Cycling no longer the black sheep, says Tour de France director

Thu Sep 29, 2016 11:36am EDT
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By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - With scandal after scandal rocking the world of sport, cycling is shedding its image as the black sheep because of its changing culture, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme believes.

Long associated with systematic doping, his sport has been spared such close scrutiny during recent affairs that have plagued football, athletics and the International Olympic Committee.

"We knew all the cheats and the liars on this earth did not gather up one day to decide they would be taking up cycling," Prudhomme told Reuters in an interview as he visited some of the stages of the 2017 Tour route, which will be officially unveiled on Oct. 18.

"Cycling has been cleaning up its act. It was not easy but it has been cleaning up its act," he said, adding that sport would never totally rid itself of doping.

"We want sport to be perfect, while society will never be. Society is not full of saints or full of crooks," said Prudhomme, who has been on the Tour job since 2006 -- the year the Operation Puerto blood doping scandal broke.

He also faced huge doping controversies in 2007, 2008, and 2010.

Since then, however, after cycling became the first sport to implement the biological passport -- an electronic record where a rider's doping test results are collated and monitored -- the Tour has been a much calmer affair.

And the Lance Armstrong scandal, in which the US rider's seven Tour victories were erased from records after he admitted doping, has changed the way the issue is dealt with.   Continued...

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme looks on at the finish line after the 159,5 km (99 miles) third stage of the 102nd Tour de France cycling race from Anvers to Huy, Belgium, July 6, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini