Here’s an interesting article from the Slate by Nathaniel Vinton:
By the time the 2007 Tour de France hobbles down the Champs-Élysées this Sunday, the event will be drastically reduced in field size, star power and honor. Two whole teams and several prominent cyclists have withdrawn for anti-doping violations, among them the race-leading Michael Rasmussen and the prerace favorite, Alexandre Vinokourov. Last year, more than a dozen riders were tossed out before the event even started. With so much scrutiny and so many people getting caught, why are these guys still cheating?
Actually, there’s no reason not to dope at this year’s Tour de France. The recent twin crises of Operación Puerto (which uncovered a massive doping ring in Spain) and Floyd Landis (whose rise and fall became a year-long opera) have only fragmented the sport’s authorities, and cycling’s culture of cheating seems more entrenched than ever. Besides, it’s not just the corrupt managers, doctors, and riders who encourage doping: it’s the very structure of the sport itself.
No group has more influence over the Tour de France than the peloton, that big pack of riders at the center of every stage. And the peloton brings with it a measure of collusion unlike that in any other sport. In the pack, rivals conspire to moderate the pace of each race, taking turns shouldering the burden of riding in front, and working in unison to reel in riders who make breakaway dashes for the finish line. To function, the peloton uses a complex system of hierarchies and codes that rival those of the mafia. This, it must be said, is a big part of cycling’s appeal for its most ardent fans; after all, the mob mentality can be a dramatic thing.