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The Saddening Yet Familiar Tune of a Doping Scandal

Complacency is a dangerous formula - cycling learnt this many years ago. The sport was riddled so vastly with corrupt drug users that it lost all credibility. This embedded culture caused a damage to bike racing unprecedented in sport, and discredited the transparent achievements of many. It also created a judgemental, suspicious following. Yet, over recent years, valiant attempts to transform a sport permeated so deeply by cheats have been, to a great but not complete extent, successful. Fresh teams such as Garmin and Sky adopted a defiant philosophy unequivocally opposing doping. Harsh yet necessary suspensions have been handed to those as famous as Tour de France victor Alberto Contador. Even Lance Armstrong, almost impossible to charge due to his exalted and influential stature, has been taken to court. In addition, David Millar, a reformed cheat, wrote eloquently in his autobiography of the dangers of doping; exposing a hidden world so powerfully as to have a sudden impact, stimulating appetite for profound reform.

However, once again, cycling’s greatest race – the Tour de France – has been overshadowed by yet another doping scandal. Frank Schleck, third in 2011’s contest, is awaiting results of his B test results to be processed after failing his initial, A, sample. The broken record has not been fixed. The familiar, yet saddening, tune continues, persistently gnawing away at all the progress made in recent years.

Jens Voigt, experienced with procedures of this kind having ridden 15 Tours, told ITV sport: "I understand [if people are angry]. It’s the same for me. All I wish for is just to have one quiet and peaceful Tour de France, where we just concentrate on the sport ... And every year it seems like we have another happening of the unpleasant kind. So, yes, it’s pretty hard [to take]." Schleck has withdrawn from the race; allowing the Tour to, in the UCI’s (cycling’s governing body) words, "continue in serenity". If only the tranquillity we and the UCI so desire could actually occur. Though Schleck "formally rejects" the accusation of using the diuretic and "specified substance" (only allowed for certain uses) Xipamide and vows to defend his position fiercely, the lingering sense of frustration and anger is difficult to repel. Contador’s conviction was viewed as a positive step. This latest finding, especially if fully confirmed, is a kick up the backside for clean riders and anti-drug campaigners, and validates the claims of the accusers, whom Bradley Wiggins just days ago labelled "f****** w******". Though Wiggins was attacking specifically those who doubt the transparency of his achievements – he is leading by a convincing margin the current Tour de France – his team-mate Chris Froome struck a more complacent tone; one that could jeopardise the advancements made. "Critics," he tweeted, "need to wake up and realise that cycling has evolved. Dedication and sacrifice = results. End of story!" Cycling’s doping tale has definitely not finished nor, unfortunately, looks like reaching its final chapter anytime soon.

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