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Tour de France 2010 delivers drama – without the doping

After a lackluster 2009 edition, this year's Tour de France was filled with action, from the cementing of Contador and Schleck's rivalry to Armstrong's bumpy exit from the sport he dominated in unprecedented fashion.

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2010 Tour refreshingly free of doping

In Paris yesterday, Contador stood atop the podium in the winner's yellow jersey for a third time in four years. He won his first Tour de France in 2007.

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“I've felt under so much pressure,” said Contador, the defending champion. “It's such a huge relief to have won the title.”
Tour organizers also exhaled deeply on Sunday after a race devoid of positive drug tests.

But ongoing doping probes, which sometimes can turn up illegal drug use after the Tour ends, were constant reminders of the sport’s struggles.

The most recent charge came last week, when the Italian government announced it is investigating green jersey winner Alessandro Petacchi for alleged illegal drug use.

But major probe of Armstrong looms

More potentially damaging to cycling’s image, however, is the US Food and Drug Administration’s investigation of Lance Armstrong, spurred in part by allegations levied against him by former teammate Floyd Landis.

On the eve of the race, Landis – who had spent the past four years defending his innocence after being stripped of his 2006 Tour title for doping – did an about face, admitting his own illegal drug use and implicating his teammates in what he described as cycling's systemic doping culture.

In highly detailed accounts given to the Wall Street Journal and ESPN, he alleged that Armstrong had promoted doping on his US Postal team and helped teammates such as Landis learn how to cheat without getting caught.

Subsequent developments, including federal investigator Jeff Novitzky's subpoenaing of former Tour winner Greg LeMond and ex-Armstrong teammate Tyler Hamilton, strongly suggest that this will result in more than a showdown between Landis's tainted credibility and Armstrong's Teflon image.

Armstrong, the Tour's most decorated athlete with seven consecutive wins, was well aware of this throughout the last three weeks, during which he hired a criminal defense attorney and continued to distance himself from any involvement with performance-enhancing drugs