Dop­ing still “bad shadow on the sport”

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By John Le­ices­ter

A scene from “God­fa­ther III” about sums up where the Tour de France is with dop­ing as the 2017 edi­tion be­gins Satur­day.

In the movie, Al Pa­cino’s char­ac­ter Michael Cor­leone laments that his ef­forts to be­come a bona fide busi­ness­man are be­ing un­der­mined by his fam­ily’s un­der­world con­nec­tions. “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in,” he wails.

Like­wise, cy­cling’s show­case race seemed largely to have ex­tri­cated it­self from the swamp of wide­spread blood dop­ing that char­ac­ter­ized Lance Arm­strong’s era. The 12 rid­ers banned or pro­vi­sion­ally sus­pended by cy­cling’s gov­ern­ing body, the UCI, in 2015 and 2016 for us­ing blood-boost­ing agents like Arm­strong were largely sec­ond-tier. Just one, French cy­clist Lloyd Mon­dory, had pre­vi­ously raced in the Tour — in 2009 and 2010, when Arm­strong was still com­pet­ing.

But just four days be­fore the 2017 edi­tion got rolling in Duesseldorf, Ger­many, came a re­al­ity check.

The UCI an­nounced that An­dre Car­doso, a sea­soned pro who was to have raced in sup­port of 2007 and 2009 cham­pion Alberto Con­ta­dor in his quest for an­other Tour ti­tle, tested pos­i­tive for EPO — a hor­mone banned be­cause it stim­u­lates the pro­duc­tion of oxy­gen-car­ry­ing blood cells.

EPO also was part of Arm­strong’s dop­ing ar­mory when he cheated his way to seven Tour cham­pi­onships from 1999-2005. Those vic­to­ries were sub­se­quently stripped from the high-pro­file Texan, who has been banned for life, leav­ing the sport and the Tour la­bor­ing un­der cor­ro­sive clouds of sus­pi­cion.

Time and cy­cling’s sus­tained anti-dop­ing ef­forts have helped to heal some of those wounds, and to win back fans in coun­tries like Ger­many, where broad­cast­ers had turned their back on the Tour. But Car­doso’s pos­i­tive test shows that the race isn’t out of the woods yet — and likely never will be.

“We keep say­ing that time is the healer of the sport and what peo­ple did 10 years ago to ruin the sport will be healed by time and the fact that no­body is do­ing it any­more,” Team Sky rider Luke Rowe said.

But Car­doso’s test, he added, “just puts a bad shadow on the sport again.”

De­scrib­ing him­self as an­gry and frus­trated, Rowe said he would like the Por­tuguese vet­eran of seven Tours of Italy and Spain to be banned for life, “es­pe­cially if you are caught with some­thing as ob­vi­ous as that.”

“Guys like him should never be able to race a bike again,” said Rowe, who is rac­ing with reign­ing cham­pion Chris Froome for a third time at this Tour.

2017Tourd e France route

Leg­end Race start Start town Fin­ish town Rest town Race fin­ish Stage FRANCE BEL­GIUM GER­MANY

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