Doping still “bad shadow on the sport”
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