The Swiss media have poured scorn on this year's Tour de France after a series of doping scandals hit cycling's premier event.This content was published on July 27, 2007 - 09:32
On Wednesday Tour leader Michael Rasmussen became the latest rider to be withdrawn from the race, which has also seen two teams retire after individual cyclists failed doping tests.
The Dane was pulled out of the race by his Rabobank team for lying about his whereabouts during pre-race training. He missed four out-of-competition drugs tests and had been riding under a cloud of suspicion.
Spain's Alberto Contador has now inherited the leader's yellow jersey.
All these events have proved too much for one of Switzerland's biggest newspapers, the Zurich-based Tages-Anzeiger, which on Thursday announced that it was stopping its full coverage of the race, calling it a "Tour de Farce".
On Friday the paper, which is now only reporting results and doping stories, said that the "chaotic" tour was now at its lowest point after former leader Rasmussen's departure – with sponsors, the media and audiences abandoning it in droves.
It noted that tighter checks and increased awareness had not been enough to dissuade some riders from taking banned substances since the first problems came to light.
"How can cycling really manage to eradicate a decades-old epidemic in just two years? Miracles need a little more time," said its editorial.
Too many lies
For its part, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, also Zurich-based, said that Rasmussen had been a victim of his own lies. But it said lying should not be seen as shocking in the sport.
"Lying is indeed a part of everyday life in cycling," said the NZZ. "For years it has been the basis for being able to deny doping offences."
But it said that the sudden condemnation of this practice was not just down to a change of heart, Tour organisers were also worried about the race's reputation.
It was time, said the NZZ, for the 2007 Tour to end. "In 2008 there will be another Tour," it wrote. "With new rules – but full of lies?"
Meanwhile, the Geneva-based Le Temps sounded a more positive note, saying that the Tour now had something to smile about since the Danish cyclist had been excluded. But it wondered how long this would last.
Its fellow Geneva paper, the Tribune de Genève, said that the whole race was turning out to be more eventful than an episode of the hit United States series Desperate Housewives. "Each day has been even more incredible," it wrote.
The Tour was at a crossroads, it said in its editorial, adding that some said the race was dead, but others were still shouting "Vive le Tour". More controls for cyclists were needed, the paper said, but managerial incompetence should also be targeted.
Swiss rider's view
The mass-market Blick also took up the "Tour de Farce" theme. It ran an interview with Swiss cyclist Fabian Cancellara, who held the yellow jersey for the first few days of the race.
Cancellara said that, for him, the race "had been broken for a long time". He believes that the winner should not get the yellow jersey because the whole race has been tainted by the fact Rasmussen held the jersey for so long. "He should never have started," said Cancellara.
Teams would have to concentrate on internal controls, he said, and strong penalties would have to be enforced.
Meanwhile he admitted that those riders left in the race were sometimes finding it hard to concentrate with all the turbulence going on.
"Finally getting to Paris [for the end of the race], that's the biggest motivation of all," said Cancellara.
swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson
Running from Saturday, July 7 to Sunday, July 29 2007, the 94th Tour de France is made up of a prologue and 20 stages and covers a total distance of 3,550 kilometres.
These 20 stages have the following profiles: 11 flat stages, 6 mountain stages, 1 medium mountain stage, 2 individual time-trial stages.
Doping scandals at the Tour
Michael Rasmussen: The overall leader was removed from the race by his Rabobank team after winning Wednesday's stage, The expulsion, which was ordered by the Dutch team's sponsor, was linked to "incorrect" information that Rasmussen gave to the team's sports director over his whereabouts last month. He missed random drugs tests on May 8 and June 28.
The Coffidis squad also confirmed its rider Christian Moreni of Italy had failed a doping test, prompting the withdrawal of the entire Cofidis team.
Alexandre Vinokourov: Forced out of this year's Tour, along with all members of the Astana team on Tuesday, after he tested positive for a banned blood transfusion. The Kazakh rider, a one-time favourite to win cycling's premier event, was tested after his victory in the 13th stage time trial on Saturday. He also won Monday's mountain stage.
Floyd Landis: The American, who rode for Switzerland's Phonak team, is still trying to prove he did not take testosterone on his way to victory at last year's Tour. Landis says the French lab which tested his samples made key errors. His 2006 victory is not recognised by organisers.
Jan Ullrich: Forced out on the eve of last year's race after being linked to "Operation Puerto" – a massive Spanish investigation into a blood-doping scandal. The 1997 Tour winner, who is a Swiss resident, has retired and denies any wrongdoing. He is still under investigation.
Ivan Basso: The Italian rider was also kicked out of last year's Tour. He received a two-year doping penalty from his cycling federation in June and accepted the punishment. The 2005 Tour runner-up has confessed to "attempted doping" but says he never actually went through with it.