Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Prudhomme in Le Monde

This from today's late edition of Le Monde. It was accompanied by a sidebar recounting mostly guilt-by-association anecdotes casting doubts on the Astana team.


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Christian Prudhomme, Tour de France director
"The Tour has been damaged. It has to win back its credibility and dignity."
By Stéphane Mandard


Le Monde: Less than two weeks before the start of the Tour de France, July7 in London, do we know who won the 2006 edition?

Christian Prudhomme: We don't know yet, but categorically, it's not Floyd Landis (the American, 1st at the end of the race, but then testing positive for doping). Only the sport's authority, the International Cycling Union, can say who won.

Le Monde: And who won the 1996 Tour?

CP: Bjarne Riis himself has said he cheated and wasn't worthy of winning the Tour. But the world antidoping code says that after eight years the statute of limitations runs out. What interests me in the Riis case isn't so much that he's admitted to doping between 1996 an 1998, it's to know whether, in 2006 when he was CSC manager, he was aware that Ivan Basso was a client of Dr. Fuentes (at the center of a vast doping network).

Le Monde: Floyd Landis, Bjarne Riis, but also Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich and Marco Pantani, the winners of the last ten Grande Boucles have all been caught up in suspicions about doping. Does the tour still have any sports credibility?

CP: Yes. And it has to win back its credibility and its dignity. Today, the will is there, since doping is the Tour's enemy. The sport has no need of doping in order to be a magnificent spectacle. But you can't remake the film. What interests me is cycling today and tomorrow. There are unsavory people in cycling, but also some great people. The Tour de France is part of the nation's heritage. It is a great competition, and it's not going to give up saying, “OK, guys, just strip it all off.” I hope whoever is first on the Champs-Élysées with the yellow jersey is the Tour winner.

Le Monde: Nonetheless, during this past decade the Tour's image has been seriously tarnished, hasn't it?

CP: Of course the Tour de France has been damaged. But it is very solid. What other competition could have overcome what has happened to it. Now, it is not radically different from other great sports competitions.

Le Monde: In 2006, the Tour lost viewers on the French TV stations, and the ZDF has threatened not to rebroadcast the Tour in Germany because of the doping cases. . . .

CP: That certain people are asking questions, that's legitimate. But the ZDF will rebroadcast the Tour this year. As for the French TV stations, the Tour nonetheless took 40% of the market, not as good as previous years, but still twice the audience for Roland-Garros, for example.

Le Monde: What are you doing concretely in the fight against doping?

CP: We're doing everything we can to keep the cheaters from cheating. It's already been strongly commented on. Journalists have twisted the knife in the wound. I think we really stuck it to them before the start of the 2006 Tour by putting pressure on the teams to exclude riders cited in the Puerto case. The requests we made before the Fleche Walone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year had the same effect: no rider implicated in this sinister affair was on the starting line. And we will go before the Sports Arbitration Tribunal to oppose the presence at the start of the Tour de France of any riders who have not signed the UCI antidoping charter.

Le Monde: Some cyclists' associations are opposed to the charter and believe that the teams and the race organizers also bear a responsibility for the encouragement of doping. In 2006 the reduction of the big Tours to only two weeks of racing was mentioned. . . .

CP: It's a witch trial. Do more people dope for the 100 meters or for a marathon? After 1998, the UCI reduced the length of the big Tours to 3500 km. With the success that everyone knows. It's the rhythm that makes the difference. The shorter the race, the faster the pace. And so it's harder.

Le Monde: Why was an invitation offered to the Astana team despite the suspicions which are hanging over it?

CP: If it comes down to it, you can say we invited the 21 teams which will be at the start because we're not in the Pro Tour. We invited Astana because of their quality on paper, because of the names of their riders.

Le Monde: All the more so, for the principle of caution, shouldn't you have held off inviting this team in order to avoid the risk of a new Landis affair. . . ?

