Don’t Take the P***

INCAPABLE OF BRINGING HIMSELF to lose to Poulidor, Anquetil’s unique combination of stubbornness and pride meant he persisted in trying to win hearts and minds by trying to win important races. At the end of 1966, he won his ninth and final Grand Prix des Nations, beating no less than Gimondi and Merckx into second and third place. If nine victories in the unofficial world time-trial championships of the day wasn’t sufficient, it should also be remembered that Anquetil had in fact never lost in the race that made his name.

The following year started slowly, however. Rain and, according to Géminiani, disrupted preparations due to changing sponsors from Ford France to Bic meant Anquetil treated the Tour of Sardinia and even Paris–Nice (both events won by Tom Simpson) as training rides, finishing seventh and sixteenth respectively. Only the Critérium National to be held near Rouen – run in 1967 as a single race rather than over three stages – stirred him from his apparent apathy. However, initially even this appeared to have left him cold. Géminiani claims in Les années Anquetil only to have heard through the press of Anquetil’s decision not to compete, as he was recovering from a cold and had stopped training. When he phoned Anquetil to find out what was going on, he was told, ‘Sick as I am, I don’t want to make a fool of myself on my own doorstep. You must understand that if I’m only riding to lose, I might as well stay at home.’

By now, of course, Géminiani knew his man better than to tell him he had to race. Yet the journalists were having a field day, implying a diplomatic illness and a fear of losing to Poulidor in his own backyard. Having left him to stew for four days, the night before the race Géminiani eventually went to Anquetil’s house, only a stone’s throw from the start line. When he arrived, his worst fears appeared confirmed, as he found Anquetil in slippers and a dressing gown, with a scarf wrapped around his neck. Much to Géminiani’s satisfaction, however, he also found himself confronted with a considerable meal, indicating that Anquetil had at least recovered his appetite: shellfish, sole meunière, leg of lamb (‘nice and rare’), Camemberts (‘he had the gift of keeping the best Camemberts’) and baked Alaska to finish. ‘I shan’t mention the wine and Calvados,’ Géminiani later wrote. Finally, some time around 3 a.m. while playing a game of cards accompanied by cigars and whisky, Anquetil brought up the subject of the next day’s race.

All it took was for Géminiani to insist, with Jeanine’s help, that Poulidor was a shoo-in for victory and Anquetil had been converted: ‘This race had been bothering him. With the beginnings of his flu and saying he wouldn’t ride, he’d managed to avoid any pressure, but he was physically OK. I could feel it. This was the key to the enigma. I knew that in the heat of battle he’d find his form and that his rivals would also be shocked to see him at the start. He had three hours in which to sleep.’ It scarcely needs to be added that he beat Poulidor in the uphill sprint to the line. No doubt to the chagrin of the ‘Poulidorists’, L’Équipe declared, ‘Poulidor has confirmed himself as indisputably the best French road cyclist after Anquetil. The title is more than honourable, enough even to make others envious.’

The Critérium National apart, Anquetil’s approach and his early season results should not really have been a surprise, however. He had little to gain by chasing victory in either the Tour of Sardinia or Paris–Nice, and the effort expended in doing so may have compromised his plans for the rest of the year. Effectively, he had bigger fish to fry. Even though he had vowed not to return to the Tour de France, a vow made easier to keep thanks to the decision to revert to a national teams formula for 1967, he intended to make the most of the little time remaining to him at the pinnacle of the sport by targeting the Giro d’Italia and the hour record. Although he had already achieved success in both these goals in his career, it was the prospect of him once again attacking the hour record that attracted most headlines. At the age of 33, 11 years after he successfully took the record from Coppi, the prospect of him breaking the remarkable mark of 47.373 kilometres set by Roger Rivière, more than 1,100 metres more than he had covered, seemed incredible and gave the press something other than the rivalry with Poulidor to write about.

Yet first came the Giro, and of course this did not pass off without a degree of scandal. Exactly what happened depends on which source you believe. The most engaging account comes from Géminiani, naturally, who once again complained bitterly about the way the race was organised to the advantage of the local riders and the disadvantage of Anquetil. Still, Anquetil wore the pink jersey of leader for a couple of days after the first time-trial stage, and then looked well placed for overall victory when he was back in pink with only one mountainous stage left to ride. According to Géminiani, it took the combination of a breakaway by a good rider such as Felice Gimondi and illicit assistance in the form of a race car providing a slipstream for him to follow to allow him to drop Anquetil and snatch overall victory. (Lest anyone still thinks this sort of thing was no more than sour grapes, 1984 winner Francesco Moser was accused of benefiting from the downdraught of a helicopter when winning the final time trial and sealing overall victory; a mere slipstream from a car is nothing in comparison.) Anquetil, he says, was so miffed that he deliberately lost second place to Franco Balmamion to register his displeasure.

