Tour de France wants independent drug-tests

Tour de France organizers are in favour of an independent body to deal with anti-doping issues in professional cycling across the board, race director Christian Prudhomme said on Thursday.

Tour de France wants independent drug-tests
Christian Prudhomme talks to Lance Armstrong during the sixth stage of the 92nd Tour de France in 2005. Photo: AFP/JOEL SAGET

Prudhomme said that for this year's edition of Paris-Nice, which starts on March 3, they were keen to secure the services of the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) as well as for other races in France.

"We would like the AFLD to be there and more generally but obviously it won't just be for this year. We need to have a truly independent anti-doping body which has nothing to do with federations and which oversees all disciplines," he added.

"It's difficult to be both judge and jury," said Prudhomme, without mentioning the sport's world governing body the International Cycling Union (UCI), which has been at loggerheads with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and its US counterpart.

The issue of how to tighten doping controls in the sport has come to a head after US rider Lance Armstrong's admission last month that he took a cocktail of banned drugs to win the Tour de France a record seven times between 1999 and 2005.

The disgraced Texan was banned from the sport for life and stripped of his career wins back to August 1988, severely denting cycling's reputation and casting a cloud over modern-day riders, despite efforts to drastically clean up the sport.

Prudhomme said it was "possible" that WADA could step in to oversee doping control in cycling, which would alter the current arrangement by which the UCI sets policy as well as organizes drug testing.

The AFLD, whose remit extends to all sports in France, has been brought in by the UCI in recent years for international events held in the country, although the world federation has retained control of operations.

Separately, Prudhomme rejected a proposal from the French cycling federation (FFC) to allow national teams to compete in the sport's most prestigious race, which this year holds its 100th edition.

"I'll say it again, we're fond of our sponsored teams," said Prudhomme. "There are now some sponsored teams that resemble national ones. For me, a return to national teams is a bit of an old chestnut. It was great but I'm not convinced that it's a solution for the future."

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Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

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Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.