Michael Hutchinson left a career teaching international law to become a professional cyclist, winning numerous national titles in the UK, and representing Britain and Ireland, respectively, in international competition. He is now the author of four books, including The Hour (2006), Hello Sailor (2008), and, most recently, Re:Cyclists—200 Years on Two Wheels (2017). (July 2018)

Follow Michael Hutchinson on Twitter: @Doctor_Hutch.

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The Tour de France and Cycling’s Uncertainty Principle

Overall leader in the Tour de France Chris Froome arriving at the anti-doping control bus, Alpe d’Huez, France, July 18, 2013

In cycling, the problem of understanding what you’re watching, of knowing if what you’re seeing is for real, is about more than simply the secrets you know you don’t know. Even if we knew whether riders were doping, which riders they were, and what they were doping with, we still wouldn’t be able to reach a consensus. Some fans simply accept that cycling has always had doping and cheating. They see it as part of the sport’s texture and its history. For others, the rules matter very much. They want riders to stick to the letter of the law. And for some, even that’s not enough: they want athletes to abide by a set of ethics—though these remain only vaguely defined, even as the clamor for their restrictive application increases.