The most controversial version is Anquetil’s own. In one of his articles for France Dimanche, in which he described the process of buying help from riders on other teams, he blamed his defeat on the lack of support available to him from teammates, a lack of support curiously ignored by Géminiani:

For reasons known only to themselves, the company whose colours we were wearing stopped paying my teammates. It rapidly lost interest in a Giro that was still within my reach. The third night that they weren’t paid, seven of my teammates abandoned. I was left with only two faithful lieutenants: Lucien Aimar and Jean Milesi. Three against one hundred. I was still in the lead with two stages remaining, but if I couldn’t buy other riders to help me, I was cooked.

He tried, and failed, to buy help from a Spanish team, resulting in them adding their support to the massed ranks of the Italians:

All of a sudden, in addition to the Italian coalition, I had the Spanish against me as well. Throughout the whole stage, they never left me. I knew I’d lost. Gimondi broke away right in front of my eyes, but I was surrounded by a dozen Spaniards who would stop at nothing to prevent me from chasing after him. That’s how I lost the last Giro: for want of money to buy riders from another team.

Notwithstanding these two accounts, perhaps the most realistic explanation of his disappointing third place comes, for once, from the journalists, in particular those writing in L’Équipe:

During the 20th stage, distanced by Merckx, Gimondi, Adorni and Motta, who made a powerful alliance during the apocalyptic descent of the Brocon pass, he managed to catch up after a long and wearing chase. He then punctured twice and managed to rejoin twice. But the following day, the effort took its toll, and he couldn’t recuperate – he was on the edge of exhaustion.

Gimondi’s attack the next day with 40 kilometres to go was the final straw. Prosaic this account may be, but it is given great credibility by the pictures that accompany it – pictures that show Anquetil, at the end of the 20th stage, soaking wet and wrapped in a blanket, drawn, vacant almost, looking for all the world like a broken old man.

Even if he was not actually broken, and even if third place in the Giro was a respectable performance, it was hardly enough to convince the by now numerous doubters about his likelihood of succeeding in the planned attempt on the hour record, presumed to be a far stiffer challenge. These doubts only gained momentum when Anquetil engaged in a bit of limelight-stealing during the Tour de France with his deliberately shocking series of articles for France Dimanche. Four articles, headlined ‘Why I Don’t Like Poulidor’, ‘Yes, I’ve Taken Drugs’, ‘The Tragic Death of Tommy Simpson: Anquetil Points the Finger’ and ‘Yes, I’ve Bought Riders’, earned even someone as used to controversy as Anquetil a new level of notoriety. Worse was to come at the celebratory dinner after the Tour when Anquetil’s bitterness at the role his friend Jean Stablinski had played as a teammate for Poulidor – in the French national team, it must be remembered – almost led to the pair coming to blows. It also led to Stablinski leaving Bic and joining Poulidor at Mercier.

Pierre Chany was moved to write an article in Miroir des Sports explaining why ‘Anquetil has chosen scandal’, and the Fédération Française de Cyclisme (FFC) felt compelled to ban him from both the French national championships and the French team for the world championships. Anquetil was not without his supporters, however. ‘Here are the nine members of the FFC, who, after three hours of deliberations, took the incredible decision of banning Jacques Anquetil from the French and world championships,’ fumed L’Aurore. ‘Of course, the world number one isn’t suspended: he can ride all the other events he’s planned, notably his attempt on the hour record. But this year at least he can no longer hope to capture the two titles that are missing from his list of prestigious victories. And all this because he dared write what all cycling fans have known for a long time: that most riders take drugs and that some of them are sometimes bought by champions who need their help.’

