Unzue: ‘Pereiro deserves ceremony’
By Andrew Hood
Reaction was muted Friday in Spain following the news that Floyd Landis failed in his bid to fend off doping allegations from his disputed 2006 Tour de France victory.
Oscar Pereiro – the man set to inherit the Tour crown – said the 2-to-1 decision against Landis will end what he described as a “14-month purgatory.”
“Now I can start to believe it a little more. I’m still missing some sort of official notification from the UCI or the Tour organizers before I can say with certain,” Pereiro told Spanish radio. “Of course we’ll celebrate it once it’s confirmed. After a year of rumors and more of waiting, it’s been too much to stand.”
Eusebio Unzue, Pereiro’s sport director at Caisse d’Epargne, had harsher words. He said Pereiro deserves to be called the Tour winner and cannot understand why it took so long for arbitrators to reach a decision.
“It’s unrecoverable what (Landis) has taken away from Oscar, from the team and our sponsors. He couldn’t enjoy standing on the podium in Paris and that has no price,” Unzue told VeloNews. “We’ve been waiting 14 months for this news and I cannot understand why it took so long. Now there’s the chance there will be an appeal and that means we’ll have to wait even longer. If they finally award Oscar as the winner, it will have none of the value of if he could have won it.”
Unzue said that Pereiro deserves some sort of official presentation of the yellow jersey to make up for the loss of not being able to enjoy the podium in Paris.
“A cheater has taken away his victory. For the past year, Oscar has been a rider who’s been ‘out.’ He’s been distracted, not concentrated on the business of racing his bike and instead of celebrating his second place, he’s been trying to live with this pressure of waiting for the process to be completed,” Unzue said. “What he deserves is a gesture from the race organizers or an official presentation of the jersey. That would help him make up for missing the moment to enjoy the victory.”
When asked what he would say to Landis, Unzue said not much: “I don’t have anything to say to Landis – what can I say?”
With Pereiro still unable to fully celebrate the victory, one man who could celebrate victory – 2007 Tour victor Alberto Contador – said he feels sorry for his compatriot.
“I feel most sorry for Oscar, because I realized what he missed when I was standing on the podium in Paris,” Contador told VeloNews on Friday. “It’s an unfortunate situation for cycling and one that we hope can finally be resolved in a concrete manner. It’s gone on too long and that’s not good for anyone.”
Others voiced mixed opinions about the ruling. Hendrik Rendant, sport director at Predictor-Lotto, said Landis’s career would be over if he is handed down a two-year ban.
“His career is finished. Even if he tried to come back in two years, who would sign him?” said Rendant, who added. “They have to clean everything out. That’s what they’re trying to do now. This is a beautiful sport, but the riders have to learn to do it in a clean way. We have to get rid of all the cheaters.”