Eddy Merckx, Doping, and the Savona Bomb

Just like modern day professional bike racing, cycling’s golden era was not without its doping controversies. Even the great Eddy Merckx himself was at one point tainted in controversy. Yet even today, questions remain as to whether the man known as The Cannibal had succumbed to the sport’s dark side, or was he the victim of a malicious conspiracy? Merckx 525  delves into this murky affair, an event known as the Savona Bomb.

At the time, June 1969, the Belgian great was dominating the Giro d’Italia, having won four stages while taking a comfortable lead in the general classification. But then the newsflash landed like a bomb: “Merckx dopato” blurted the Italian broadcasting service. The cycling world was shocked. Merckx, firmly in possession of the pink leader’s jersey, was booted from the race; his participation in the upcoming Tour de France also in doubt. The infraction was a urine test that returned positive for a banned stimulant.

“I went completely to pieces,” declares Merckx.

The No. 2 rider in the ranking refused to wear the leader’s jersey the next day, but the damage was done. What would have almost certainly been Giro d’Italia win No. 2 for Merckx was instead washed away.

Was it sabotage or a mafia trick as some hypothesized? Merckx certainly thought so. “Don’t tell me anything about the Italians,” he said. “They cant be trusted. I should have never have come here. I’ve won too many times here.”

Of course Merckx did go back, and by the end of his career he’d won the Italian national tour a record-tying five times. No one will ever know for sure if that mark should be six.

Merckx 525 book cover image M525_96dpi_500pw_photoMerckx 525 celebrates the unmatchable career of Eddy Merckx, the greatest cyclist ever and the most dominant athlete of the 20th century. Merckx 525 is the first book authorized by Eddy Merckx and the only book he says offers a truly complete record of his bike-racing career. In its pages, you’ll find photographs never published outside France, Italy, and Belgium.

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