In spite of this backing, Anquetil suddenly found himself a leper in the cycling world. He was offered few if any contracts in the lucrative post-Tour round of criteriums – Géminiani says he was reduced to opening a car dealership in Nancy. He also describes him as being like ‘Napoleon at Saint Helena’, although perhaps Napoleon at Elba would be a better description, as Anquetil was not quite beaten yet. Nevertheless, a successful attempt at the hour record had now become considerably more than just a matter of pride and prestige. It was an essential part of being able to prolong his career and retire on his own terms, rather than as the bitter former champion he was increasingly perceived to be. Preparation came in the form of riding – and winning – the Tour of Catalonia, as well as a series of specially staged criteriums in eastern France. These culminated, three days before the record attempt was due to be held at the famous Vigorelli race track in Milan, in a practice run on the concrete track in Besançon. Due to its construction and to its relatively exposed site, the received wisdom was that Besançon was a slower track than Milan by between one and 1.5 kilometres per hour. When Anquetil managed to record 45.775 kilometres – the eighth-best distance ever at that time, boding well, therefore, for the attempt at the Vigorelli – interest in his attempt suddenly blossomed.

There were still many sceptics, however, among them former Belgian great Rik Van Steenbergen, who had paid his own way to watch ‘a miracle, although a miracle I don’t believe in’, and current record holder Roger Rivière, who said, ‘He’s too old and hasn’t prepared sufficiently.’ Their scepticism was only heightened by Anquetil’s plan to use an unprecedented gear ratio of 52 x 13 for the attempt, even larger than the already large gear he’d been using in training. This meant that for each complete turn of the pedal, Anquetil would advance 8.54 metres. Rivière, in contrast, had set his record using 53 x 15, a development of only 7.54 metres. In practical terms, this meant that Anquetil would have to pedal at a much lower cadence of 94 pedal strokes a minute (5,640 in the hour) compared with all previous hour records, including his own in 1956, which had been established at a cadence of between 100 and 105 pedal strokes in a minute (6,000 to 6,300 in total). ‘He’s taking an enormous risk,’ Rivière told L’Équipe. ‘He’s constantly going to have to fight against his gearing. If he blows, he’ll go backwards rather than forwards. If he succeeds, I’ll take my hat off.’

Such a significant change in approach could well have justified their scepticism, but perhaps they should have paid more attention to Anquetil’s character and his previous achievements rather than to his specific preparation and his choice of gearing. Poulidor was certainly more optimistic: ‘You know, I’m no expert at this type of thing, but when Anquetil says he’s going to do something he normally keeps his word.’ Poulidor was right. In ideal conditions at 5.38 p.m. local time on 27 September, after a relatively slow start, Anquetil kept meticulously to his timetable, set at a slightly slower pace than that established by Rivière in 1958. After 25 kilometres, covered in just over half an hour, he was 26 seconds down on Rivière’s time, but then the gap began to close inexorably. By forty kilometres, he had eked out a lead of just over four seconds, a lead that would continue to grow until the finish. In fact, Anquetil completed a distance of 47.493 kilometres, nearly 150 metres further than Rivière’s record of 47.347 kilometres and a massive 1,300 metres further than his own record set 11 years previously.

The crowd went wild, and Anquetil for once let his emotions get the better of him, as made clear by the way he dedicated his victory. After acknowledging the role of Géminiani and his team, as well as his supporters and the ‘very sporting’ Italian crowd, he told Abel Michea of the Miroir des Sports:

‘For me, the best drug was to think of the reaction of those who had been against me. Oh, I accept that I’ve not always been universally popular. But I’ve always done my job as a professional cyclist. I’ve won five Tours, two Giros and one Vuelta, among others, and that’s still not enough for some to rate me as a champion. To be a champion for them would mean riding the races they choose, always agreeing with them, always complying with their expectations. But in the past three or four months, things have got worse. Let’s not be afraid of saying it – I’ve been shot at, made a scapegoat. The Fédération Française de Cyclisme – my federation – banned me from the national and world championships. Well, here he is, the banned, rejected athlete, new world-record holder.’

He wasn’t finished yet:

‘Yes, I was thinking about all those set against me. Yes, Anquetil, the professional who won’t ride just for medals, has ridden for a record. And they can say, all these officials, journalists, professional know-it-alls who haven’t stopped condemning me, that they were the best form of drug. I was a bad example for young riders? As if every 19 year old who wins the Grand Prix des Nations can become world-record holder 14 years later. Maybe we can stop talking about backhanders, testing procedures, drugs and I don’t know what else . . .’

