Tour de France 2015

Drugs again blacken the name of sport

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 July, 2007, 12:00am

Another Tour de France is over and drugs have again tainted the world's most prestigious cycling event. So bad have been the scandals this year that there have been suggestions that after 94 years, the tour be scrapped.

It is unlikely that this will happen, but there is no doubt that perceptions of the event in particular, and cycling in general, have suffered. To those outside the sport, suspicions that some competitive cyclists are cheats have been confirmed by leading riders being found to have used illegal means to gain an advantage.

All this after the controversy of last year. The winner, American Floyd Landis, is still fighting to retain his title after failing a drug test. That, and similar such embarrassments in previous years, had given race organisers reason to ensure that every effort was made to keep cheats out this time.

They failed and the reputation of cycling has suffered as never before. Restoring confidence will be an uphill battle.

This is not to say that the problem applies to all cyclists. Only a small fraction of Tour de France riders were found to have broken the rules. There are, however, suspicions others escaped detection.

Cycling is not the only sport to battle such a stigma. Any competitive endeavour that involves attaining fame or fortune - where participants devote their every waking hour to winning a gold medal or lifting a trophy - is prone to legal limits being pushed. Track and field events, swimming, weightlifting, boxing - any sport that involves strength, speed or stamina is open to such abuse.

The sport's officials are at odds over how best to improve the system. The fact that some cheats are being detected shows it is working at least to that extent. But efforts are clearly needed to tighten up enforcement.

Doping tests go a way towards ensuring fair competition, however the answer to keeping sports drug-free lies in making it clear that cheating is not tolerated. Those who break the rules must be dealt with harshly. Ultimately, though, it is getting the message across at the lowest levels - with young and up-and-coming athletes - that the best chance for a doping-free sporting environment will be created.