Tour de Farce

culture

In the past, I've been an avid follower of the Tour de France. I got slightly bored with the predictability of the eventual outcome when Lance Armstrong was winning every year, but there were still some epic battles on individual stages, particularly those in the mountains. In 2006, I was looking forward to a more open race, and enjoyed the Tour, only to face a massive disappointment when the winner -- Floyd Landis -- failed a doping test. He appealed against that test result, so we still don't know a year later whether he should be considered the winner of the 2006 Tour or not. This year has been even worse for doping scandals, with mass failures or withdrawals of the leaders of the race.

The physical demands of the Tour have always seemed so hellish to me1 that I'm amazed anyone can do it at all, doped or clean, but the race becomes a farce when so many people fail doping tests. As soon as someone puts in an amazing performance or makes a spectacular recovery (like Vinokourov in the time trial), you immediately wonder what they're on, rather than marvelling at their athleticism. I also feel incredibly sorry for the clean riders in the race, who end up lagging behind all the super-charged dopers, but get tarred with the same brush.

Predictably, there have been a number of editorials in the sports pages of the newspapers suggesting that this is make-or-break time for the sport of road cycling, and I think that I generally agree. If the sport doesn't clean up its act dramatically, sponsors will pull out, and -- more importantly -- fans will become disillusioned with the whole thing.

1 They go faster up a 45 degree slope than I do going down one.

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