It should come as little surprise that this last desire at least turned out to be wishful thinking. No sooner had Anquetil been lauded for his success than he had it taken away from him. Not deigning to comply with a request from a Dr Marena of the Italian Cycling Federation to submit a urine sample for the purpose of a drugs test, Anquetil effectively forfeited the record, a record that would never be ratified. (Quite right too, says Chris Boardman: ‘I think it is perfectly correct that his second record wasn’t ratified; pretty clear cut for me, really. I requested blood samples be taken after my hour records and stored for analysis at any time in the future. The UCI wouldn’t do it, and in the current climate I am bitterly disappointed by that. The importance of this aspect in ensuring the credibility of a blue-ribbon record can’t be underestimated. They did the right thing.’)

As the controversy raged, Géminiani blamed everything and everyone other than himself or Anquetil: political intrigue in the Italian Cycling Federation; a specific dislike of him and a general dislike of foreign riders; and a desire for the attempt to have been held at the new track in Rome rather than in Milan. Brunel gives some credence to this last assertion: ‘The President of the UCI [an Italian] wanted Anquetil to attempt the record not at the Vigorelli but in Rome – to relaunch the track and give it more prestige – but Anquetil said no. So, initially there wasn’t going to be a test, but then all of a sudden there was, and he wasn’t expecting it. Perhaps Géminiani knew and didn’t tell him before the start, but when he was confronted with it he said, “No. It wasn’t planned, so no is no.”’

Anquetil was initially outraged: ‘I couldn’t care less whether the record is ratified. I beat it, full stop. The rest is just talk. And no one can deprive me of my greatest achievement: 14 years as a professional cyclist, always as one of its leading lights. In fact, that’s the record I’m proudest of: a career lasting 14 years and the respect of my adversaries.’ Then he began to mock the process: ‘After all, I can’t very well have a pee in front of everybody. And anyway, straight after a race I couldn’t pee even if you paid me.’ Finally, he feigned offence at having his word doubted: ‘As far as I know, Coppi, Baldini and Rivière weren’t required to submit to such a test. Does my word not suffice?’

The question was no doubt rhetorical, but had anybody dared to answer it, it seems unlikely the response would have been favourable. After all, Anquetil had not only used his France Dimanche articles some two months previously to admit to taking drugs, he had also gone to some lengths to explain why, and also why he was against drug testing (even though he claimed to be in favour of the idea of reducing drug taking). What’s more, Anquetil had form. In the 1966 Tour, he had led a protest by the riders against the introduction of drug-testing procedures. More pertinent still, his victory in Liège–Bastogne–Liège earlier that same year was nearly scrubbed from the record books after he didn’t submit to a urine test. Only by adopting the ‘scattergun’ tactic that has since become the basis of almost all defences against claims of drug use by athletes – that’s to say throwing as much mud as possible at the race organisers, the officials involved and the procedure itself and hoping enough of it will stick – was Anquetil reinstated as victor.

Even reading Anquetil’s own explanation of his position, you could be forgiven for a degree of confusion (in cycling, it appears, it was ever thus). He confesses to overcoming many a weak moment thanks to amphetamines, and to having caffeine and vitamin injections, even a course of strychnine injections prior to his first Tour de France in 1957 – very invigorating and very popular among professional cyclists in the pre-war years, apparently. He also wrote:

If you want to accuse me of having doped, it’s not difficult. All you have to do is look at my thighs and my buttocks – they’re veritable pin cushions. You have to be an imbecile or a hypocrite to imagine that a professional cyclist who races 235 days a year in all weathers can keep going without stimulants.

(It should be noted that Anquetil wasn’t always this candid. In a 1961 French television documentary, several professional cyclists were asked what they understood by the phrase ‘saler la soupe’ (add salt to your soup), a common euphemism for doping. While several riders looked rather uncomfortable and contrived different ways to avoid answering, and while another tapped his nose and said it was a trade secret, Anquetil didn’t even blink and simply denied ever having heard the phrase before.)

However, he then added that he didn’t defend doping:

I don’t defend it, but I’m fed up with the hypocrisy surrounding it, one of the most obvious examples being the famous anti-doping law rushed in last year. This is shameful, as it only targets one profession – cyclists. Nobody’s worried to know if a student, an overburdened lawyer or a labourer who wants to work overtime takes stimulants. How would you react if a doctor and a police officer turned up at your house and told you to pee into a flask in their presence? The same way as me, I’m sure – that it’s an affront to my dignity and my personal freedom.

