TOULOUSE, France (VN) — Every time Chris Horner takes a doping control test, he’s nervous.
Not because Horner’s a cheat, he says, but because he cannot possibly know what exactly goes into his body. Is that a surprise?
“During this Tour de France, I probably took 30 Cokes and 30 bottles from guys on the side of the road that I don’t have any idea who they are. And I drank them anyways,” Horner said, sitting on the road after the mountaintop finish of stage 17.
“The very, very best riders in the Tour? They don’t have to do that because they’re not suffering that bad. Away from the top five? After the top-five best climbers, maybe the top-three best climbers, then we have to take what we can get sometimes. Sometimes it comes from the guy on the side of the road. You saw where they throw tacks on the side of the road, so they could easily put something in a bottle for sure.”
Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) stood behind his Tour-expelled teammate Fränk Schleck on Thursday, offering a very human perspective on what goes into an elite cyclist’s body. Schleck left this Tour de France Tuesday evening after the UCI announced he had tested positive for a banned diuretic.
Schleck has asked for an analysis of his B Sample, and said if that sample proves tainted he will say he was poisoned. Horner, a RadioShack teammate, said he does not believe Schleck knowingly took any banned substances.
“Fränk’s a fantastic guy, and he’s a great teammate. And I want to be teammates with him until the end of my career. I really hope the problems that he has right now, he can solve. I certainly don’t believe he took anything — certainly not knowingly,” Horner said.
Alberto Contador famously blamed tainted beef for a clenbuterol positive he gave at the Tour in 2010. People scoffed, but to hear Horner tell it, to control everything that comes into a cyclist’s body is nearly impossible.
“You have no idea what is going into your system. I didn’t prepare the food. I wasn’t the guy who slaughtered the cow, who fed the cow. I wasn’t the guy who took it from the farmer after he slaughtered it. I wasn’t the guy who bought it. I wasn’t the guy who prepared it. I wasn’t the guy who even put in it on the table. I was only the guy who cut it with my knife and fork and put it in my mouth,” Horner said.
“Everybody, the whole world out there, seems to think a professional athlete knows everything we put into our bodies. We have no control of what we put in our body, and what is served on the table. We can only pick from what is on the table and what goes into our mouth.”
Schleck’s departure from the Tour is but one chapter in the RadioShack saga of 2012 — the team has weathered bad luck in the form of crashes, media reports that some of its top riders are unpaid and its manager, Johan Bruyneel, is implicated in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s charges against Lance Armstrong, resulting in Bruyneel’s sitting the Tour out.
Things began to turn around at the Tour for RadioShack before the Schleck story broke. Fabian Cancellara wore the yellow jersey for the first week after winning the prologue in Liège, Belgium, and Jens Voigt, a favorite among fans and the oldest rider in the race, has been on the rampage. RadioShack also leads the teams competition with three days remaining.
“We knew we came with a team who can win the Tour de France. And we came with riders who can win the Tour de France under normal circumstances, but Andy’s not here. Fränk was tired. Fränk did the Giro — he did a lot of races,” Horner said. “The team did a fantastic job. And really, we rode really well today and well during the whole three weeks.”
Now, with a buffer of more than 15 minutes over Sky, if the team performs well in the time trial, it will win the team classification.
“Hopefully, hopefully, we can defend the team classification in the time trial,” Horner said. “And then be on the podium, the whole team, in Paris. And then, that will show the world that RadioShack really is a fantastic team.”