Conspiracy of silence?

Monday, December 11, 2006 12.00am

Professional cycling has hardly done itself any favours in the past few months with doping cases which have mostly stemmed from the Puerto investigation. As scandal after scandal has blown up, newspapers across the world have given over plenty of column inches to weigh in with their own (mostly negative) judgement of the sport.

While I would agree with much of this comment, events in the past few days have only underlined a feeling that professional cycling is judged by different criteria to most other sports. Last Thursday (December 7), the AFP news agency put out a release stating that French daily Le Monde had apparently seen papers allegedly linking at least four of Spain's top football teams with the infamous doctor at the centre of the Puerto case, Eufemiano Fuentes. The following day, that paper's respected investigative reporter Stephane Mandard claimed he had seen documents and training programmes for at least four leading Spanish football teams during a visit to Fuentes' home in the Canary Islands (http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3242,36-843811@51-831802,0.html)

It was exactly the kind of story upon which papers across the world have jumped - often apparently with some glee - in order to give cycling another good bashing. However, when I opened my daily paper on Friday morning in the UK, there was no mention of Mandard, Le Monde or the clubs allegedly involved. The only mention that I could find among Britain's quality papers of a story that alleged drug use and blood doping was a report of a release by one of the clubs concerned that they were considering legal action against Le Monde.

Maybe, though, the papers had somehow missed the story. It was in French after all, and no British clubs were involved, so why would they be interested. Well, follow the link to the story and see what you think...

The oddest part of this non-event is that I have spoken to two contacts who tried to sell stories based on Le Monde's allegations to three major papers in the UK, and none of them were interested. It seems bashing cycling is one thing, but turning your stick on the sport that pulls in a lot of your daily readers is something else entirely - there is simply too much money at stake, so best to stick your head in the sand. Strange that they don't do the same with cycling really.

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