"The death of the Tour de France, on July 25, 2007, in Orthez, at the age of 104 years, following a long illness. The funeral will be celebrated in the strictest privacy."
France is reeling. This was the lead article in the France Soir, a French daily newspaper, mourning the drug-infested state of the symbol of French identity. Other newspapers are calling it Le Tour de Farce or an equally justified play on words. An Italian sport website conducted a poll, asking its viewers for solutions. Albeit, not a scientific sample, but their answers are worth considering: 1. legalize doping during Le Tour; 2. ban media from covering Le Tour; and 3. suspend Le Tour for several years to clear the air.
The Belfast Telegraph sums up Le Tour's state of affairs pretty well: "It is heading towards its conclusion in Paris on Sunday minus two entire teams, the pre-race favourite, and the rider who until his enforced withdrawal on Wednesday was wearing the leader's yellow jersey and was odds-on to emerge as the overall winner. " Why? It's not the same excuse politicians use for a sudden departure from office (I want to spend more time with my family). In case you haven't been following Le Tour as closely since Lance laid the yellow jersey to rest, this year's race began under a cloud. A year later, the verdict is still out on Floyd Landis, the 2006 winner, as to whether he will be stripped of his title for alleged doping charges. Le Tour de France 2007 is embroiled in the biggest scandal in it 104 year history, big enough to make some people believe it is dead.
There are some who say that drugs in one form or another have been part of Le Tour since Le Tour began, whether amphetamines, steroids, EPO or just the injection of fresh blood (your own or someone else's). Is it really possible to race clean? Well, duh? Sure it is, it just might take you longer....and maybe you wouldn't win seven years in a row....and what fans would ever want that to happen?
The big debate now begins. Towns on upcoming itineraries have financial investments in Le Tour, and stand to make big bucks. They don't want to see it cancelled. Sponsors make big bucks. The fans would be greatly disappointed. The media would need another big story to fill up space. And for sure, the elite cyclists would lose big bucks. Most importantly, the pharmaceutical companies would lose out. What a shame. And on and on it goes. It's all about money. I doubt that anything will ever change.