The 2011 Tour de France gets under way Saturday, and cycling’s premier event is sure to be filled with speed, suspense and, unfortunately, controversy. For every feel good story about a cyclist overcoming odds and excelling at the highest level, there’s a disappointing one revealing the dark secrets in the tainted sport. The revelation of doping cases in cycling has become routine.
Before speaking to the media post-race, each rider heads straight to the infamous white trailer for drug testing. It’s as customary now as signing your scorecard in professional golf. Yet these athletes continually try to trick cycling’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
The Tour de France is where these findings are most scrutinized and magnified.
The 98th edition of cycling’s greatest competition consists of 21 stages, totaling a distance of 3,430.5 kilometers.
Defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain is again the favorite, but his 2011 season has been stained by allegations of doping at last year’s Tour de France. And once a top athlete has been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, they are never looked upon in the same light.
Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, two-time consecutive runner-up, is considered the biggest rival to Contador and the largest threat to take away his title. This sport needs a star with an unblemished record, and so far the younger Schleck brother looks promising. With Lance Armstrong’s case looking increasingly suspicious, cycling is desperate for a boost from a champion who did it “the right way.” The integrity of the entire sport is relying on that hope.
This blog post written by VOA intern Nicholas Berault.