Doping Scandal Hits The Sport Of…… Pigeon Racing??

Pigeon Racing

Performance enhancing drugs have, bizarrely, found their way into the world of competitive pigeon racing:

They no doubt would plead ignorance. Or blame their coaches. Or say they were victims of jealous rivals who spiked their water bottles with banned substances, or claim that the liquid they had been squirting under their tongues was only flaxseed oil, not performance-enhancing drugs meant to turn them into rockets.

They would blame anyone but themselves.

But that’s only if they could talk — which they can’t. That is because the latest doping scandal in sports does not involve Tour de France-winning cyclists or All-Star third basemen or Olympic sprinters. This one is about birds.

The world of pigeon racing was rocked to its core this week — no joke — when six Belgian birds failed tests for banned performance-enhancing drugs.

According to multipl.e news reports, five birds tested positive for a human painkiller that combats inflammation, and another tested positive for cocaine. Top officials at an association of pigeon fanciers in the country said they were shocked at the news.

Others in the sport said that they were not surprised that pigeons had been caught doping because pigeon racing has gained in popularity in recent years, becoming a big-money, even a glamorous, endeavor. Last May, a pigeon named Usain Bolt — for the Olympic sprinting champion from Jamaica — was sold to a Chinese businessman for about $430,000.

We can only pretend to know what evils exist within the downy underbelly of pigeon racing, but it could be fun to guess. So let’s make something up:

The identities of the birds who tested positive are not known. Two people briefed on the situation, however, said that pigeons named Ben Johnson, Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong were under suspicion. The two people did not want their names published because they did not want to be seen as violating pigeon racing’s well-known code of silence, which for decades has kept the sport’s culture of doping out of the public’s eye.

The pigeons, being pigeons, were unavailable for comment.

I wonder if one of them is named Lance Armstrong.

FILED UNDER: Sports, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jeremy says:

    Drug tests? They’re for the birds.

  2. al-Ameda says:

    Why not Human Growth Hormones for pigeons?

  3. Franklin says:

    One of them tested positive for cocaine? No wonder they were flying high.