This is the first post on a series on doping and cycling. I'm hoping to explain doping and cycling in a way that non-cyclists and non-scientists can understand.
So, what is doping? The short common answer is that it is the use of performance-enhancing drugs to make you a better athlete. This definition is quite broad. It could include caffeine and recovery drinks. Under this definition, better equipment could be considered doping if you dop the "drug" part. Obviously using caffeine or using a really nice bike is not doping. So this is a BAD definition of doping. We need something more specific.
Enter the WADA
The organization that organizes the rules for what is considered doping and not doping is the WADA. (World Anti-Doping Agency) They are the governing body for cycling. If a cyclist gets in trouble for doping, it's because of the rules set up by the WADA. In 2003, the WADA published a set of rules and regulations on doping to govern the world of sports, including cycling. They have really long lists for what is completely prohibited, prohibited in competition and prohibited in particular sports.
Doping, according to the WADA, is "the occurrence of one or more of the anti-doping rule violations set forth." So if you break one of the rules set up by the WADA, then you are doping.
That's Dumb, Why?
The natural question to ask would be, why have these rules? Who cares if someone uses this method or that drug to help them bike faster? The answer is that it can kill you so this makes it unfair to other opponents. The reason being, if you dope and are able to get an extra edge then in order to keep up with you, your opponents also have to start doping. This wouldn't be a problem if it didn't mean that in order to compete then athletes would be putting their lives at stake. We don't want to do that. Making a sport unnecessarily dangerous is wrong. Rules should create limits that keep athletes away from unnecessary risks, doping being one of them.
In sum, doping is simply breaking the rules set up by the WADA.