(AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski, file)
(Associated Press file)
(AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski, file)
Last year's Tour was bad enough, with Floyd Landis' positive test coming days after the race. This time, doping rocked the 104-year-old institution to its core.
"I thought this year would have been better," former rider Frankie Andreu said. "Obviously it wasn't. So I'm not confident that even next year will be better."
( AP Photo/Bob Edme)
Patrice Clerc, head of Amaury Sport Organization that organizes the Tour, said next year's race will be the first step in rebuilding high-level cycling.
"The 2008 Tour will not be like the 2007 Tour," Clerc said. "I commit myself to that."
This time, fan favorite Alexandre Vinokourov, race leader Michael Rasmussen and Italian rider Cristian Moreni were all cited for doping or, in Rasmussen's case, for lying about his whereabouts while skipping tests.
German rider tests positive
German rider Patrik Sinkewitz also tested positive, except his test was from before the race and revealed during it.
"It's going to take five and 10 years until we have faith in the riders," Britain's David Millar said. "That's such a shame for the younger guys who are coming through and deserve it now because they're getting put in the same bracket."
Cynicism among some fans was clear.
"Tour of Transfusion," read one roadside banner.
Many now look to the new guard of young riders to stand up against doping. But will 24-year-olds like Tour winner Alberto Contador, Linus Gerdemann and Markus Fothen speak their minds?
Gerdemann, who won an Alpine stage on July 14, already has.
"We have to go that way, otherwise cycling is dead," Gerdemann said. "Everyone has to understand that this is the new way, and there are no other possibilities."
(ANTONIO CALANNI ~ Associated Press)
"It's going to take awhile to earn the trust," Andreu told The Associated Press.
After Sinkewitz's positive test for testosterone, two German television stations ended their coverage.
"It's important that riders have an opinion and say it," Fothen said. "So much silence. ... In the past was a generation that did things that were not good. Now we are a new generation. I can speak loud."
Andreu, a former teammate of seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong, wants Fothen to keep talking.
"It could be a generational thing because the guys grew up racing in the '90s fell into maybe taking stuff in order to perform," said Andreu, who admitted taking EPO in 1999.
Credit Agricole sporting director Roger Legeay says it will take more than youth.
"In 1998 they said we'd see a new generation," Legeay said. "In 2004 we'd see a new generation ... so history repeats itself. Today we really have all the means at our disposal. Urine tests, medical records, DNA, random tests."
After clinching his Tour title at Saturday's time trial, Contador said he would take a DNA test, but only if asked.
"I'm innocent and I don't have to prove anything to anyone," Contador said. "Who should I have give my blood to? You?"
Champ appears clean
Contador never tested positive and there is no evidence tying him to blood-doping. Yet the fact he had to face questions reflects the current climate of suspicion.
One rider at this race, Germany's Erik Zabel, previously admitted taking EPO in 1996. Unlike Millar and Andreu, he has said hardly anything about doping.
"I said to him that we talk about it, that we should do an interview together," Millar said. "He's got to talk more about it. We can't just admit it and bury it."
The old guard like Zabel will soon be gone. Vinokourov and Landis may yet never ride the Tour again.
Millar accepts that fans may not start believing any time soon.
"They have every right not to," Millar said. "We expect a lot of our grand champions, and even when they do make mistakes, they don't face up to them. It's unfortunate, it's kind of a tragic twist."
Andreu remembers clearly the pressures to use banned drugs.
"You always wondered what the next guy was doing," Andreu said. "If you're trying to win the Tour de France and you think everybody else is doing stuff, it becomes an arms race. And it might be a mysterious arms race because you never know, but you don't want to be caught out. So it becomes a game."