Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador under tight scrutiny
By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) - Cycling in 2010 was struck by a series of crises that threatened to wipe out most of its efforts to fight doping, with the sport's two biggest names involved in scandals.
Seven-times Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong was embroiled in a U.S. federal investigation triggered by former team mate and disgraced 2006 champion Floyd Landis's allegations, while three-times winner Alberto Contador failed a test for the banned anabolic agent Clenbuterol.
The biological passport, a tool developed by the International Cycling Union (UCI) to help the fight against doping, showed its limitations when Italian Franco Pellizotti was eventually cleared to race even though his data suggested he had tampered with his blood.
Vuelta runner-up Ezequiel Mosquera failed a dope test, prompting UCI president Pat McQuaid to say that Spain was not doing enough to tackle the doping problem.
Elite cycling has been growing strongly in the United States, with RadioShack, Garmin, HTC-High Road and BMC Racing four of 18 elite outfits for the 2011 season, but the sport's officials fear the scandals could drive away sponsors.
"With cycling's degraded image because of doping and the financial crisis, it's getting more and more difficult. The future is very uncertain," Caisse d'Epargne team manager Francis Lafargue told Reuters during the Tour.
Europe will still be a major force in 2011 as the Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank, set up their own operation, signing former Saxo Bank team mate and four-times time-trial world champion Fabian Cancellara, who achieved a rare Tour of Flanders-Paris Roubaix double. Continued...