana in Northern California. Growers needed a fast way to escape from U.S. Forest Service patrols raiding their garden plots in and around Marin County. That’s similar to NASCAR’s Southern roots as high-speed back roads moonshine runners.
Let me say for the record that corn liquor and BC Bud are not performance enhancing.
We’ve all been to mountain bike races where some improbable rider won a race and we thought, “Jeez, he really sucks. He’s probably doping.”
Some of us also thought, “Hmmmm, wonder where I can get some?”
I know I have. It’s a bummer to bust your ass for 12 laps and have some pinhead with trail rage rack up 19.
You know who I’m talking about. The second-cousin to the Crybaby. The dude who times his orgasms on Strava. Every stroke counts.
Smoking dope only helps after a race, or so I’ve heard. Recovery is important but I don’t think eating two sleeves of Oreos and a jug of YooHoo can be considered recovery. And I certainly would never advocate driving home buzzed after a hard race. That’s what that tent is for.
So here’s my thought for today: Don’t use performance-enhancing drugs. Spend your money on a lighter bike or better yet, a lighter you. Ride with faster people and learn to keep up with them. You may not win races, but you’ll be able to sleep at night while the Crybaby is still wailing.
And if you still think doping is cool, read Bike managing editor Joe Parkin’s excellent book about his hard-man racing days in Belgium and on the world pro mountain bike circuit: “A Dog in a Hat.” It will scare the crap out of you.