By Gerard Knapp
The presentation of this year's route was not without its controversial moment, as the traditional eight-minute film that is shown during the presentation - reviewing the most recent Tour and other great moments in the race - ended with the American winner of the 2006 Tour, Floyd Landis, on the winner's podium, but then the image then changed to become a cracked mirror.
Landis, who failed a doping test taken during this year's Tour, was not invited to attend Thursday's presentation. He strenuously denies the doping charge and is mounting a spirited defense. While there has been no official change to the results - as this cannot be done until the legal process involved in suspending an athlete has runs its course - it appears that ASO no longer considers him to be the champion.
"The deception we felt was capital," said Tour de France race director, Christian Prudhomme. "Doping is the number one problem in sport." But Prudhomme said he felt deceived by the American. "We got hit over the back of the head by what happened," he said.
ASO seems unaffected by Landis' claim that he did not use testosterone - or any other illegal performance enhancing substances - to win the 2006 Tour. Landis' position should be resolved in still-to-be-announced hearings to be held by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
Landis has mounted a spirited defense and engaged leading lawyer, Howard Jacobs, at considerable expense to prepare his case, which has included a PR offensive (see report), such as publishing several documents claiming to show inconsistencies in the tests that allegedly detected synthetic testosterone in his urine samples from the now-infamous stage 17 of the 2006 Tour, where Landis put in what was said to be - at the time - one of the greatest solo rides in Tour history. (See the Cyclingnews report analysing the documents Landis has published as part of his PR offensive.)
"The events of the summer have left their mark," Prudhomme said. "Indeed, not all of them have been resolved," he said in reference to the ongoing issue. "But if the spirit present in Strasbourg at the end of June (where favourites such as Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso were withdrawn from the race due to allegations contained in the Spanish Operacion Puerto investigation) is indeed the expression of a staunch and shared commitment to fight against doping, then not only do we have nothing to fear in the future, but everything to hope for."
Prudhomme pointed to the support of the Tour shown by London Mayor, Ken Livingstone. "When you have the major of the financial capital of Europe saying he wants the Tour to be in London ... that is very seductive," he said. "In 2007 the Tour de France will be long awaited, closely watched, observed."
Indeed it will. Cyclingnews will continue its coverage with more reactions to follow.
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