Is cycling a clean sport?

When former professional outfielder and designated hitter Jose Canseco revealed in 2005 that he and many other Major League Baseball players had used anabolic steroids, critics were quick to dismiss his claims.

When former professional outfielder and designated hitter Jose Canseco revealed in 2005 that he and many other Major League Baseball players had used anabolic steroids, critics were quick to dismiss his claims.

He was simply trying to sell copies of his tell-all book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big, they said.

In particular, they suggested that such prominent players as Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire would never use performance-enhancing drugs.

Of course, the world knows that both A-Rod and McGwire have since admitted to using steroids.

Depending on whether you believe Canseco or former pitcher David Wells, in the past decade or so, anywhere from 25 to 80 per cent of the big names in baseball have been on the juice.

Now comes allegations from a former teammate that American legend Lance Armstrong — arguably the biggest name in cycling — has performance-enhancing drugs to thank for much of his success on two wheels.

As with Canseco, it appears that North American sports fans are desperate to undercut the claims made by Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title after testing positive for testosterone.

Europeans, on the other hand, have long suspected that Armstrong had a little more than God on his side when he won the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times.

In any case, Armstrong must be considered innocent until proven guilty. He has continually denied doping.

The New York Times reported Thursday that investigators reviewing the allegations made by Landis are looking into whether Armstrong, his former team and their managers “conspired to defraud by doping to boost performances.”

Landis, himself, denied doping for four years before his recent confession.

Another former Armstrong teammate, Frankie Andreu, has already confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs while riding with Armstrong’s team.

Such admissions beg the question: Were Landis and Andreu the only ones on the team to cheat? That seems unlikely, particularly when Landis has spelled out in graphic detail how the cheating was alledgedly conducted and even explained how dishonest cyclists make the most of weak points in drug-testing regimens. The level of detail in his allegations invites further investigation.

Major League Baseball has come a long way in cleaning up its sport.

Of course, there are probably still some cheaters in baseball, and there probably always will be. But at least, these days, it appears that Major League officials want to stop the cheating.

It’s not clear that the same can be said of cycling.

Perhaps the people governing the world of competitive cycling think fans are best kept in the dark.

It’s quite possible that it will take the sport of cycling at least a decade to make the gains that baseball has made when it comes to fighting doping.

Then again, does the cycling community really even care about doping?

Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.