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Last Updated: Friday, 30 June 2006, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Cycling's 'biggest doping scandal'

By Chris Boardman
Former Tour de France leader

I'm at the Tour de France at the moment and it's absolute chaos. It's difficult to know what's going on, there are so many rumours flying around.

As it stands, cycling's latest doping saga, which has already seen former winner Jan Ullrich and last year's runner-up Ivan Basso removed from the race, is a big storm and there are going to be a hell of a lot of casualties.

Jan Ullrich
Ullrich has been forced to wave goodbye to this year's Tour
Already people are likening it to the Festina affair that rocked the 1998 Tour, but that was only big in that it opened a can of worms as cycling's first real drugs hit.

The scale of this scandal massively dwarfs the Festina affair and it looks like being the biggest cycling scandal ever.

I remember the 1998 Tour very clearly. I'd been leading at the start in Ireland but crashed out and never made it to France for when the lid was lifted.

What's very sad was that I was happy not to be a part of what was the pinnacle of my sport and one of the biggest annual sporting events.

This time around I feel the same way. It feels so sordid at the moment and we can only stand back and wait to see what happens. But I'm really hoping for closure at this year's race so cycling can move on.

It's very, very disappointing to see this happening in such a beautiful, elegant sport that is just constantly in trouble.

Can cycling recover from this? Scandals like this are sport-busting events and this is something that could take down an awful lot of people in one hit, if everything proves true.

Hopefully the sport itself will recover.

February: Operation Puerta launched in Spain to uncover cycling doping
May: Then Liberty-Seguros boss Manolo Saiz among five people arrested
13 June: Comunidad Valenciana team axed from Tour de France after being linked to the scandal
26 June: Astana-Wurth (formerly Liberty-Seguros) refused Tour entry by race officials
29 June: CAS allows Astana-Wurth to compete in race; Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso deny any wrongdoing after being named in the scandal
30 June: Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla and Rudy Pevenage suspended by T-Mobile team; Basso also excluded from race
Being at the Tour at the moment, there's a certain amount of McCarthyism going on.

It's verging on a witch hunt and that's pretty scary.

In fact, just by virtue of being a cyclist in the past, people have even questioned what I was doing and that's hugely disappointing.

Sadly, the war against drugs may never be won - there just seem to be endless skirmishes.

I just hope this is finally the big thing that cleans cycling up once and for all and gives people confidence back in the sport.

The problem is the sophistication of doping - cheats are always finding ways around the system but this latest doping expose shows cycling might finally be winning the battle against doping.

It's a real shame that this has had to overshadow what looks set to be one of the most open races in living memory but this could bode well for the future.

Amid this, I don't want to sound like I've got sour grapes or point the finger saying "they do it too" to other sports but cycling's not the only sport with a doping problem.

If one endurance sport has issues, then it would be naive to think it's the only one. It's only a matter of time before other sports are met by the same issues.

Cycling is the most drug-tested sport in the world - there's the normal urine and blood tests in competition as well as endless random spot checks.

Today, sadly, the battle has not been won but hopefully the cheats are eradicated and we can focus on the race.

As it stands, I wouldn't even speculate on this year's Tour winner as no-one knows who'll be allowed to compete come Saturday.

There's more fall-out to come but I think cycling will end up better for this.

Suspended Ullrich out of Le Tour
30 Jun 06 |  Cycling
Astana-Wurth given Tour go-ahead
29 Jun 06 |  Cycling

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