The Tour de France is once again facing massive problems as one of the stars of the race failed a drug test yesterday. Alexandre Vinokourov, who was pre-race favourite and the winner of two stages in this year’s Tour, failed the test after his victory in Saturday’s time trial.
A statement by his Astana team said that two separate types of red blood cell were found in Vinokourov’s system, indicating an illegal blood transfusion shortly before the start of the stage. As part of the fallout from the announcement, the race organisers asked the entire Astana team to leave the race, which they have agreed to do. Part of the Astana statement reads:
“According to the ethical code of the Astana Cycling Team Alexandre Vinokourov has been suspended from the team with immediate effect. The rider has asked nevertheless for a B-sample analysis … Informed by the Astana management, the organisers of the Tour de France invited the team to withdraw, which was immediately accepted.”
Vinokourov crashed heavily on stage 5 of the Tour and suffered deep cuts to both of his knees. He gradually lost time over the next few days but fought his way back into contention with the stunning time trial win. Then, during the first stage in the Pyrenees he collapsed again, losing almost half an hour on the yellow jersey. Finally, he took his second stage victory with a long breakaway through the mountains to a victory in Louron.
“It’s clear the current system doesn’t work and we need to change it. The system is a total failure. It doesn’t defend the greatest cycling race in the world, the fans, and the villages along the route. It cannot carry on as it is. It’s a failure. The future can only be through the Tour de France. What event can attract over two million people in London? The system is not working. We need a system than defends a great race like the Tour de France.”
It is so frustrating – the Tour de France is one of the most amazing sporting events in the world, the skill, speed and strength is amazing. The beauty of watching the peleton at speed is awesome. And yet every year there are allegations and major cyclists failing drug tests, it never seems to be able to shake off these issues. I hope for its sake it does, because it is such a great sport, and it is so sad that a minority of riders, wreck the careers of others by their use of drugs.