Tommy Simpson - a tragic symbol of the fight against doping in cycling

13 October 2023 By shamim kordbache History

It's July 13, 1967, and it's scorching hot in Provence, France. The Tour de France is in full swing, with riders prepared to ascend the formidable Mont Ventoux. Tommy Simpson, a skilled English cyclist noted for his drive and fighter's mindset who rides for the illustrious Peugeot-Michelin team, is one of them. Nobody could have predicted that this day would go down in cycling history as one of the darkest.

Tourarts Dokter Pierre Dumas biedt de eerste hulp en probeert met mond-aan-mond ademhaling Tom Simpson te redden.

Tour doctor Doctor Pierre Dumas provides first aid and tries to save Tom Simpson with mouth-to-mouth breathing.

Simpson, born in 1937, was one of the most promising cyclists of his generation. He already had an impressive string of victories to his name, including Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders. But on that fateful day in July 1967, his determination to win would ultimately prove fatal to him. While climbing Mont Ventoux, Simpson collapsed just a few miles from the summit. Despite attempts to resuscitate him, he died later that day. The cause of his death? A combination of heat exhaustion, dehydration and the use of amphetamines and alcohol, a lethal cocktail that his heart could not withstand.


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Simpson's death shocked the world and brought to light the dark side of cycling: doping. Although the use of performance-enhancing drugs had long been an open secret in the peloton, this was the first time it had taken such a tragic toll. At the time, doping was widespread in cycling. There were few rules and even fewer tests. It was a time when riders resorted to dangerous substances such as amphetamines, often without fully understanding the effects or risks. Simpson's death marked a turning point in these attitudes.

After his death, the cycling world finally began to think seriously about the problem of doping. The UCI, the international cycling union, introduced stricter rules and controls. But despite these efforts, doping remained a persistent problem, as evidenced by subsequent scandals such as those involving Lance Armstrong. Tommy Simpson's story serves as a powerful reminder of the dangers of doping. His tragic death is a warning to all cyclists and athletes around the world. It is a warning that the will to win should never overshadow health and well-being.

Tom Simpson

Tom Simpson drove for Team Peugeot Michelin and St Raphael, among others.

Today, Simpson is remembered as a pioneer of British cycling. A monument on Mont Ventoux marks the spot where he collapsed. Each year, hundreds of fans and cyclists visit this spot to pay their respects. But perhaps Simpson's most important legacy is the changes his death brought about in attitudes toward doping in cycling. Although the fight against doping is far from over then, Simpson's story has contributed to the awareness and urgency of this problem.



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