I'm not going to mention HIM by name. To do so would be considered taboo in my industry. The 7-time Tour de France winner has been blacklisted, scorned by everyone, and is hated by the masses. And it is not okay to use the man as a reference.
A.O. is a term I've coined that means After Oprah. Television, sponsors, magazines, websites and any other publicity or marketing company that once flocked to the man want no part of HIM since that famous interview. HE is definitely, to cyclists in the U.S., public enemy number one for more reasons than there are fingers on my hands. And all of it is justified—HE is the Tour de France and cycling's biggest cheater in its storied history.
That's not the surprise. The surprise is that it's saying something. For years the best in the sport have cheated their way through the Tour, and I'm not just talking about the last thirty years, going back to the Team Banesto and Marco Pantani scandals. I'm talking about the year 1904 and every year since. Cyclists have always looked for every advantage available, and most have done everything in their power to finish, and even more to win.
Here are seven cheaters of the Tour de France that have helped to build its storied history.
Fausto Coppi—Il Campionissimo
Two-time winner of the Tour de France in 1949 and 1952 and generally considered one of the greatest champions of all time, Coppi openly used a mixture of doping substances he called la bomba to win races. La bomba, according to Coppi, included amphetamines, caffeine, opiates, ether, cocaine, chloroform and alcohol, most of which was included in Coppi's water bottles. When asked when he took his special la bomba mix, Coppi replied, "Only when I have to." And when did he have to? "Almost all the time."
Maurice Garin and the Tour of 1904
Garin won the Tour in 1903 and seemed to have edged a slight victory over Lucien Pothier in 1904 for his second straight victory. But the budding popularity and attention the race was beginning to receive turned into its own downfall, as Garin and the other top five riders from that year's race were disqualified, all for taking trains during the race to make the daunting course up the Alps not so intimidating.
Pelissier is a French cycling legend and still beloved to this day for his role in improving the conditions of cyclists in the 1920's and 30's. Pelissier has 29 victories and a lone Tour de France title in 1923. When asked to describe the Tour, Pelissier said, "You have no idea what the Tour is. It's calvary. We suffer on the road. But do you want to see how we keep going?"