It’s no secret that the Tour de France has
been littered with doping scandals for decades, although recent years have seen
some progress in efforts to clean up the sport.
We take you on an admittedly unsavoury trip
down memory lane as we recall some of the doping scandals that rocked the
cycling world and forever altered our perception of the Tour de France.
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He’s probably the first name that came into
your head, so we might as well get to it. Armstrong’s comeback after testicular
cancer and ascent to the top of cycling captivated fans across the world.
However, his fall from grace and subsequent doping admission was almost too
tough to take for many who he had inspired. A seven-time Tour de France
champion prior to being stripped of his titles, he will now forever be
remembered for what could have been.
Landis won the 2006 tour, the first man to
do so following Armstrong’s initial retirement, only to be later stripped of
his title for doping. He was not about to go down without a fight, however, and
when he did finally confess, he implicated Armstrong too. His motives may or
may not have been sinister, but Landis played an important role in outing the
truth about Armstrong eventually.
Long before the Contador era, Jan Ullrich
was Armstrong’s main rival. The two were constantly going head to head and
confessed to their doping sins at roughly the same time. Ullrich still holds
the 1997 Tour de France title despite his mistakes in the sport.
Another man who was central in the takedown of Lance Armstrong was ex team-mate Tyler Hamilton. Having confessed to doping himself, Hamilton — once one of the world’s top cyclists — outed Armstrong and wrote a book in doping in cycling called The Secret Race alongside Daniel Coyle.
What about Alberto Contador?
Alberto Contador is another famous name that crops up on the doping bans list. But despite his ban and being stripped of a number of Grand Tour titles, it was never officially proven that Contador doped.
He never denied the positive test, but Contador has always denied that he knowingly doped. He maintains the banned substance entered his system after he had eaten a contaminated steak of the second rest day of the Tour.
But because of the strictest application of the law in anti-doping – the athlete is ultimately held responsible for what is in his or her system whether or not doping is proven – he couldn’t clear his name.
His close links to two of cycling’s most notorious doping directeurs sportifs: Manolo Saiz and Johan Bruyneel, also haunted him.
Contador returned to race the 2017 Tour de France, finishing in the top ten of the general classification. He raced his final professional race that same year, and fired one final salvo at the asterisk that will forever blight his record.
“It is a tremendous injustice,” Contador said after his final professional race, as reported by AS. “What stays with me most are the feelings of the people who saw those races [the 2010 Tour and 2011 Giro], what they enjoyed of them, the way I worked to achieve them, and the way I achieved them.
“I don’t give importance to what might appear on paper; it is about my own feeling. It’s something I’m going to have for my whole life.
“But it will not change anything and the people that have shown interest know that it is one of the biggest injustices that has happened in sport.”