Trying to find professional cyclists with a history void of cheating might seem like a fool's errand. After all, some of the sport's biggest names—Eddy Merckx, Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil and Miguel Indurain—all have cheating as a blemish on their records (not to mention the most obvious guilty party, Lance Armstrong).
Whether pumping chemicals into their bloodstream, snorting cocaine, riding trains or motorizing their bikes, cheater has become synonymous with the word cyclist.
In the last few years, it's become apparent the world of cycling is dealing with more than just a few bad apples; cheating goes much deeper and is a systemic problem within the sport. Having said that, there are still a few "good apples" who give fans hope for a clean peloton.
Greg LeMond1 of 10
Lance Armstrong once famously questioned Greg LeMond's statement that he never used drugs on his way to three Tour de France titles, thinking one couldn't possibly win while clean. Well, he has steadfastly maintained he never took performance enhancing drugs and there is zero evidence of LeMond ever having done so.
Also, LeMond captured two of his Tour titles and a World Road Race Championship after a devastating hunting accident. Thus, not only did LeMond cement his position as the greatest American cyclist of all time, but also as cycling's greatest comeback story.
Since his retirement, he has become one of anti-doping's strongest advocates.
Gino Bartali2 of 10
One of cycling's greatest rivalries was a mid-century clash between Gino Bartali and fellow countryman Fausto Coppi. While Coppi might go down as the more accomplished cyclist—capturing seven grand tours to Bartali's five—his admitted drug use is an undeniable stain on his record.
Bartali, for his part, knew Coppi was taking drugs and would sneak into Coppi's hotel room to find which drugs he used to gain his advantage.
"I had become so expert in interpreting all these pharmaceuticals that I could predict how Fausto would behave during the course of the stage," Bartali said in a 1946 interview. "I would work out, according to the traces of the product I found, how and when he would attack me."
Cadel Evans3 of 10
One of cycling's greatest what ifs, Cadel Evans might have ridden to multiple Tour de France victories if it weren't for a doped-up peloton.
"I always thought (Evans) was one of the biggest talents I've ever seen," LeMond said in a 2015 interview with Australian television program Cycling Central. "I think he came into the sport at a difficult time, a difficult time to show his talents."
A 2013 report by French journalist Antoine Vayer suggests that only two Tour de France winners in the past 30 years have accomplished their feat without performance-enhancing drugs: Lemond and Evans.
While he has only a single Tour de France and Road Race Championship title to his name, the Australian is widely considered the greatest clean rider of an era rampant with drug use. In fact, his lone 2011 victory came during a year perceived as one of the cleanest in recent history.
Chris Froome4 of 10
Which brings us to our next cyclist, Chris Froome. While doping allegations from media and fans of the sport have followed Froome since his days as a domestique, there is no evidence that this two-time winner of the Tour has ever taken anything to enhance his performance in the saddle.
You can attribute this growing cynicism among media and fans to Armstrong's recent revelations (no one knows who to believe anymore). But with stringent testing, stricter rules and the fact that professional cyclists of this era live under a microscope, we're going to side with those who believe the sport is the cleanest it's been in decades. It helps that Froome is also one of the peloton's biggest advocates for strict drug testing, and recently called on the UCI to intensify their investigation into concealed motors in bikes.
Graeme Obree5 of 10
The king of the velodrome, Graeme Obree rode his now famous, self-made Old Faithful bicycle to capture the prestigious hour record on two occasions. While the UCI eventually banned his praying mantis-like riding position, they later recanted and restored his previous records.
Obree later said he had the opportunity to cycle in the 1995 Tour de France, but when he refused to take drugs to improve his performance, his team fired him.
"In my opinion, 99 percent of riders at elite level take?EPO?or a similar drug," Obree told L'Equipe in a 1996 interview. "Not particularly to dope themselves but to be at the same level as the others. And I find that rather sad."
Marianne Vos6 of 10
If you think EPO and motorized bikes are a problem within the men's peloton only, you're in for a big surprise. Just this year, race officials at the Women's Cyclocross World Championships discovered a motor in the bike of Femke Van den Driessche, who later banned herself for life. Fabiana Luperini, a four-time world champion and one of the greatest cyclists of all time, once tested positive for banned substance nandrolone.
Marianne Vos, however, has maintained her perch as one of the world's greatest all-around cyclists while never testing positive for banned substances; nor does she require a motor to win multiple titles across multiple disciplines.
In a 2010 interview with VeloNation, Vos called for more out of competition testing, saying UCI only tested her once in the offseason that year.
"We really need to put effective barriers in place to prevent riders who are attempting to take drugs," Vos said. "I think an increase in out of competition controls will raise a barricade."
Bernard Hinault7 of 10
With five Tour de France titles, five additional grand tour titles and one World Road Race Championship, Bernard Hinault is by far the most accomplished rider on this list. And with such accomplishment comes inherent suspicion.
However, Hinault's lone strike was his refusal to comply with a urine test in July of 1982. While this is certainly a red flag, there is no concrete evidence that Hinault ever cheated on his way to becoming one of the greatest cyclists of all time.
Add to that the fact that Hinault was teammates with a fiery young American named Greg Lemond—who would have undoubtedly spilled the beans if he ever had an inkling that Hinault wasn't clean—one's suspicions slowly wane.
Roger De Vlaeminck8 of 10
A master of the cobbles and one of the greatest classics racers of all time, Roger De Vlaeminck won the prestigious Paris-Roubaix four times, Giro di Lombardio twice and captured the Belgian Road Race Championship in 1969 when fellow countryman Eddy Merckx was at the peak of his powers.
De Vlaeminck has even become synonymous with his era—the age of De Vlaeminck. This is because no rider in this day and age comes close to matching his all-around performance. And bear in mind, he rode at the same time as the all-time greatest, Merckx.
While he inevitably gets compared to Merckx, one area that De Vlaeminck undoubtedly has a leg up on his rival is the fact that he never tested positive for drug use. He later said in an interview with Belgian website De Zondag that he never needed drugs and was perplexed how today's riders could "be so stupid."
Mark Cavendish9 of 10
One of the—if not the—greatest sprinters of all time, the Manx Missile from the Isle of Man has racked up 26 Tour de France stage wins and a World Road Race Championship. He's also never tested positive for banned substances and has remained steadfast in his denial despite much scrutiny from the press and race officials alike.
One of the most tested cyclists in the sport, the UCI also routinely checks his bike for hidden motors.
While Mark Cavendish certainly advocates strict testing within the sport of cycling, he also speaks openly about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in other sports. While some might look at this as Cavendish pointing the blame elsewhere to get the cynics off cycling's back, it's also refreshing to hear an athlete speak so candidly about a problem most professional sports contend with.