The ordinary French people who turn out to watch the Tour each year – and there are 12 million spectators each July – see the race as a metaphor for life, Mr. Madiot suggests, which makes them more tolerant of doping. “Life itself is never simple,” he says. “There are ups and downs and disappointments, and the Tour is like that too.”
The event still appears to have retained its international appeal; TV stations in 190 countries will be broadcasting next year’s Tour, Mr. Prudhomme said Wednesday.
“The Tour still has its shine,” says Cam Winstanley, editor of “ProCycling” magazine in Britain. “It is still the great prize. People may be blaming the riders, but they are not blaming the race.”
The malaise afflicting the Tour in the wake of the Armstrong scandal, Mr. Winstanley points out, is much wider than that one race, which is emblematic of cycling. The whole sport is affected.
“There is no doubt that this … is the biggest crisis cycling has ever faced,” UCI President Pat McQuaid said Monday, accepting the USADA report that Armstrong had been at the center of “a massive team doping scheme, more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history.”
Mr. McQuaid recalled past drug scandals, however, and pointed out that “this is not the first time that cycling has reached a crossroads or that it has had to begin anew.” He insisted that “cycling has a future.”
What role the UCI will play in that future, however, is still uncertain. The international body is responsible for both promoting the sport and for policing it – improving its image and catching its cheats.
“That’s a toxic combination under one roof,” argues Ryan Newill, a columnist for “Velo” magazine in the US. “The fox is guarding the henhouse.”
The USADA report, along with French drug testers, has even raised suspicions that UCI officials were in league with Armstrong, giving him advance warning of tests so that he could manipulate the results.