Mention the Tour de France and the first thing most people think of is Lance Armstrong and doping scandals. However, that may change thanks to a new study in the European Heart Journal that says these cyclists also appear to live longer than their contemporaries.
Researchers focused specifically on 786 French riders who participated in at least one Tour de France between 1947 and 2012. They compared these riders’ mortality information against that of the general French population.
While 208 of the cyclists had died between those years, it was noted that they had a 41 percent reduction in mortality compared to people in the general population, gaining an estimated six years of life. Fewer cyclists suffered from cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory or digestive diseases. Xavier Jouven, a triathlete and researcher on the project, did tell Forbes that “a particularly high frequency of traffic or race accident deaths were seen in this age-group.”
He also noted:
“Our results do not allow a detailed assessment of the balance between positive effects of high level sports activity and selection of healthy elite athletes, versus any potential deleterious effects of excessive physical exercise or alleged doping. Although our results are reassuring to some extent, since no death has been observed since 1990, we have to remain careful since we cannot directly assess the potential harmfulness of doping through our analyses and results.”
This is not the first study focusing on Tour de France riders. Outside magazine reports that the International Journal of Sports Medicine studied cyclists who rode the Tour between 1930 and 1964. They also found that riders lived longer, but it could be due to the fact that they “smoke less, drink less alcohol, and have healthier diets than their peers.”