Former champ LeMond says doping still dogs Tour

27th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

NEW YORK, July 27, 2007 (AFP) - The doping scandals wreaking havoc on the 2007 Tour de France should come as no surprise, three-time Tour champion Greg LeMond told AFP on Thursday.

NEW YORK, July 27, 2007 (AFP) - The doping scandals wreaking havoc on the 2007 Tour de France should come as no surprise, three-time Tour champion Greg LeMond told AFP on Thursday.

In a dramatic few days on the crisis-hit race, long-time race leader Michael Rasmussen of Denmark has been sensationally turfed out by his own Rabobank team. 

France's number one team Cofidis pulled out after it was revealed that Italian Cristian Moreni had tested positive for testosterone while Astana have also left the race following favourite Alexandre Vinokourov's dope test failure.

But LeMond, who won the Tour in 1986, 1989 and 1990, said that it was unfair to brand Rasmussen a cheat without looking at those around him.

"If Rasmussen got caught, and if you want to be equal, you have to implicate other riders too," LeMond said. "You have a lot of riders against whom there's a lot of evidence and relations to certain doctors. Those riders are getting away with it.

"(Yellow jersey holder) Alberto Contador and Rasmussen are at 60 kilos each and both are climbing as fast as Pantani did. That's a red flag right there," he said in a reference to the late Italian Marco Pantani, a superb climber who won both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia in 1998.

"Contador has been involved in Operation Puerto," he added, citing the doping scandal that rocked Spain.

"I'm not pointing fingers at Contador. I'm just saying that if you point fingers at Rasmussen, you have to look at the riders next to him."

LeMond said he thought the Tour de France would be better served if it didn't name a champion this year.

"I would prefer to see a non Tour de France winner," he said. "It's more symbolic."

However, he said the opinions sprouting around Europe that the latest scandals would spell the end of the Tour were wrong, although he did believe the reputation of cycling as a competitive sport was in jeopardy.

"The Tour will survive. The Tour is an event. It has a glorious past. It has a history. The Tour will never go away. During three weeks, riders become actors. Actors with a story to tell. If you remove those actors, and replace them, you'll still have the drama and the flavor the Tour brings.

"What I'm pessimistic about is the credibility of cycling as a whole," LeMond added. "Each time we thought things are looking better, then we take a dive."

LeMond said the positive tests only revealed the tip of the iceberg, that drug cheats still abound in the peloton and riders are under pressure to keep quiet about it.

"There's a strong omerta," he said. "But it's changing."

The doping control system needs to improve to hasten progress, he said.

"There's too many loopholes," he said. "For instance, none of the riders are tested before the start of the race. The only tests occur early in the morning, which means they can pretty much do anything they want before the start."

He called for a body independent of Tour officials and the International Cycling Union to take over, with funding by the government and more punitive measures for those caught cheating.


AFP

Subject: French news

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