|Astana-Würth had to abandon the Tour de France in 2006 after five of its nine riders were caught in anti-doping tests. The company that owned the team had its UCI ProTour licence revoked later in the same year.|
This year's Tour looks set to once again be ridden under a dark cloud as favourite Alberto Contador faces suspicions over the miniscule amount of a banned substance found in a sample he gave last year, and even though there is no evidence to suggest he's lying when he claims he was an inadvertent victim of food contamination there are many who have already decided he's guilty, despite the fact that we need to wait until at least August for a final verdict. Meanwhile, Lance Armstrong is back in the news. As it happens, he's not being accused of doping this time but is in a spot of bother after apparently "accosting" ex-team mate Tyler Hamilton, who accused Armstrong of doping, in a Texas restaurant. That's not good at all for cycling, because Lance is the one cyclist that everyone has heard of and, having never been caught doping, should be the shining example that he truly is. The problem is that the non-cyclists of the world won't bother to read the story. They'll just see "Lance Armstrong," "doping" and "FBI" and fill in the rest according to what they think they know. "Ah, I knew it," they tell themselves, "They ARE all at it!"
|Lance Armstrong has never tested positive for any banned substance. Yet even in retirement, he is under constant suspicion simply due to his unprecedented success. Things shouldn't be this way.|
|Tom Simpson paid the ultimate price for doping on the slopes of Mount Ventoux.|
"We need to wipe out ten years because we have lost our reference points," says the 54-year-old directeur sportif of Europcar, who are fielding an all-French team in this year's Tour. Some of the results in the last ten years are simply meaningless. There are riders who make sense to me: Hushovd, for example, hasn't come from nowhere. Bradley Wiggins has been fast since he was 18 or 19. You can't wipe out ten years of the sport, but in my mind I don't use those years as a measure of reference.
"We are on the right road. We are seeing things that make sense again," he continues. "You can see the riders grimacing as they ride up the mountains. I don't like seeing riders climbing mountains with their mouths closed, or the same guys riding super-strong on the flat and in the mountains."
The peloton has been passing through a very long and very dark tunnel, but the light at the end can be seen.