LA MORT du Tour," read yesterday's front page of the French newspaper Libération above the ghostly silhouette of a racing cyclist. France Soir, meanwhile, gave its front page over to a death notice, confirming the Tour's passing on 25 July, 2007, in Orthez, age 104 years, after a long illness.
The death of the Tour de France: it is the most unambiguous and damning of verdicts on an event which has this week been subjected to a series of doping scandals, culminating on Wednesday night with the ejection of race leader Michael Rasmussen.
Following positive drugs tests earlier this week for the pre-race favourite Alexandre Vinokourov and the Italian Cristian Moreni, the Rasmussen scandal has delivered a potentially mortal blow to an event which has been a feature of French life every July since 1903.
This year's race began under a cloud, with the nominal 2006 winner, Floyd Landis of America, testing positive for testosterone during the race. A year on, and Landis's hearing by the US Anti-Doping Agency is yet to be decided. It meant this year's race started without a reigning champion - and facing a serious battle to regain its credibility as a legitimate sporting contest. As several newspapers and commentators were noting yesterday, it is a battle the Tour appears to be on the brink of losing. Source...