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Will the Tour de France be able to overcome Lance's legacy?

The Tour de France announced this year’s route today. Despite the revelations about Lance Armstrong's now-vacated victories, organizers believe that the event will retain its appeal. 

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“There is no doubt that this … is the biggest crisis cycling has ever faced,” UCI President Pat McQuaid said Monday, accepting the USADA report that Armstrong had been at the center of “a massive team doping scheme, more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history.”

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Mr. McQuaid recalled past drug scandals, however, and pointed out that “this is not the first time that cycling has reached a crossroads or that it has had to begin anew.” He insisted that “cycling has a future.”

What role the UCI will play in that future, however, is still uncertain. The international body is responsible for both promoting the sport and for policing it – improving its image and catching its cheats.

“That’s a toxic combination under one roof,” argues Ryan Newill, a columnist for “Velo” magazine in the US. “The fox is guarding the henhouse.”

Were Armstrong and cycling officials in cahoots?

The USADA report, along with French drug testers, has even raised suspicions that UCI officials were in league with Armstrong, giving him advance warning of tests so that he could manipulate the results.

“All drug tests must be done only by organizations completely independent of the cycling federations,” insists Cyrille Guimart, a sprinter who won seven Tour de France stages in his career.

That is a commonly held view amongst reformers, but UCI leaders do not appear to share it. Asked Monday whether the organization should split up its regulatory and promotional roles, McQuaid replied, “I don’t see why we should.”

“I see very little way forward with the folks and structures in place at the moment,” worries Mr. Newill.

That might mean that Amaury Sports Organization, the company that owns and organizes the Tour de France, will have to take its own measures, suggests Madiot, whose team regularly contests the Tour. Until now, as part of the UCI-run “Pro Tour” series of events, the Tour de France has accepted all the riders and teams that the UCI has presented it with, regardless of their doping history or reputation.

“The Tour de France is strong enough to say no if it wants to,” says Madiot. “It should refuse to accept teams with a bad reputation.”

The future of cycling

“There can be changes in cycling if the Tour de France takes the right decisions,” agrees Mr. Guimart. “If they don’t, they will be missing an opportunity, and if they do that they will bear responsibility for the degradation that will follow.”

Already, the signs of that possible future can be discerned.

Michel and Sylvie Rochefort had brought their young charges from the Bois d’Arcy junior cycling club, outside Paris, to Wednesday’s ceremony because “the Tour de France makes the kids dream,” says Mr. Rochefort.

But their small amateur club is not thriving. “This year we had no new members,” explains Ms. Rochefort. “Parents don’t want their children to get involved with cycling because of the doping image.”

“The doping stain on cycling may not hurt the Tour de France,” adds her husband. “But it is penalizing amateur cycling a lot.”


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