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Tour's vicious cycle of doping

The Baltimore Sun

There's a big bicycle race going on in Europe. Tour de Farce, some skeptics call it. But it's not getting a lot of press these days.

Now before cycling fans break out their hex wrenches and march on my desk, let me say that I truly respect folks who pursue this sport for recreation and as amateur racers. I appreciate the conditioning and stamina it requires. However.

Since Lance Armstrong left the sport and Floyd Landis' 2006 inspirational Tour victory turned to ashes as a result of doping charges, the Tour de France has become badly marginalized, especially in America. Last year, a race leader had to surrender the yellow jersey when his team forced him out over doping-related concerns.

This year when the first announcements were made of riders expelled over doping, there was barely a yawn. Eyebrows were only slightly raised when a more prominent competitor was dinged - Italy's Riccardo Ricco.

Doping expulsions have become so common at the Tour de France that many casual fans have come to see such occurrences as the norm rather than the exception. As a result, few seem to care about this event, at least in the United States.

At one time, the argument could have been made that Americans just can't get into anything that doesn't involve a ball and a scoreboard. Call it a lack of sports sophistication. But in this case, cycling - at least as it's represented by its marquee event- is responsible for its own demise.

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