Monday, June 8, 2009

Next Year the Tour Will be Clean

The Tour de France and cycling have suffered a lot of negative press of late because of the numerous doping scandals. Each year, it seems, several riders (usually high-profile) test positive for blood doping, CERA, steroids, amphetamines, etc., etc. And each year we hear that given this new test or this new rule, "next year the Tour will be clean." In fact, last year the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo ran a cartoon mocking that oft repeated hope. It reads: "This year the Tour will be clean," and crossing the finish line is a bike tire with no rider. (See the cartoon here).

In reading Gaboriau's chapter (cited in my last post), I was reminded that people have been saying "Next year the Tour will be clean" since the very beginning of the Tour. Gaboriau notes that in 1904 the top four riders were disqualified for cheating (for getting rides in cars or strewing nails on the road behind them). One journalist, Jacques Miral, lauded the Tour organizers for disqualifying the cheaters and concluded, "Next year [1905] we may have honest riders" (66). In Louis Malle's 1962 film Vive le Tour (thanks for loaning it to me Scott), riders claim that "Some people dope when they play cards," implying that many cyclists were using then. After Tom Simpson's death and the introduction of testing in the pro peleton, many thought "Next year, we will have a clean Tour" (even though Anquetil called testing "idiotic"). After the Festina affair in 1998 and the numerous pledges from the cycling community to clean up its act, many then thought, "Next year, we will have a clean Tour."

With the Tour fast approaching once again, let me be the first to say that with the new biological passport, this year we will finally have a clean Tour.

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