My friend Eric Siegmund reminds us that the Tour de France starts today, and it’s off to an inauspicious beginning, as this AP story details – Doping scandal strips Tour de France of its favorites:
STRASBOURG, France (AP) — A doping scandal knocked Tour de France favorites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso out of the race Friday and threw the world’s most glamorous cycling event into chaos.
The decision to bar Ullrich, Basso and others implicated in a doping probe in Spain also sent a strong signal that cheating, or even suspicions of cheating, will not be tolerated.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme said organizers’ determination to fight doping was “total.”
“The enemy is not cycling, the enemy is doping,” he said the day before the start of the Tour.
Riders being excluded will not be replaced, meaning a smaller field than the 189 racers originally expected.
Spanish rider Francisco Mancebo (4th last year) was also pulled from the race.
All in all, that’s a huge chunk of the top crop of riders who won’t be riding in the next few hours. Add that to the absence of the greatest of them all – Lance Armstrong – and the TdF organizers surely are hoping for a miracle winner to redeem this year’s race.
Eric sums it up well in an addendum to a longer post about the TdF – But…what a black eye for the world of professional cycling.