How long should you ban a rider?

An interesting article from New Scientist, sent in by a reader, points out some research into muscle gain. If you’re interested in training and in particular, bigger legs, then take a read. But one thing stands out from the piece:

Anabolic steroids are thought to work by increasing the number of muscle cell nuclei. “If those effects are also permanent, the effects of one-time doping could last forever,” says Gundersen. “We may need to reconsider how long the exclusion period should be for an athlete caught taking steroids.”

These steroids are detectable in a standard anti-doping control and a rider will get caught if they try to use them, so long as they are under a decent control regime.

But even if caught, the research implies that a ban for a period of time, be it six months or two years, depending on the sport, the benefits linger on, that the cheat will still retain a potential advantage long after their ban has ended. Perhaps this is less relevant to cycling, sports such as baseball, athletics, swimming or weight-lifting are the ones where anabolic steroids probably provide the greatest performance enhancement. But the next time you see an athlete on the comeback after a ban, remember this.