Cycling: winning the fight against drugs?

This is an interesting article by William Fotheringham, Guardian sports writer, cycling specialist and author of the Tom Simpson biog ‘Put Me Back on My Bike’, amongst other books.

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It’s a timely reminder of how far cycling has come in just over a decade; and even in the three short years since the Puerto/Basso/Ulrich/Landis debacle. Okay, so hopes of a Tour without scandal were dashed (if Astarloza’s B sample returns a positive), and news of Di Luca’s failed Giro test broke during the Tour. But there does appear to be a growing confidence in cycling, that cheats are being caught (no matter what their profile and stature) and that the majority of riders are – dare I say it – clean. Bradley Wiggins in particular is leading the way with his immediate post-4th place online posting of blood test results.

But then there is the dark cloud hanging over the likes of Vinokourov: should he be welcomed back in the pro peleton? Is it bad for cycling to have cheats return? He’s done his time, like Brits David Millar and Dwaine Chambers (both accepted back and – hopefully – competing clean in their respective sports). Vino may not be liked anymore, but society must surely permit those who’ve served their sentence to return to life and try again. The problem is – though – remorse; or, all too often in cycling, the lack of it. Until cyclists cease blaming everything from clinical depression to an identical twin that died at birth, from other riders to the sport itself, and start admitting to themselves and the world that they’ve done wrong, then their participation always harms the sport.

The UCI, WADA and co are getting a lot right now. But there remains question marks over people like Basso and Valverde too. The former never failed a test but was banned through implication in Puerto; in essence this breaches Article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998: the right to a fair trial for all EU citizens. The latter is banned but only in Italy; that a rider can be banned by one national body, yet ride and win prestigious events like the Dauphine is ludicrous. Cycling needs greater continuity across national borders and to resolve unclear issues like the Valverde case in order to continue winning the fight against drugs. But it needs reciprocal support from riders: let’s hope more people step it up from the bio passport agreement and follow Wiggins’ lead on openness and transparency.

Who will win Le Tour?

The Classics season is over. The Giro’s finished. The Dauphine Libere starts this coming weekend. Most of the early season favourites have shown form of some description, but this remains the most open of Tours in years. So who is going to win?

Contador goes into the Dauphine – traditionally Lance’s Tour warm up event – as one of the favourites and has an opportunity to be the genuine Astana (or whatever their name is come July 4th) team leader. Levi’s early season form seems to have deserted him, but Astana look incredibly strong and – as mentioned in my Giro reflections – I wouldn’t write off Lance just yet. The Schleck brothers looked very good – bar Frank’s crash in the Amstel Gold race – in the Classics, but will either trascend the status of young prospect and mount a serious yellow jersey bid? Can Menchov challenge in a second successive grand tour? Is Basso up to the task as he continues his come back? Does Evans have the ability to go one better than 2008? Will Sastre improve on his Giro form and retain his title?

Here are the latest odds.

TdF Odds

So far 75% of you think Contador, making him the undisputed favourite. Vote now!

Who do you think will be the winner in Paris?