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Le Tour turns 100, doping casts shadow

other Updated: Jun 26, 2013 00:36 IST

The downfall of Lance Armstrong last year left deep scars on the Tour de France and a seven-year void on its honours board, just as organisers were gearing up to celebrate the historic 100th edition of cycling's greatest race.

Eight months on and the wounds have not yet healed, with fresh revelations emerging this week that French star Laurent Jalabert allegedly used erythropoetin (EPO) on the 1998 Tour.

Jalabert has not admitted using the banned blood booster, responding to the allegations in L’Equipe newspaper on Monday: “I can’t say if it’s false, I can’t say if it's true.”

But last weekend the 1997 race winner and three-time runner-up Jan Ullrich accepted for the first time that he doped.
Amid a steady flow of confessions from former riders, Armstrong remains the symbol of cycling's darkest days, when winning was not just a question of athletic ability but EPO injections, blood transfusions and testosterone pills.

The US rider was subsequently stripped of his record Tour wins, as well as his career rankings back to August 1998. Instead, his best finish in “La Grande Boucle” is 36th, in 1995.

In contrast, Ullrich, sanctioned for doping violations in 2012, has kept his 1997 win and other podium finishes, with the exception of his third place in 2005.

The belated confessions from the peloton have done little to convince critics that cycling is not discredited, overshadowing efforts within the sport to move on from years of scandal and suspicion.