Murphy's era laced with naivety and cow's blood
Wada reckon their ban on blood doping needs to be more encompassing, and have revised the code for 2013 to prohibit “any form of intravascular manipulation of the blood or blood components by physical or chemical means”.
The last thing Murphy would have thought was that he was getting an unfair advantage, or somehow cheating, although by widening their ban on blood doping Wada might also be widening the grey area.
Anyway, as it turned out, Murphy would need more than just cow’s blood to get him to the finish of the Rás. Things started to fall apart on stage three, from Kilkenny to Clonakilty, when his bike jammed approaching Glanmire, and he famously “borrowed” a farmer’s bike to stay in the race. The following day, on stage four into Tralee, he crashed on wet roads approaching Glangarriff, landing hard on his left shoulder. Instinctively, he got back on his bike, but finished that stage torn and bleeding, and with a broken collarbone.
In obvious agony on the next day’s stage into Nenagh, Murphy somehow survived, fuelled by flasks of hot tea mixed with brandy. He crashed again on stage seven, into Sligo, was almost certainly concussed, briefly riding on in the wrong direction, but by then nothing could stop him: he rode from the front on the last stage, for 100 miles, and in the end won that Rás by five minutes.
I am not making this up, and the Rás has countless more heroic tales of extreme endeavour, in Shay O’Hanlon and Gene Mangan to name just a few.
Indeed it’s impossible to read or watch their stories without wondering how they would have endured in this so-called modern era, when doping is or at least recently was so rampant in the peloton, and what a cyclist like Murphy would have thought of a form of transfusion far more potent than drinking cow’s blood. Would he have been tempted?
After reading The Secret Race, Tyler Hamilton’s blazing tale of his days in professional cycling, as the once trusted lieutenant of Lance Armstrong, there may only be one answer.
Lots of people once considered Hamilton a hardy bastard, and for good reason: in 2002, he crashed early in the Giro d’Italia, fracturing his shoulder, yet rode on, enduring such pain that he ground 11 teeth down to the roots, which also later required surgery. Yet he finished second overall.
There was an encore of that a year later, when Hamilton crashed on stage one of the Tour de France, this time breaking his collarbone, and yet again he rode on through the pain, winning a stage, finishing fourth overall. A year later, shortly after winning the Olympic time trial, in Athens, he produced two positive tests for blood doping, and was given a two-year ban. Turns out that was only for starters.