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Where to now for professional cycling?

October 9, 2008

The 2008 edition of the Tour de France saw four riders busted for doping. When Riccardo Ricco’s team, Saunier Duval, pulled out of the race following his failed test, team-mate Leonard Piepoli probably escaped being the fifth rider caught cheating.

Although the race is over, it is not yet done. Follow-up blood tests were requested for a number of urine tests where the initial analysis was inconclusive; the results of these blood tests are now being released. Stefan Schumacher (who won both the time trials and is a team-mate of the eventual tour winner) has tested positive, as has Piepoli (who should probably thank Ricco for sparing him the last days of riding). According to AFP, there are up to 30 riders “embroiled in the latest scandal”.

How should the result of this year’s Tour be viewed? Cadel Evans lost by 58 seconds to Carlos Sastre, who was undoubtedly helped by the attacks launched by the Schleck brothers, one of whom has been suspended by his team after it was found that he’d made a payment to Operacion Puerto doctor, Eufemiano Fuentes in 2006. Frank Schleck says that he “made a serious blunder in taking contact to and transferring the money to the bank account and he became early aware that he should not continue any working relationship with these people.” Maybe that’s just thoughtcrime; perhaps his spectacular riding this year was achieved because of natural talent and hard work. CSC director, Bjarne Riis, has made a lot of noise about how clean his team is (and seems to have gathered a lot of trust, despite having admitted to doping himself during his racing years). There seems to be no doubt that more riders will be outed under this new testing phase – it will be interesting to monitor the leader board as more riders are ruled out.

Of course, here in Australia we are supposed to be excited that the UCI has allowed Lance Armstrong to ride in the Tour Down Under. His inclusion in the 2009 peleton is hardly likely to restore cycling’s image… but of course, Armstrong is bigger than the sport. As is Floyd Landis, who is apparently planning a comeback for 2009, too.


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