Today marks the first day of the Tour de France and once again the controversy it brings each year with allegations of drug usage. To add fuel to this earlier this week, Floyd Landis lost his appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport two years after crossing the finish line first in the Paris. He was later stripped of the 2006 title when a drug test came back positive for synthetic testosterone.
Even prior to starting this year the Astana team was excluded from the race due to the involvement in the 2007 Tour doping scandals. This team now includes the winner of the 2007 tour Alberto Contador when he was part of the now defunct Team Discovery. Being associated with Astana this year, he will not be able to defend his title in the tour. Additionally Levi Leipheimer will also not be racing in the tour as he went to Astana in the offseason. While neither of these two cyclists have tested positive, participating in these grand events is a team event.
Since Lance Armstrong left professional cycling a few years ago the interest of the Tour de France in the United States has been decreasing. This is due in fact to Lance’s story and success as well as the drug scandals which have been a part of professional cycling and in the news lately. One new team in the tour this year hopes to change this attitude in the sport.
Team Garmin-Chipotle is a US based team and is focused on removing doping from the sport. In 2007, they partnered with the Agency for Cycling Ethics (ACE) to create the most progressive anti-doping system in not only cycling but in the professional sports world. This includes have the anti-doping program being independently administered by ACE with voluntary tests 20 times greater than most cyclists are subject to annually and is in addition to any testing done during competitions. While the team may not be known on the world stage, included on the team are five national champions, two Tour de France yellow jersey wearers and one member which has worn the polka-dot jersey in the Tour de France. It will be interesting to see how this orange and blue argyle team will do in 2008, as it may once again produce interest in the sport here in the United States.