In a separate article for Lui magazine, Anquetil expanded on the reasons for his resistance to being tested:

I don’t want to destroy anything, certainly not cycling, as that’s what’s allowed me to be ‘somebody’. But I must be true to my convictions and my understanding of a man’s dignity, and above all of those involved in sport, when confronted with drugs tests carried out in humiliating conditions. We are not animals. We have the right to be treated with respect. I’m not against doping controls, but I am against the conditions in which these tests are undertaken.

Anquetil went on to criticise what he saw as the inconsistencies of the law – all injections were banned, but not caffeine the substance, so you could drink coffee, for example, but you couldn’t inject caffeine – and the fact that it was not strictly enforced. He cited the example of a Dutch rider unable to produce a sample after a race who was told he could take a flask home with him and provide one when he was ready; when the sample was returned and tested, there were no traces of doping products, but the rider was pregnant – it was, of course, his wife’s urine. Yet the main thrust of his argument was centred on the way cycling as a profession was singled out for special treatment and that this was beneath the dignity of the star riders, whose prestige after all was largely based on their public image.

He reinforced this view with his article the very next week in the immediate aftermath of Tom Simpson’s death on the Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France:

Tom Simpson, my friend Tommy, is dead. He died doing his job, fighting for his sport, in the hardest conditions, in 40-degree heat in the mountains. Later, I’ll explain why he was my friend and what a great guy he was. But first of all I want to express my indignation. The very day of his death people thought of only one thing: to cast aspersions on Simpson and through him the whole of cycling. Straight away, people spoke of one thing and one thing only: doping. The police, the judiciary were all involved. Without a thought for his widow or his two daughters, they decided to conduct an autopsy on this family man, who died through overestimating his own strength. In all walks of life, there are men who die when conditions are against them. A roofer can fall, a miner can be run over by a truck, a pilot can crash his plane. But nobody says: ah ha, he was drunk, or he was drugged. Road cycling is a hard and dangerous profession and everybody knows it, although there are fewer deaths than in motor racing, horse riding or climbing. Yet Tommy is dead, and straight away everyone says: it’s because he was doped. They’re all doped. What good would it do to know if he had been doped? Leave him in peace. That we should undertake to prevent or manage doping, I agree. But it’s through education and training of young riders that we’ll succeed, rather than through adopting police methods and treating us like criminals.

If there is anything that justifies Anquetil’s stance against measures such as drugs tests that were designed to root out the nefarious practices of professional cycling, it is this notion of going from superstar to criminal without having done anything differently from how you did things in the past. Last year, a few amphetamine tablets and a caffeine injection were accepted as tools of a very arduous trade. This year, drugs tests mean the same activities could earn you a suspension and even a prison sentence (not to mention loss of reputation and income).

What’s more, Anquetil was right in seeing cyclists as being singled out. The products used – by and large amphetamines, though steroids and hormones were growing in popularity and would be in widespread use by the 1970s – were both legal and widely available. ‘You could buy them over the counter,’ remembers Jeanine. ‘My husband who was a doctor gave a Maxitot [one of the most famous brands of amphetamine] to my daughter when she was 15 or 16 to help her pass her exams. It was just a little pick-me-up. To keep you alert while driving, you’d take a Corydrane [another brand of amphetamine mixed with aspirin]. Cyclists weren’t allowed them, but I could take them for driving, and they were available over the counter.’

Brunel confirms how readily obtainable these products were: ‘You couldn’t just go and buy them. You needed a prescription, but any doctor could give you one and would give you one. There was no trafficking. It’s not the same process as today. There was no criminalisation of the act, where maybe you’re in contact with people you wouldn’t otherwise want to be in contact with. At the time, everything was easier, more straightforward.’

Jeanine wasn’t the only one to use them, and it wasn’t all flower power and hippies either. During the Second World War, fighter pilots and naval captains were regularly provided with amphetamines to help them perform for longer, as were workers in Japanese munitions factories. Then there was one of the most famous philosophers of the twentieth century, Jean-Paul Sartre. Asked in an interview with the New York Review of Books about the sense of urgency that pervaded his work, he replied, ‘I started writing Critique de la raison dialectique, and it was this [sense of urgency] that was gnawing at me. I worked on it ten hours a day, taking Corydrane – in the end, I was taking twenty pills a day – and I really felt that this book had to be finished. The amphetamines gave me a quickness of thought and writing that was at least three times my normal rhythm, and I wanted to go fast.’

