So Oscar Pereiro is the new winner of the 2006 Tour de France* after cycling officials stripped Floyd Landis of the title and handed it to the Spaniard 15 months after the finish of the race.
Standing on the podium in Paris on July 24, 2006, I'm sure the only dream of a Tour de France win for the Caisse d'Epargne rider involved upcoming efforts in 2007 or 2008.
Little did he know that in less than a week, the beaming American standing on the top step of the podium would be accused of doping and eventually be stripped of his yellow jersey.
In spite of a last ditch appeal by Landis, officials of the Tour de France and Union Cycliste International were expected to go ahead and relieve Landis of his title and give it to Pereiro ina ceremony Monday evening in Madrid.
The officials made the decision after a three-judge arbitration panel announced their 2-1 vote on Sept. 20 that Landis used synthetic testosterone during the 2006 Tour de France.
The arbitrators agreed that some testing procedures at the French lab were faulty, but only one judge thought those problems were significant enough to rule in favor of Landis. The 32-year-old cyclist, banned until January 2009, will probably use those charges of faulty work as part of his appeal to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.
All the dope
The championship for Pereiro is a long-time coming. A lot has happened in cycling since those first days of disbelief after the allegations arose against Landis.
For instance, I wrote some notes about how you'd have to look back to 1904 to find a Tour de France winner, Maurice Garin, being stripped of his title after the race. Garin didn't dope, he cheated by taking a train.
Those notes were to become seriously passe by the time the 2007 Tour rolled around.
The 1996 Tour de France winner, Denmark's Bjarne Riis, admitted that he used the banned blood-booster EPO during that tour. While Tour organizers have removed him from the winner's list, too many years had passed for the UCI to officially sanction Riis, reported ESPN.com.
Accusations once again surfaced against other cyclists, including 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich. He admits nothing, but continued questions have ended his career.
And the 2007 Tour de France witnessed the spectacle of numerous high profile cyclists, including Alexander Vinokourov, getting busted for drugs. The final straw came when Michael Rasmussen, just days away from a sure victory, was fired by his team for lying about his whereabouts earlier in the year when dope-control testers were trying to locate him.
Pereiro's belated victory
Pereiro, a former member of Landis' Phonak team, jumped from 46th to 1st place in Stage 13 of the Tour de France in 2006. Landis explains in his book, “Postively False”, that the team sort of set up Pereiro to take the lead because they didn't feel like defending the yellow on Landis for half the race and thought they might be able to win it back.
He held it for two days, dropped to second after Stage 15, then retook it for stages 16, 17 and 18. Landis won the yellow in a time trial on Stage 19 and kept it for the next day's finish in Paris.
Pereiro has completed three other Tours de France, finishing in 10th place in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
*Floyd Landis finished in first place in 2006, but was stripped of his title the following year after losing an appeal to doping allegations.