Long-standing regular readers of this blog will know that during the three weeks of the Tour de France I seldom get to the computer, but I wonder how long that might continue.
In recent years the Tour de France has had many problems related to drug-enhanced-performance, and lots of big name cyclists have been lost along the way. But this year was the year the ruling body of the Tour de France were getting tough, after previous years catastrophes. They knew they had to get the race back on track if it was to survive.
Teams and riders all signed agreements saying they agreed to be hanged, drawn and quartered if so much as an aspirin was found in their hotel, and just for once it looked as if it might be a clean race.
Then up popped a couple of not very well known riders who, surprise surprise, had been cheating. Well OK perhaps that’s to be expected and no-one had really heard of them anyway.
But then today news has come out that Riccardo Ricco has been arrested and his team banished to outer space after a drug test showed positive and more performance-enhancing drugs were found in his hotel room.
Wow, some people learn pretty slowly. Ricco won two stages in the Tour de France last week. Did he really for the briefest moment think he wouldn’t be tested after that? He maintains he is innocent…but I guess we’ve heard that one before just once to often to believe it.
Floyd Landis (winner in 2006, then disqualified and his victory removed shortly afterwards) apparently spent $3million, almost all his money, trying to prove he was innocent, despite all the evidence that his blood test showed he had artificial steroids in his blood at the time.
The companies that sponsor the teams are clearly starting to despair of the whole thing and you can hardly blame them – it costs 7 million euros a year to support a Tour de France cycling team, and only takes one cheating cyclist for the whole expense to have been a complete waste of time.
I almost despair of the whole thing myself as well, but something keeps me watching anyway – sympathy, perhaps, with the enormous amount of effort the other cyclists have made, and their teams and the Tour organisers. Assuming of course that somewhere among the pack there are some young, talented, drug-free cyclists who really are just doing their best.
But really you have to wonder how long an event can keep going when every single year it is riddled with scandals and cheating, and every time someone speeds off ahead of the group you can see the following morning headlines appear before your eyes…’Scandal Rocks the Tour de France….again’
ps I have subsequently just read a fascinating book about the Tour de France drug problems. The book, Bad Blood by Jeremy Whittle (cycling journalist) is recommended reading – see it at amazon.co.uk here: BAD Blood: The Secret Life of the Tour De France