PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Tour de France boss Jean-Marie Leblanc has welcomed the change in attitude that has taken place within teams since the introduction of the ProTour at the start of the season and the imposition of an ethical charter. In this equivalent week last year, Leblanc and his staff took the decision to prevent four riders implicated in doping cases from starting the Tour, including current ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca. This year, Leblanc feels that teams are acting more responsibly in this respect.
"Last year we went as far as we could in objecting to riders," Leblanc told L'Equipe. "This year the teams have taken over the initiative for this themselves. We are still doing all we can in our role as organisers to support in any way that we can the logistical plans of those who are fighting against doping, that is to say the federations and government."
Leblanc also admitted that, with hindsight, he may have made a mistake in barring Di Luca from the race, given the lack of a subsequent case against the Italian rider.
However, he also sounded a note of caution about what he perceives as a lack of out-of-competition dope controls this season. "It seems to me that there hasn't been much talk of random controls. But, if I understand fully what we have been told, these random controls are, especially in the period before major races, at least as important as controls conducted during competition," said Leblanc.
He continued: "Up to now I have no knowledge, nor have I read or heard anything about these random controls taking place. There are riders who undertake their preparation in far-off places such as Mexico or South Africa, and I don't know where else. But random controls should also take place there."
Despite Leblanc's concerns, the International Cycling Union's medical representative, Mario Zorzoli, believes the pro peloton is healthier than it was a year ago. "Based on the controls that we have done, the number of athletes using EPO in competition is going down. If there are some who are using it in December when they go training, then we can't possibly know this," said Zorzoli.
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM