Tour de France could end up being a throwback to its dark days due to coronavirus crisis

Tour de France could end up being a throwback to its dark days due to coronavirus crisis

From David Moyes and his fruit and veg deliveries to Jos Buttler and his shirt auction, society’s stop sign has allowed countless numbers of sportsmen to show their decency as human beings. But the human condition also contains a dark side and this red light also has to be regarded as a signal of danger. With attention elsewhere, sport’s lowlifes have been handed a window of opportunity and some, you can be sure, will take it.

The cheats have already had one win. The postponement to the Olympics will free those whose doping bans which expire after the original Tokyo date to compete at the rescheduled Games next year.

They will secure another one if the dirty Tour is allowed to return.

When the French government axe fell on big sports events this week, the Tour de France was spared. But the unintended consequence of the coronavirus lockdown is that the 2020 Tour could end up being a throwback to its dark days when the peloton was a mobile chemical factory.

Chris Froome has not been drug-tested since the restrictions were brought in. If Froome hasn’t been tested then it is a fair assumption none of the other top cyclists have been either.

It is simply not practical to conduct dope tests when all non-essential travel is banned and people are supposed to remain two metres apart.

There is no reason to think that Froome would be one of the prospective villains. He had one brush with the testers at the Vuelta a Espana in 2017 but was cleared of any wrongdoing.

SPORTS QUIZ: Try your hand at the Express Sport pub quiz

We pin our faith in him that he will make the attempt to complete one of the great comeback stories after his horror smash last year fuelled only by the desire to win a fifth yellow jersey by fair means.

But the clouds of scepticism will gather again over the event as a whole given the gap this crisis has created in the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation testing programme.

Thibaut Pinot, a stage winner on last year’s Tour, has revealed he has not been tested since October.

If any of the riders yield to temptation EPO will be back in the game.

It was the cyclists’ drug of choice during the years when it wasn’t all about the bike. Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven yellow jerseys after admitting using it as was his successor Floyd Landis.

EPO stays in the body for a relatively small time after being administered – two or three days – so it will be long gone by the time the testers are up and running again but the benefits can be felt for up to four months. Perfect for the Tour’s rescheduled date at the end of August.


What Premier League players think about season returning amid coronavirus chaos

Premier League chiefs to discuss copying Ligue 1 and ending season with all 20 clubs

Premier League clubs sent new fixture schedule with June 8 identified as restart date

The biological passports each rider carries will be examined for inconsistencies but studies have shown it is possible to get around this with small-scale but regular micro-dosing.

What normally deters the cheats is the threat of the rap on the door from the tester but nowadays the only knock tends to be from the delivery man. Possibly with a vial or two to deliver.

It would be wonderful if this period had been used by the bad guys for some inner soul-searching, about the right way to compete and the pride they should feel from doing so clean.

Unfortunately, with big rewards and contracts to chase, not all sportsmen see life and competition like that.


Nick Faldo has come up with a radical contribution to golf’s distance debate – banning tees.

The R and A are looking into the problem of ever-expanding driving length as it threatens to render more and more great courses obsolete at top level and stretch out round times even more but are scared stiff of legal action from the club manufacturers.

Faldo might just have come up with a solution which neatly sidesteps the lawyers.

With no tees, a driver off the deck would remain an option but propelling one down a narrow fairway corridor is fiendishly difficult. It would trigger a ploughing exhibition at the local muni and is a challenge even the top pros would be reluctant to take on.

If the safer three-wood was the play, it would shave 20 yards off the drive and make it possible to build 20-yard shorter holes.


FIFA’s medical committee chairman this week suggested a yellow card for spitting when football makes its hygiene-conscious return.

How about making this a permanent sanction when coronavirus has passed?

‘Gob of the Month’, a collection of the best examples with accompanying commentary, might once have featured as a memorable Not The Nine O’Clock News sketch but there is little artful about a player expectorating.

It’s a filthy look and gross, even in normal times, for any footballer inadvertently coming into contact with it.

Unless mandatory spittoons are brought in, this is the perfect time to ban it for good.


Football, sadly, is not a pandemic-friendly pastime but fencing just might be. It has the lot – distance between competitors, protective clothing…even a compulsory mask.

Published at Fri, 01 May 2020 07:30:00 +0000