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Tainted Tour de France finishes under cloud

Rampant doping cast a pall over the Tour de France's 104th year.

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It's been two years since Lance Armstrong retired from professional cycling. But instead of watching new stars rise, the sport's fans have had little to cheer lately.

Riders in the Tour de France crossed the finish line on the Champs d'Elysées in Paris Sunday under one of the darkest clouds in the event's 104-year history. Spain's Alberto Contador won. But during the three-week race, three riders tested positive for banned substances, and Denmark's Michael Rasmussen, the race leader, was kicked off his team Wednesday amid doping suspicions. Two teams pulled out of the Tour last week after their riders were implicated in doping violations.

Some cycling observers say the sport is finally cleaning up its act, and this year will mark a turning point. Others say the clouds won't dissipate soon.

Some TV networks have stopped broadcasting the sport. Across Europe, corporate sponsors are pulling their support or at least reconsidering their backing of cycling teams. Germany's Interior Ministry might cancel the World Cycling Championships scheduled for September in Stuttgart. Even cycling's place in the Olympics is set for debate.

But amid the scandals is what some call a last-ditch effort to save the sport: European countries are passing antidoping laws. Funding for drug testing is set to increase. Cycling teams are pledging to make testing integral to their programs.

Pat McQuaid, the embattled president of the International Cycling Union, the sport's governing body, says cycling has reached "a turning point" and that a major revolution is already under way.

Mr. McQuaid says the 400 drug tests that took place at this year's Tour, the most ever, worked – and three positive tests is proof of that. "Out of 190 guys, that's not a lot," he says. "There are 187 guys in there that were riding clean, and haven't [tested positive]."

A year of scandals to overcome

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