Tour de France Not Winnable Without Doping, Former Rider Says
"People know in cycling that's it's not possible to win the Tour de France without it," Kohl told FanHouse at the conclusion of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's annual science symposium on Monday. "It's three weeks, 3,000 km and you climb (the equivalent of) Mount Everest four times. That's just not possible."
At least not at the speeds the riders are clocking, Kohl said. He spoke to anti-doping researchers and other officials on Sunday and described how he went about skirting the rules until he was caught using what had been an undetectable form of endurance-boosting EPO (CERA) during the 2008 Tour de France, a positive that invalidated the Austrian's third-place finish and resulted in a two-year ban.
Kohl said he didn't want to speculate on whether Contador cheated, although he added it's hard to think otherwise.
"Floyd Landis won the Tour de France and his average speed was 40 kph," Kohl said. "This year it was Cantador and it was also about 40. It was nearly the same average speed. Landis was doped. Maybe in 10 or 15 years, you can win (without drugs) if we work with the anti-doping movement."
Contador's positive announced last week for clenbuterol, listed as an anabolic agent by the World Anti-Doping Agency. But Contador likely would not have been aided much by the drug, especially in the trace amounts that were found.
Regardless, Contador has been suspended and his latest Tour title could be in question. Contador has denied he used performance-enhancing drugs and said the positive likely arose from eating contaminated meat.
Beyond clenbuterol, French sports daily L'Equipe reported last week that plastic residue -- consistent with the plastic bags used by riders to transfuse their own blood for a boost of endurance -- was found in a blood sample taken from Contador.
The test, however, has not been fully scientifically validated, although anti-doping officials would be able to re-test a sample down the road once a screening process has been approved.
"That kind of material (from the bag) gets transferred into the blood," Larry Bowers, the chief science officer at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said during a conference call. "When the subject is re-infused, that materiel remains in their bloodstream for a period of time. The results that I have seen on (the test) look very promising."
Those sorts of breakthroughs were the focus of the four-day summit here. Kohl added the human element during a weekend where talk about the detection of human growth hormone, designer steroids and even the possibility of gene doping dominated. Bowers said Kohl talked about how his specific doping schedule was designed to pass dozens of doping tests before he was ultimately caught months afterward via a new screening method.
"I think it gives an insight into the attitude, focus and detail they have," said Richard Budgett, chief medical officer for the London Organizing Committee of the 2012 Olympic Games. "We see the level of sophistication and attention to detail we have to get into to actually protect the athletes who don't want to cheat."
Kohl, who is eligible to return to riding, said he decided to retire because it's not possible to compete in the sport without doping. Budgett said he hopes that that's not the case, but understands there remains a problem among cyclists in long, multi-stage events like the Tour de France.
"There may be a little bit of truth there," Budgett said. "If you are going to (race) for three weeks, it's very hard to compete with somebody who is doping. It's up to us to make sure there is enough of a deterrent. (Kohl) was under the impression he was never going to be caught and he was reassured by his people that he was never going to be caught."
Besides not wanting to have to compete dirty, Kohl said speeches like the one here would preclude a return anyway.
"I can never come back," Kohl said. "It's not possible if you say the truth."