CP: That principle of caution, we applied it so seriously in 2006 that we went to the Sports Arbitration Tribunal, and we lost. If we have to go to the Sports Arbitration Tribunal again this year, we'll go once more. But we aren't above the rules.

Le Monde: The president of the association of professsional teams, Patrick Lefévère, was recently accused by former riders and doctors from his team of having organized its doping. Doesn't that cloud the antidoping message?

CP: Theres a war on with the team managers, and we must aid those--like the French and the Germans--who are fighting to clean up the sport.

Le Monde: The UCI has asked riders to get involved against doping--under pain of exclusion, but requires their teams to race them in the maximum number of races on the Pro Tour. Isn't this contradictory?

CP: That you need continuing heroes throughout a sports season, that's evident. Its true for any serial, sports or not. But it's also evident that there are too many days of racing on the Pro Tour.

Le Monde: An association, "Of bicycles and men," asks that the Tour stop temporarily, "in order to save it from the Evil that's consuming it and will kill it. . . ."

CP: By that logic, we should also stop the Winter Olympics, because they have scandals every four years. Stopping the Tour will not settle the doping problem. On the contrary, it would hand the victory to the cheaters. In the same way that the famous “big family of cycling” was not unhappy to be able to slam Festina in 1998, today there are certain people in the sport who are not unhappy that the bad guys, the cheaters, the thieves are supposedly cleaning up the cycling world.

6 comments:

("Eightzero") said...

Is that true? Only the UCI can decide who won the TdF? I rather thought it was the ASO itself.

Glendora said...

Marc,

What is Roland-Garros? A sporting event?

Thanks

Laurent said...

Roland Garros is the Tennis French Open played on clay. One of the grand slam tournaments.
It happens in June every year.
Roland Garros is the name of the tennis center where it is hold.

Mike Solberg said...

Hey 8-0,

Although CP keeps talking like he (and the ASO) gets to decide, he has also said that the UCI decides - so this has never been clear to me. I think the truth is that the UCI decides who the winner is. The ASO owns the event, but they don't govern the sport. But that probably wouldn't stop the ASO from publishing results however they want in their own publications.

Christian Prudhomme is an idiot - just as bad as Dick Pound. He has no clue how to fight doping in his sport, and doesn't take any share in the blame of the sport being what it is (and it IS being ruined by cheating).

In any case, in what seems like a fairly important document, the media guide for the 2007 Tour says, "At the time of the printing of the guide, the competent authorities have still not ruled on the Floyd Landis case, who tested positive on the evening of the 17th stage," ... "Should he be found guilty of doping, he will be stripped of the title."

So that implies that, whether it is the UCI or the ASO, either way they will abide by the decision of the panel, but we'll see.

Illinoisfrank said...

"Le Monde: Floyd Landis, Bjarne Riis, but also Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich and Marco Pantani, the winners of the last ten Grande Boucles have all been caught up in suspicions about doping. Does the tour still have any sports credibility?"
This is exactly part of the problem with doping in cycling. Just being accused makes you guilty. Having the press repeat unproven accusations without Prudhomme correcting them assures that the sport will never "win back its credibility and its dignity".

Ken (EnvironmentalChemistry.com) said...

The only way the sport can win back credibility in relation to the doping issue is for EVERYONE to be held accountable to higher standards, not just the athletes. This means WADA MUST have a transparent and accountable system of due process, testing labs like LNDD must be held to standards that are beyond reproach and teams, not just individual athletes must be held accountable for the actions of their athletes. People in positions like Prudhomme and Dick Pound must also learn to respect athletes rights to due process and stop making grand pronouncements as to the guilt of athletes before they have had a chance to a fair hearing. I honestly believe that the loose cannon lips of those who are in charge are doing as much damage to the sport as are the doping athletes.

What we have right now is a system where the only ones who are held accountable are the athletes and thus we have a mafia style mentality where the only crime is getting caught and those who are in charge place enormous pressure on the athletes to improve their performance.