Anquetil’s former teammate Guy Ignolin describes the effect they would have on a cyclist: ‘We took amphetamines every now and then. Tiny things, about three milligrams – the stuff you could buy in a chemist’s. They lasted about 50 kilometres, an hour, an hour and a half maybe, and then afterwards you’d feel worse than before, so you only took them in the last 50 kilometres. They didn’t make you any stronger, but you just saw everything better – the road, bumps, the wheels – everything was clearer.’ Poulidor agrees with the idea that the effect and the quantities used were minimal: ‘He never hid it. He did it a little, but he certainly didn’t exaggerate. He said he took his little pick-me-up. It was nothing like what goes on today, though. It was a little pill to make you feel better, something like students take, that’s all. Now it’s a medical preparation.’

If this makes the quantities consumed sound reassuringly insignificant, William Fotheringham in Put Me Back on My Bike, his biography of Tom Simpson, suggests otherwise. First, the ‘recommended’ dose he uncovered was eight milligrams, not three. Even this was likely to be far less than was actually consumed, however. One unidentified former professional he spoke to said 50 milligrams was more usual. The reasons for this apparent discrepancy were twofold: regular amphetamine users acquire resistance over time, meaning more has to be consumed to stimulate the same effect; and cyclists conform to the athletic stereotype of assuming that the more they consume of anything, the better they will perform. The fact is that cyclists are already a self-selected group of individuals with physiological capacities – whether effort expended or substances consumed – far in excess of the norm.

Ignolin also lends support to the assertion that it was the workload that came with being a professional cyclist that was the catalyst for their drug consumption: ‘We didn’t take them until we were maybe 25 or 26. Until then, we’d always been warned against them and told not to take them. Clearly, Anquetil didn’t take anything when he won his first Grand Prix des Nations.’ (Maybe, maybe not. It should not be forgotten that while Anquetil was an exceptionally precocious talent who certainly arrived at the top thanks to his natural ability, his directeur sportif for his first Grand Prix des Nations, Francis Pélissier, was the epitome of the old pro who knew all there was to know about the trade, warts and all.)

Yet, once again, the argument of pressures of the job seems flawed, as not all cyclists of the time were drug users. Anquetil’s teammate Vin Denson, a man capable of cycling Bordeaux–Paris with grit in his shorts and crippled by a trapped nerve in his nether regions, swears he never took anything stronger than sugar. In fact, he went to extreme lengths to ensure he didn’t: ‘I took rice cakes and rice pudding, apples, sliced up bananas, plus calcium, and I put a lot of glucose in my drinks. I used to take my bottles up to the bedroom and mix my own drinks, then I used to put bike tape round the tops and I put a Rizla paper in the middle, without anyone knowing, so I knew if anyone had tampered with them. I’d give them to the soigneur or the mechanic for the feeds on the road, and I’d say, “If anyone touches my bottles, I’ll take you right through the courts.” To the best of my knowledge, nobody did. They knew I was a bit forthright and totally against it.’

Anquetil knew this as well as anyone. ‘One day, he asked me to give him an injection at a criterium, and I refused,’ Denson continues. ‘I said, “Go out and get someone else. I’ll do anything with these legs, and I’ll give you a push with my hand, but I won’t do anything else like that. I would not encourage you on that side whatsoever. I don’t want to get involved.” He was a little bit taken aback. The next minute, I saw Stablinski coming round the corner, and he waved him across.’ That it was Stablinski who appeared to help out should have come as little surprise. ‘The big organiser of products at the heart of the French team was Stablinski,’ says Brunel.

Anquetil was right in one aspect, however: all cyclists were being tarred with the same brush. ‘It came to a stage when you were taking your kids to school – kindergarten in Belgium – and the kids would say, “Have you been on the drugs again this morning?” and I would say, “Look, I’m pure. I don’t take them. I’ve been through tests 30 or 40 times,”’ Denson explains. ‘One of the papers latched onto this, and I did an article. I tried to bring in an anti-drug movement.’ As the recent history of cycling confirms, however, the attempt was short-lived. ‘We had 80 per cent of riders against drugs then in the 1960s. It was in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s they forgot about it.’

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