Editor's Note: This article was originally published after the 2007 Amgen Tour of California. Team Slipstream continues to fight doping in cycling as it prepares for the 2008 season.
In efforts to combat the doping scandals that have plagued the sport of cycling for years, the young men racing for Slipstream started a new endeavor. They decided to get drug tested again and again... and again and again and again...
You Say You Want a Revolution
The Slipstream/Chipotle Professional Cycling team partnered with the Agency for Cycling Ethics (ACE) to create the most progressive anti-doping campaign in the history of sports. Under these provisions, the riders get tested, collectively, 1200 times a year.
For the first three weeks of the season, they are tested every three days--and then once a week for the rest of the season. Considering that only 500 tests are administered amongst all US professional cyclists each year, Slipstream riders are taking quite a stance.
This overwhelming drug test schedule can be intrusive for the riders; however, they have committed to this in order to make a difference in the sport and turn the cycling culture around.
Allen Lim, Team Slipstream's Sports Physiologist speaks for the team, "Nobody in our sport wants to cheat. Nobody in our sport wants to take any extra risks than they already have to take. The sport is dangerous enough."
Then why is doping so prevalent?
Cleaning the Slate
Currently in the cycling world, it is understood that the winner of a race needs to be tested for drug use. Right now, the majority assume that winners cheat. Slipstream's movement is working to eradicate these assumptions.
"It's kind of like a passport to actually do the event, as opposed to a 'Go ahead and do the event and if you win, then we'll see if you actually won,'" says Jonathan Vaughtters, General Manager for Team Slipstream.
Their overall goal is to get America behind cycling again. They believe people should recognize the honest talents that cyclists possess and not just assume that everyone's cheating. They want to prove that they can succeed and win without the help of drugs and stolen victories.
Yes--stolen victories. These guys don't think of doping as cheating, but as something much worse. They call it stealing. 'You stole a victory from us' is what Slipstream riders think of those who use performance-enhancing drugs to get ahead.
Of course, these young men hope to serve as leaders. If all teams would follow their lead, they would be able to pave the way to a better sport as a whole. It would remove the question, "Do I have to cheat to win?" from the minds of the athletes, where today--this question permeates the entire sport.
Follow the Argyle Leaders
The entire attitude of the sport needs to be changed, and these young men are proud to take the lead in making this happen. "It's about believing in something bigger than themselves," says Allen, who has been with Slipstream for two years and has taken a strong leadership role in this unique endeavor.
The team is the youngest in the world according to mean age. It's impressive to be their age and discussing these serious issues so openly--let alone leading a battle against drug use in the sport. Outsiders and those who perceive cycling as a "dirty sport" have given them a great deal of positive feedback for taking on this challenge.
These guys want parents to bring their kids to cycling events. With doping so prominently associated with the sport today, families don't want to be mixed up with it.
"It's all about inspiring people," says Lim. "The teammates are like heroes to the fans. Parents can bring their kids to something that shows them they can do incredible things with just what they were born with."