Tour chief "betrayed"
Friday, June 30, 2006 11.00pm
Amaury Sport Organisation president Patrice Clerc has told procycling that the Tour's "Black Friday"
PIC BY TIM DE WAELE Tour president Patrice Clerc has said that the exclusion of 13 riders from the Grande Boucle on Friday was not "a black chapter in cycling's history" but a "sure sign of the way we want cycling to go in the 21st century". Speaking to procycling in Strasbourg on Saturday morning, Clerc admitted that he felt "betrayed" by the riders involved in the "Operacion Puerto" doping enquiry. "At the presentation of the Tour last autumn I made a speech which might have seemed quite alarmist," Clerc commented. "The team managers said that what I'd said was scandalous, untrue, sensationalist. Now, just a few months later, we know that I was very much within the realms of the truth. I have nothing personally against the accused riders, in fact I pity them: they may end up being remembered not as heroes but as cheats. I pity them because they are the victims of a long-standing system which we are trying to break down. But then we also feel betrayed. We sense that there's a group of riders who still haven't got the message." Clerc said that he was encouraged by the 20 ProTour team's respect of the ProTour ethical code, which led to the ejection of Basso, Ullrich et al on Friday. But the Tour chief also hinted that yesterday's decision may not have been the noble, consensual gesture that some have described. "We mustn't be nave and think yesterday was an epiphany," Clerc said. "We have been campaigning hard against doping for the last five years because it's our philosophy, whereas others are acting almost because they've had a pistol put to their heads. In other words they are acting now because they've been forced in that direction. "What you can be sure of is that we won't change," he continued. "Our determination won't waiver. We need to tread the path of clarity, transpareny and intolerance of doping. The war on doping is now at the top of our list of priorities. That war will be long - a trench war in which yesterday we moved to the next trench..."
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