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Tainted accomplishments aren’t worthy of mention
By Rupert Guinness, Of The Australian
A travesty is occurring at the Tour de France. And it needs fixing quick.
Every day, Tour riders are introduced by race speaker Daniel Mangeas as they step up to sign on for the stage. And on time trials like Monday’s 52km ninth stage from Lanester to Lorient in Brittany, the commentary is taken up again as they approach and cross the finish line.
Every time, Mangeas announces the riders’ names to the waiting crowd along with their palmarès – or achievements – to much loud applause and cheers. It is meant to be a fitting gesture, aimed to arouse the crowd and boost the Tour’s atmosphere and to show respect to the often forgotten feats of the riders.
However, as Frenchman Richard Virenque of Domo-Farm Frites finished a lowly 56th in the time trial, 4:23 behind stage winner Santiago Botero, I realized what was so horribly wrong.
In announcing Virenque’s arrival, Mangeas championed the Frenchman’s past Tour feats during the 1990s when he rode for Festina, fueled by the banned drug Erythropoietin (EPO) — to which he has since confessed.
In a world where the sport and Tour organizers are supposedly trying to clamp down on drug abuse and polish the muddied image of cycling, how can they still credit such falsely achieved performances so publicly?
The Tour organizers claim they will not allow anyone or any team that has been implicated in a drug scandal to take part. Fine. But how can they still allow results that were dishonestly earned with illegal drug use to be so openly praised?
All the Tour organizers are doing by allowing it, is to put the very same riders back on a pedestal that we know has been achieved by cheating.
To be fair, Virenque is not the only rider in the Tour who falls into this category. Others are Frenchmen Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole) and Laurent Brochard (Jean Delatour), Switzerland’s Laurent Dufaux (Alessio) and Italians Dario Frigo (Tacconi Sport) and Ivan Gotti (Alessio). They all have a history of doping affairs behind them.
To be fair, all of them have paid the price of their ways and are now attempting to rebuild their lives and get their racing careers back on track.
It can only be assumed, too, that since their implication in various drug scandals — ranging from the 1998 Festina affair to drug raids at the Giro d’Italia — their race results have finally come without the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs.
In Virenque’s case, it can only be assumed that his victory in last year’s Paris-Tours is a “clean” example. It is such results that really deserve the public kudos the well-intentioned Mangeas arouses. Such results alone should be recognized.
Word of tainted wins and top places should never be heard of again!
In Virenque’s case, again, that would mean his Tour stage wins or his King of the Mountains titles of the 1990s. That so much is being made of them can only leave one to ponder two possibilities: It is a fault no-one among the Tour organizers has realized, or one that they really don’t want to act on — and as a result, pretend that the doping revelations of the past did not happen.