Walsh: Did you dope when you were Robert Millar?
York: “Just as much as everybody else. I didn’t regard it as doping. I considered it cheating and I didn’t cheat any more or any less than anybody else.” ...
“As a rider I would never have admitted cheating. Back then you lived in a closed world and you couldn’t discuss it with anybody. It was the thing they call omertà where people didn’t talk about it.”
Walsh: What substances did you take?
York:“Cortisone for the big races. I was lucky that I didn’t react well to cortisone and was spared all the worries that come after you’ve used a lot of cortisone. Problems with bone density and ligaments, that sort of stuff. It was mostly cortisone at that time. Steroids had been in use in the previous era but they developed a test for steroids and that died down.
Walsh: Did you take testosterone?
York:“I never used much testosterone because I wanted to keep my hair. Sometimes you would have low testosterone, and I now sound like I’m justifying its use and I’m not. It’s kind of weird to think of who I was then, a woman unhappily trapped in a man’s body and taking testosterone. As a person, testosterone was the last thing I needed. I didn’t do much of it.” *
Walsh: How did the cheating start?
York: “I didn’t talk about it with other riders and they didn’t talk about it to me. ... I was cheating myself and I was being cheated by the other riders. If I’d felt I had a choice, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Walsh: Do you recall when you first crossed the line?
York: “You’d imagine it would be a seminal moment and it isn’t. Probably happened when you were really tired, thinking you need a little help to get over this and that’s how it would have been presented to you. ...
“Back then it was called Kenalog and Kenacort. They were brand names for the corticosteroid, triamcinolone, that Armstrong was caught with, the same one that was given to [Bradley] Wiggins in 2011, 2012 and 2013. I was as ambitious as anyone and things were different back then. There was no out-of-competition testing and no means of reporting to the authorities. They weren’t interested.”
Millar joined the Panasonic team in 1986. ... At his new team he felt he would be pressured into using cortisone.
Walsh: Doesn’t frequent use of cortisone lead to health problems?
York: “It does. Some guys on cortisone, their legs would get thinner and thinner and they would still be strong and quite often they’d have a bloated face, a moon face. I realised fairly early that the amount of training we did, the pain we went through, it wasn’t healthy. When you are under 30, you have no understanding of how long your life is going to last.
“... I see them now, they are very stiff, they can’t stand up straight. There is a French expression, coup du vieux. You suddenly get old. One of the first things I ask of guys I rode with, how is your health?”
... “I haven’t got any major health problems. Nothing much has changed in the last 20 years. I have recovered really well from being a pro bike rider. ....”
Walsh: You retired in 1995, as the EPO era was getting into full swing...
York: “You saw changes in the way races were ridden, they never slowed down, guys who couldn’t get up a hill would ride you off their wheel on a climb. I did a little EPO. In my whole career I was given less EPO than [Richard] Virenque or Armstrong would have taken in a week.”
Walsh: When did you become aware of EPO?
York: “From 1991 it was there. It took a while to understand what was happening. ... In that whole period, from 1993 onwards, to me the thing became a farce because everything depended upon how you reacted to EPO. ... I felt sorry for the young guys coming into the sport. Without EPO they couldn’t be competitive. They had very little choice. EPO was available to every team from 1993. Every team.”
Walsh: If someone on the inside convinced you that some teams in this 2020 Tour de France were doping, would you still watch the race?
York: “That’s a good question. I would still watch because I like to see bike racing. If it was the case that certain riders were cheating, I’d be disappointed.”
... If I knew some riders were doping I would forget the results and just enjoy the spectacle, the show. It doesn’t mean I am in any way supportive of those who felt they had to cheat.”
Walsh: My problem with your position is it’s the same as saying you don’t care that the clean guys are being screwed?
York: “I’m not saying that at all. What you see as a journalist is different to what I see. You may think sport exists outside of real life, that it has to be all clean and fair. Inherently, it isn’t. It is not fair at all. Some people have more talent, strength and health than others, what’s fair about that? We all want life to be fair but it isn’t. You want to live in Disneyland. The rest of us settle for the real world. And my not watching the Tour would change nothing.
“We have no proof it’s not possible to win it without being clean, we’re not on the inside of all the medical teams. To me it’s interesting that there are young riders in this Tour fighting for the yellow jersey. In a sport where there is a deep-rooted doping culture, the young guys won’t be able to compete against guys who’ve been doping for seven or eight years. What I am sure about is that the situation today is miles away from the old days, the EPO years, the blood transfusions.”
* Robert Millar wurde 1992 nach der 18. Etappe wegen Testosterons deklassiert.