Perhaps Lance Armstrong needs to get his Tour de France victories back - a new study shows that winning all of those may not have been because of performance-enhancing drugs, it may have been spite of them, which would make his successes all that more amazing.

Doping is certainly a black eye on the image of cycling - if it is not even improving results, that makes it even sillier. And they aren't helping anyone, find researchers who collated sporting records (including Olympic and world records) of male and female athletes between 1886 and 2012. Comparisons were made between pre-1932 records (when steroids became available) and after, and it was found that the times, distances and other results did not improve as would expected in the 'doping' era.  

Even if all the doping was not known, it would show up in results if it helped. Yet that improvement did not happen. They looked at 26 of the most controlled and some of the most popular sports, including various track and field events like 100m sprints, hurdles, high jump, long jump and shot-put, as well as some winter sports like speed skating and ski jumping.

"The average best life records for 'doped' top athletes did not differ significantly from those considered not to have doped. Even assuming that not all cases of doping were discovered during this time, the practice of doping did not improve sporting results as commonly believed," says Dr. Aaron Hermann, lead author on the paper from the University of Adelaide School of Medical Sciences. "The 2000 Olympics gold medal result for the women's 100m sprint was even poorer than the gold medal obtained in the 1968 Olympics, the first year of doping testing in the Olympics. 

"This research demonstrates that doping practices are not improving results and in fact, may be harming them - seemingly indicating that 'natural' human abilities would outperform the potentially doping 'enhanced' athletes - and that in some sports, doping may be highly prevalent.

"Doping may produce a minor improvement in one aspect of performance but in other areas, it may have a detrimental effect, which outweighs the positive. In many sports, there are perceptions that an athlete needs to dope in order to remain competitive and I hope these findings will confront those ill-informed views."

Citation: Aaron Hermann, Maciej Henneberg, 'Long term effects of doping in sporting records: 1886-2012', Journal of Human Sport and Exercise 727-743 doi:10.14198/jhse.2014.93.05