Irishman regrets Riis' absence from the Tour de France
“We need to draw a line and start a zero tolerance policy. I think that time has now come,” former Tour de France winner Stephen Roche said to Dutch sports news website Nusport. “Considering taking Marco Pantani’s Tour title away is getting sick, no it is sick. Where do we stop?”
Saxo-Tinkoff manager Bjarne Riis left the Tour de France on Wednesday, after Michael Rasmussen told the Danish paper Politiken that the 1996 Tour de France winner knew about doping on the then-CSC team in 2002. Riis is part of an ongoing investigation by the Danish anti-doping authorities. Roche’s son Nicolas is part of Saxo-Tinkoff this Tour de France and Roche Senior is disappointed by Riis' departure. “It’s a big loss to both Nicolas and Alberto (Contador). I think it’s stupid. Does this mean Hinault and Poulidor will have to leave the Tour, too?”
The 53-year-old Irishman spoke about the matter as being something of a witch hunt. “You can’t keep on living in the past. We have to move on. There comes a time when you have to say up till here and no further.”
The French Senate started an investigation into the use of substances in the 1998 Tour de France. The report was originally scheduled to be published on the day of the Alpe d’Huez stage but was postponed until the Monday after the Tour de France finishes. “What does this investigation bring cycling? I don’t understand why cycling keeps tolerating this,” Roche said.
Roche doesn’t take the stance other observers have taken that cycling’s past needs to be cleaned up before the sport can move forward. “Will we have to look at Merckx then? Hinault? Will that do the sport any good? Look at Laurent Jalabert. Everyone thinks now that 99% of the riders in his era were using doping. Why drag one man through the mud then?”
The 1987 Tour de France winner thinks a line needs to be drawn at January 1st, 2013 and install a zero tolerance policy from that date on with no chance of rehabilitation. “Severe penalties like this are needed to move the sport forward. No more excuses because when one rider gets caught an entire team and their staff lose their job. This is the moment to make clear to everyone involved that cycling needs to move forward."
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