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Le Tour de France 2013 – Light at the end of the tunnel

Hands up if you can win clean: Chris Froome, flanked by Nairo Quintana and Peter Sagan stand on the podium in Paris

Whisper it quietly, but maybe, just maybe, the worst of the doping scandals that have blighted elite cycling for many a year, may just be starting to become a thing of the past, maybe. Hopefully.

With the spectre of the Lance Armstrong confessions hanging over the race, it was very pleasing to hear this week that the centenary edition of the world’s most famous bike race was clean. That is to say, not a single rider has tested positive for any banned substances. The International Cycling Federation (UCI) released some details of the tests that the riders were subjected to in the run up to and during the Tour.

The UCI’s chief anti-doping officer, Francesca Rossi, revealed that there had been: 113 urine tests for Erythropoietin (or EPO to everyone else – for more information, see Lance Armstrong’s whole career), 22 blood tests for EPO-like substances and 18 tests for human growth hormone.
In addition, 203 tests were also carried out on riders during training, and a further 419 samples being taken from riders during the three week race.

The doping tests are carried out at the end of each days stage, with the stage winner and each of the leaders of the different classifications producing a sample (with someone watching, might I add, which, after slogging your way up mountains for 5 hours must be pretty tough), as well as a number of random tests on riders from different teams. So far, so good.

As is standard practice now with bike racing, suspicions of doping were raised, with eventual winner Chris Froome being the inevitable target. Given his dominant performances into Ax 3 Domaines and on the mighty Mont Ventoux, it was inevitable that some sections of the media would immediately jump to the conclusion that his performances were pas normal – not normal. But Sky, as they always do, tackled the critics head on.

“I certainly know the results I am getting won’t be stripped 20-30 years down the line. Rest assured that is not going to happen” Froome said after his victory on stage 8.

And when he was able to ride away from the young Colombian Nairo Quintana on the Ventoux, the critics were once again champing at the bit.
“I just think it’s quite sad that we’re sitting here the day after the biggest victory of my life, a historic win, talking about doping” replied Froome.

Sky even went as far as handing Froome’s personal training data over to the French newspaper L’Equipe so that an independent expert – Fred Grappe (also working with French team FDJ in the race) – could pour over the numbers. The verdict? “Froome’s performances are coherent”. He is clean.

Like I said, whisper it quietly. The darkest days may be behind us.

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