MAMILs who dope to win a club race

Doping culture that is threatening to ruin sport could be worse than anyone realises


Anti-Doping admits it is struggling to contain an issue that is rife in lower-level sport. From state-sponsored and driven programmes in East Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, through the EPO era in cycling in the 1990s and 2000s, to the most recent crisis surrounding Russian athletics, and tennis, the truth is fans have long since become desensitised to doping in professional sport and expect it to dirty.


Money and fame corrupts. And professional sport is awash with it. Some athletes and teams and coaches will cut corners and do anything in pursuit of fame and riches.

What is less understandable, perhaps, is doping in amateur sport; the Middle-Aged Man in Lycra, the MAMIL who dopes to win a club race.


Mamil or MAMIL (an acronym standing for “middle-aged man in lycra”.) is a middle aged man who rides an expensive racing bicycle for leisure, wearing professional style body-hugging bicycle jerseys and bicycle shorts.


Three times in the past three months amateur cyclists have either been banned for – or confessed to – taking performance-enhancing drugs in the UK. An amateur, national junior champion admitted to taking the blood booster EPO, saying he had been “curious” after watching the BBC Panorama documentary “Catch Me If You Can”, and suggesting that the culture had been “normalised” because he had read so many reports of professionals doping. These were not professionals trying to win the Tour de France and earn millions in sponsorship and prize money.


Certainly within cycling there are real fears. Last year’s independent report into doping warned that doping in amateur cycling was “becoming endemic”, painting a disturbing picture of a sport in which  “Masters races were said to have middle-aged businessmen winning on EPO”.


The upsurge in doping among amateurs, said the report, was “caused by ease of access to drugs via gyms and the internet, the reduction in costs for substances, a spread of knowledge in means and methods of administration, and a lack of funding for regular testing at the amateur level”.

The truth is, though, no one really has a clue how deep the problem goes.


The positive tests by pro cyclists, tennis players and athletes are only the tip of the iceberg; the problem reaches down into amateur sport.