Archives for May 2011

Cycling 'must dare to change'

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Tim Franks | 10:08 UK time, Wednesday, 18 May 2011

You can read part one of this report here and listen to the full report aired on The Today Programme here.

Cycling's most famous historical quotation deals not in honour, or prowess. It is a scream of rage, and an accusation of recklessness.

"Vous êtes des assassins!" shouted Octave Lapize, in 1910, as he wheeled his bike over the Col d'Aubisque. The target of his ire were the organisers of the premium race, the Tour de France. They - as now - had concocted a brutal, elongated, mountainous itinerary that became a three-week festival of pain and endurance.

Given the freakish demands expected of its competitors, and given its status as one of the oldest professional sports, allegations of an engrained culture of drug-taking have surrounded the sport ever since. But in recent times, those allegations have reached a new pitch.

Almost a century after Lapize's howl of disgust, another, equally unflattering phrase rang around the ears. It came from Dick Pound, the then head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, in 2006. Cycling, he said, "is in the toilet."

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On the Trail of the Dopers: Cycling and Drugs

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Tim Franks | 13:14 UK time, Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Part one of a two part blog. The second part will be posted on Thursday. You can listen to the full report aired on The Today Programme here.

Joe Papp is a 35 year old man who hopes his life has not been destroyed.

Papp lives in a quiet, well-heeled suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In July, he may be sentenced to 10 years in prison. His story, of the professional cyclist who became a doper and then a dealer, is extreme. But its power lies in what he and many others say is its reflection of a deeply entrenched culture of drug-taking in road-racing.

Cycling is one of the world's major sports and, perhaps more than any other, it has always had its doping scandals. But now it has reached a critical point. Last year's winner of the biggest race - the Tour de France - is the Spaniard Alberto Contador. He is planning to race again this year but that depends on the result of an arbitration hearing into his positive test in the 2010 edition.

In the States, the most famous cyclist of them all - and one of the biggest sporting celebrities in the world - Lance Armstrong, is being investigated by the federal authorities over allegations of doping. Cycling's governing body says it is now leading the fight against drugs. Others on the inside say the sport is in a state of denial and risking collapse. So who is right?

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