Where should the comments made by Tour de France organizers on Thursday regarding Lance Armstrong rank on the cheap-shot meter?
I'd give them a 10.
In presenting the 2006 Tour de France route to the public, the Le Tour 2006 website quotes Jean-Marie Leblanc, deputy managing director, and Christian Prudhomme, director of cycling:
“On the 24th of July we turned the page on a long, very long chapter in the history of the Tour de France. And one month later, current events made it clear to us that it was just as well that this was so.”
Obviously a below-the-belt shot delivered by the dottering toad Leblanc and his buddy referring to allegations levelled in August that 7-time Armstrong had traces of blood boosting EPO in his urine in 1999, the first year he won the Tour.
Those charges were raised by the French sporting newspaper L'Equipe. The paper is owned by Phillipe Amaury Publications, which also owns Tour de France organizer Amaury Sport Organisation. So LeBlanc and Prudhomme are spouting support for an article in their boss's newspaper. What a fetid French sauce.
They (or the editorial writers at L'Equipe) continue:
“Does this justify closing the entire book and erasing all the emotions that, for so many years, the Tour and its champions have provided us with? Taken as a whole, judged on its lifelong worth – like an artist or a poet – and in particular on its future productions, we want to believe that the Tour de France deserves a better fate. The dream that it embodies, the values that it is capable of generating mean that it has a duty to be able to hold its head up in pride.”
This really makes my blood boil. LeBlanc and Prudhomme give the impression that the years that Armstrong dominated the Tour are its Dark Ages. Granted, the French cyclists didn't distinguish themselves during this period, and probably won't anytime soon. I'm sure it has been a dark time for many Frenchmen.
But Armstrong, a cancer survivor, has raised the popularity for the Tour de France, especially in the US. If that means more US challenges from the likes of stage winners like George Hincapie and David Zabriskie, then so be it.
There's no reason for the Tour de France to hang its head in shame because of Armstrong's participation. The only shameful activity has been Leblanc and Prudhomme shilling for the company newsletter.
Until investigators can really get to the bottom of those recently revealed allegations, they are just that, allegations. Where were the samples kept for six years? Was there a way to tamper with them? Are there other urine samples from 1999 that can be independently tested? Is the test accurate?
We don't know. A lot of sniping between officials with the Tour, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the United Cycliste Internationale has been going on. I'd like some definitive proof, rather than supposition, before hearing any more about it being a good thing that Armstrong has retired from the Tour.