La Tour: A Name Blackened Forever

 
Doping has been the bete noir of cycling for as long as I can remember. Ever since the 1988 Tour of Shame, when doping really hit the front page, fans have never really been sure who is clean and who isn't. As testing became more rigorous so the dopers became more sophisticated and it appeared the real battle amongst the mountains and plains of France was between the chemist and the tester.
 
Then Lance Armstrong happened. A seven-time tour winner, cancer survivor and high profile celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic, Armstrong's continued and vociferous denial of doping was enough to convince his fans. Until the weight of evidence became overwhelming and Armstrong admitted to doping all along. As more and more former winners came clean on their enhanced performance, it became difficult to declare a winner for some Tours.
 
The sport lost. It lost because those who cheated not only claimed the glory but also because good riders who were potential winners in a clean field were nowhere against chemically enhanced rivals, ultimately giving up on the sport that should have been nurturing their skills and passion.
 
And the sport will continue to lose. Chris Froome's second victory was marred by abuse along the route. Even the sport's fans who make the effort to turn out to greet the riders through the towns and villages no longer believe that it's possible to win the Tour without cheating. Froome was not lauded as a great rider, but despised as the best of the cheaters.
 
Froome and his fellow 2015 Tour participants will claim to be racing clean, but much as we want to believe them I doubt even their biggest fans will be able to say, hand on heart, they don't have some reservations. That's a legacy that Lance Armstrong has certainly bequeathed to future winners.
 
How does Le Tour and cycling in general recover its reputation? Only by creating an even more extreme testing regime. Daily testing of riders? Genetic profiling? In order to put its house in order the world of cycling needs to find some method of guaranteeing that riders are succeeding only through their own efforts.
 
Until then the Tour's result sheet remains only a passable work of fiction.

0 comments: