The 100th edition of Tour de France crowned its new champion Britain’s Chris Froome, recently. But the past continues to haunt the tournament. Do we as fans and viewers still believe in the prestigious race? Have we not been let down many times in the past? And why, should we now believe in the new champions or for that matter even in the race itself?
Tour de France is not only about winners anymore. It is neither only about cycling or the difficult terrains. Now, it is also about doping. The ugly past of the game brought to disgrace by Lance Armstrong has haunted even the current champion. These days, with a victory comes a not-so-pleasant question - how authentic is the victory?
Chris Froome had to answer the often repeated question about doping. "I can understand why people are asking about doping, given the history of the sport - they have been let down so many times before. But I`m also one of those people who has been let down. I`ve also believed in people who have turned out to be cheats and liars. But I can assure you, I`m not," he said in an interview.
Ever since I learnt that there was a part in the world where cycle races are held in difficult terrains, over various stages, I was quite amazed. Those were the times of Lance Armstrong.
Lance Armstrong was my childhood hero. I was fascinated with his life, his wins and his courage in beating cancer and coming back and winning titles. But, last year, this legend fell to - disgrace. His was ripped off his seven Tour de France titles and accused of doping, charges which he did not even defend.
Over the period of last few years, Tour de France had become synonymous with Lance Armstrong. In an interview this year, Armstrong was quoted saying, “Cycling is impossible without doping.” Now, this comes from a man who has been an integral part of many tours.
Even the data supports this. Of the 33 Tour wins since 1980, 17 have been tainted by doping. The list includes seven-time winner Lance Armstrong, Fluyd Landis, Alberto Contador, Marco Pantani, Laurent Fignen and many others.
Looking at the figures, how can the fans and followers of the game, believe in the champions. When one of the trusted players admits to doping, he not only cheats himself and robs himself of fans; he also creates distrust in the game.
The month long race comprises 21 stages and this year it covered a total distance of 3,404 kilometers. The stages are all divided into various terrains, with the difficulty level rising in all. With such a tough competition, the fitness level of the athletes is a big question and not being attracted to doping is another.
Interestingly, Froome had been tested 19 times in this Tour de France alone. Nothing could prove he doped. But even then why can’t we fans accept that. The shadow of the ugly past continues to bother.
It will take many more Chris Froomes to clear the image of Tour de France and resurrect its lost glory.