Fränk Schleck's possible doping case, following the finding of Xipamide in his urine sample dated from July 14, was the main subject of conversation and concern at the start of the Tour's 16th stage from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon on Wednesday. While the riders prepared for the difficult mountain stage through the Pyrenees that lay ahead, many also commented on the Tour's newest doping scandal and its implications for pro cycling.
The dominant feeling, of course, was shock and surprise, even though the peloton has grown accustomed to this kind of news in recent years. AG2R manager Vincent Lavenu feared the mediatic backlash of such a prominent name as Schleck on the Tour de France and the whle of the peloton.
"Schleck is one of the top riders, so this is not good news for cycling," the Frenchman said. "We will see what the sanction will be, because it could be anything from a mere warning to a two-year suspension. It is up to the Luxembourg federation and their commission to judge the case and this will have to be respected."
But Lavenu was also angry to some extent. "It affects us, too, because in the media reports it's about the riders of the Tour de France, so it's also about us by amalgamation. It's discouraging because the majority of the riders makes more anti-doping efforts than all of the other sportsmen worldwide counted together, and they are still being accused. So by extension, we are also being punished."
Schleck's former team manager Bjarne Riis also commented on the news, voicing his surprise but remaining cautious with any deductions. "It's another hit for cycling, no doubt about that," he said. "I know Fränk well and this news has really surprised me. I don't know too much about the details and there isn't a lot that I can say except that it has shocked me and saddened me. Soon we will know more about the details but until then I don't want to comment too much.
"It always takes the gloss off an event when something like this happens. But then there is no good timing with these things - never."
Garmin-Sharp team boss and anti-doping advocate Jonathan Vaughters extended his reaction on what he thought was part of the "root of the issues" in cycling. The American pointed at the current management system of pro cycling as it has been conceived by the International Cycling Union (UCI), saying that the unstable conditions it created could be one of reasons why riders resort to doping;
"Cycling, from a fundamental standpoint, needs to be built on a more secure foundation," the American stated. "It cannot be a year-to-year lisensing process where the teams licenses depend on points. It has to be an environment where riders have longer term contracts, where teams have longer term contracts with top events, which would reduce a lot of the issues. You should make it a league and with that concept you would get a fundamental foundation for consistent employment and you would eliminate a lot of those risks."
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