Former polka dot jersey wearer and world champion silver medallist Taylor Phinney spoke on the Thereabouts podcast, saying doping was a big problem when he raced.
Phinney retired a little more than two years ago, and still rides for fun in between being an artist. In the podcast, he said that he saw a variety of doping methods. “When I first started racing the EPO or blood doping era was seemingly past but there was still a huge amount of opiate abuse in the sport. I don’t know if that has completely gone away but it was pretty widespread in my first couple of years,” Phinney says.
He said that when he raced, opiates and painkillers were ubiquitous.
“You would smash a couple of Tramadol at the end of the race, which is basically like taking a Vicodin or two along with like a bunch of caffeine and maybe some Sudafed. I mean, that’s a bomb right there. If I took one of those right now it would send me to the moon,” Phinney says.
Many were surprised when he retired from cycling at just 29, but it seems like it was a long time coming.
“I’d been kind of fantasizing about retiring from the sport for quite a while. Everything is mapped out for you, your calendar, and what you’re going to be doing on a week-to-week basis. You pretty much know in January what you’re going to do all the way to October.”
He went on to say his treatment for his injuries included cortisone.
“I actually got a cortisone injection eventually when I broke my leg and I was just flying and half of my leg didn’t work. I was like, okay, I think I understand this now. So I spoke out about that and I received quite a bit of backlash from the management,” he says.
Opiates, it seemed, were very popular when he raced. “You would get offered [opiates] that but I was like, I don’t think I need an opiate painkiller today to get through this race, you know. But it was just a thing, especially in the classics, so many guys were doing that. I was kind of like, this is fucked up,” he says.
Phinney is the son of Davis Phinney, who raced for 7-11, which later became Motorola, the team of Lance Armstrong. Taylor currently dates professional cyclist Kasia Niewiadoma, one of the top pros in the women’s WorldTour. The pair has been together for five years. Taylor Phinney raced for what is now known as EF Education-EasyPost, which is run by Jonathan Vaughters.
— Ross Tucker (@Scienceofsport) December 6, 2012
Vaughters confessed to using EPO in his career on USPS. He later rode for the French team Crédit Agricole. Crédit Agricole was formerly known as GAN, home to cyclists such as Tour de France winner Greg LeMond and Chris Boardman. Greg LeMond has been very vocal after he retired about widespread doping during the end of his career, suggesting EPO was the reason he could no longer ride at the top level.
Phinney also raced for BMC, which was run by Jim Ochowicz, who also created the American 7-11 team. BMC was borne from the ashes of the Phonak team, where Floyd Landis raced. Landis won the Tour de France in 2006, only to have his title stripped away three days later following a positive test. Landis would later confess to using EPO in his career.