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Doping in Cycling

In cycling, doping has been a serious issue for many years. Numerous winners of the Tour de France and elite cyclists have been caught using performance enhancing drugs and been banned from the sport for varying periods of time. This widespread cheating can easily be explained by game theory, as the author shows. He starts with the simplest example, the prisoners dilemma. What might be interesting to note is that he places only the expected return of the first player in the boxes. This makes the best strategy (defecting) even more obvious. In the sport of cycling, drugging is so common because the usual result of not using drugs is an inability to compete. Most cyclists were given the choice of drugging or leaving the sport. Once a few elite riders start doping, everyone else has to dope to compete with them. Drugs such as r-EPO enable athletes to maintain high levels of red blood cells throughout the weeks of the TDF. Difficult to detect, there was little incentive to not use these drugs. The story of Greg Lemond is used as an example. Entering the 1991 season, he had the best form of his life and a great team. However, once the racing started, riders that had been weak in previous years started dropping Lemond on easy hills.
http://www.nature.com/scientificamerican/journal/v298/n4/full/scientificamerican0408-82.html

In cycling, doping has been a serious issue for many years. Numerous winners of the Tour de France and elite cyclists have been caught using performance enhancing drugs and been banned from the sport for varying periods of time. This widespread cheating can easily be explained by game theory, as the author shows. He starts with the simplest example, the prisoners dilemma. What might be interesting to note is that he places only the expected return of the first player in the boxes. This makes the best strategy (defecting) even more obvious. In the sport of cycling, drugging is so common because the usual result of not using drugs is an inability to compete. Most cyclists were given the choice of drugging or leaving the sport. Once a few elite riders start doping, everyone else has to dope to compete with them. Drugs such as r-EPO enable athletes to maintain high levels of red blood cells throughout the weeks of the TDF. Difficult to detect, there was little incentive to not use these drugs. The story of Greg Lemond is used as an example. Entering the 1991 season, he had the best form of his life and a great team. However, once the racing started, riders that had been weak in previous years started dropping Lemond on easy hills. Refusing to drug himself, Lemond left the sport in 1994, unable to compete with those using heavy doses of drugs.

To combat the use of illegal drugs, the penalties for being caught have been raised. After three positive tests, a rider is banned forever from the sport. Drug tests are also performed more often and teams are encouraged to perform their own testing. As seen in the graphic, the payoffs for cheating have been reduced by increasing penalties for cheating and increasing testing. (note that the second image is not the actual state of the sport today, but closer to the truth than the first game because penalties have been increased to some degree) As a result, cycling fans can now enjoy their sport with much less worrying about their favourite rider doping. Only one rider was caught in this years Tour and average speeds throughout the Tour have decreased (a sign of less doping).By adjusting payoffs, the organization in charge of cycling was able to change riders best responses to the choices of other riders and reduce the level of cheating in the sport.scientificamerican0408-82-I5

Source: http://www.nature.com/scientificamerican/journal/v298/n4/full/scientificamerican0408-82.html

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