Cycling can shed black sheep status

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Head of the Tour de France, Christian Prudhomme, believes the advent of biological passports would help the sport to shed its "black sheep" status after years of doping scandals.

   DOHA, January 29, 2008  - The head of the Tour de France, Christian
Prudhomme, said Tuesday he believed the advent of biological passports would
help the sport to shed its "black sheep" status after years of doping
   Speaking in Doha on the sidelines of the Tour of Qatar, Prudhomme said
plenty of interest was being shown in this year's Tour and he was convinced
the fight against doping cheats would eventually bear fruit to allow cycling
"once again to become a sport like others."
   After last year's doping-tainted Tour Prudhomme stressed he wanted to make
sure that organisers "benefit from complete freedom in the choice of teams
participating in our events and, hence, the Tour."
   But he added that meant carefully negotiating the minefield laid by the
   Asked if he would, for example, say "you, never again," to the Astana team
of Alexandre Vinokourov and Andrei Kasheshkin, caught doping last year but
whose team management has since changed, Prudhomme responded: "I would rather
say, Astana, we don't want any of that ever again."
   He added it was the organisers responsibility to ensure that there were no
repeats and said technological advancements such as the introduction of
biological passports for professionals supported by cycling's respective
governing bodies would go a long way to cleaning up the sport.
   Prudhomme insisted that "the biological passpert is going to be a crucial
element," but stressed that "we, the Tour de France organisers, are not at the
wheel when it comes to fighting doping even if in people's mind we are often
seen as responsible for what goes on during our event."
   The passport will, for example, show up suspect modifications of blood
sample readings as a means of helping to unmask the cheats.
   Expressing optimism that other sports, including biathlon, would follow
suit on the passports, Prudhomme said he was sure their introduction would
help to clean up sport.
   "It's a stroke of luck for the cycling world to shed finally its black
sheep status. We are going to say to the sporting world that we have certainly
made mistakes and taken our time in admitting them but that we have since
taken the necessary steps to correct those faults.
   "My dream is that pepole will be able once again to regard cycling as a
sport just like any other."
   Prudhomme insisted that the Tour de France was still sufficiently popular
for there to be a flood of applications from towns looking to host the 2009
event, including from as far afield as Japan, Turkey and Qatar in the wake of
the succesful London prologue stage last year.


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