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Memoji of man with a bike helmet on his head sitting behind a MacBook.


Should Dopers Be Banned From Strava?

Amateur cyclist Nicholas Brandt-Sorenson got busted for doping, then got busted again for selling dope. Peter Flax wrote a great article about him on CyclingTips. This and many similar articles got shared and discussed at great length on /r/Velo/.

Legendary Strava doper Nicholas Brandt-Sorenson taking a selfie while biking.

LA Times reporter Paresh Dave contacted me via reddit looking to write an article riffing of the Sorenson situation that takes a look at what social apps (Facebook, video games, Strava) should do to deflect bad actors (terrorists, cheaters, harassers).

He emailed me a bunch of questions that I answered for him. Not sure if Paresh is still working on the article, or if it got denied by his editors, but here my answers (in all its unedited glory, ESL included).

bit about yourself. age..where you live...where you bike.
My name is Marcel Appelman, I’m 45. Raced in California for several years. Currently living and biking in The Netherlands.

strava. how much you use it. how come you like it. how important is it to you / your community
Been a Strava user pretty much since they launched in beta (proud owner of low 4 digit user ID: 1157).

Use Strava daily, to track my fitness, plan rides (their route planner is amazing) and to check up on friends all over the world (love it when they add photos to their rides).

It’s also a great tool to find new people to ride with. While on vacation in Spain last year I looked at who had KOMs in the area I was staying at, contacted them via Strava and went on several rides together.

what’s your connection to sorenson situation. why do you care.
A friend (and team mate at that time) raced against Brandt-Sorenson in that infamous Masters race in 2011. When Brandt-Sorenson got busted for PEDs, it was the first time it really hit me that people are doping in Masters racing. I resent cheaters and can’t even phantom why anyone would want to cheat for a Masters race. We’re a bunch of old farts racing to win a T-shirt or a box of Clif Bars.

do you think strava, as i believe you noted in your comment, should be doing more to combat cheating/doping? how exactly?
Not going to lie, I initially flagged a few of Brandt-Sorenson’s rides (Strava disregarded my requests). But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it doesn’t make sense to worry about this. Most KOMs here in The Netherlands are obtained with the aid of really strong winds (aka "Dutch Hills"), should those be flagged for cheating too?

I don’t think it’s up to Strava to judge if someone is using PEDs or not. Most people in the cycling community know who have the real KOMs, many of those legends don’t even use Strava. Case in point, the famous Old La Honda climb. Ryan Sherlock is an extremely fast climber (and super nice guy), everyone knows that Eric Heiden has the real KOM.

would you ever leave strava because you lose trust in the community?
As long as Strava keeps adding features to track my personal fitness and friends then I will continue to use Strava.

any other thoughts? concerns?
Brandt-Sorenson needs to be punished for peddling drugs, not for Strava sillyness.

And even though that CyclingTips article was written thoroughly and very amusing at times, I actually feel kind of bad for Brandt-Sorenson to be called out like that. Most cyclists have introvert characteristics and I hope it doesn’t affect him too much.

N.B. One day after I emailed my answers back to Paresh, some goof who I raced a lot in NorCal got busted! And again Peter Flax wrote an amazing article about this ordeal, which seems to reflect my opinion.

Update: The article titled Fitness app Strava faces an uproar over an elite cycling user linked to doping got published on LA Times.