In a week that marked the one year anniversary of the start of the Operación Puerto affair, some of the biggest names in cycling are now 'coming clean' about their doping history, and the months leading up to the Tour de France have once again been embroiled in doping drama. Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo and Jean-François Quénet report on how the leaders of the sport's biggest race view the current situation.
The past twelve months have been difficult for the sport of cycling, to make a vast understatement. From the initial shock of the 58 riders named in Operación Puerto and the exclusion of riders from the 2006 Tour, to Floyd Landis' doping positive and subsequent public war with the antidoping establishment, 2006 was a bleak year. However, recent events seem to indicate that a corner has been turned in the fight against doping, and several riders - Erik Zabel, and his former team-mates Rolf Aldag, Bert Dietz and Christian Henn - have admitted to using drugs.
Tour de France bosses Patrice Clerc (ASO president) and Christian Prudhomme paid a visit to the Giro d'Italia on the day the race crossed over into France, using some of the roads made famous in both Grand Tours. The Tour director seemed optimistic about the recent events. "It's the end of an hypocritical system put in place back at the end of the 90's when a miserable cycling was run by Hein Verbruggen, the UCI president at the time," Prudhomme stated.
Prudhomme had harsh words for those from the 'old guard' who are still involved in the sport. "Not only the riders have to pay for the doping culture that we have to get rid of. Those at the command of the teams, whether they have cheated or not, they have to pay as well. Either they have cheated and they must be kicked out, or they have not cheated, but if there have been many problems inside their team, it means they don't have the skills for the job and cycling can't keep them. We must restore credibility and dignity in this magnificent sport."
Read the full feature here.