- Associated Press - Friday, July 4, 2014

LEEDS, England (AP) - Doping has been an unfortunate part of the Tour de France since its inception in 1903. Instead of today’s high-tech performance enhancers like blood-booster EPO, riders juiced up on wine and cocaine, even strychnine, to get a lift in the race.

As the sport went prime-time and grew more competitive and lucrative, the crackdown on doping cheats also intensified - leading to the eventual dethroning of seven-time champ Lance Armstrong, the most famous rider of a tainted era.

Anti-doping testing was introduced at the Tour in the 1960s but did not prevent the death of British rider Tom Simpson on the slopes of the Mont Ventoux in 1967 after he used a lethal cocktail of amphetamines and alcohol.

Here are five things to know about doping before the race starts on Saturday:


Reigning Tour champion Chris Froome drew controversy after a UCI medical supervisor authorized his use of a doctor’s note in order to take a corticosteroid to fight a chest infection during the Tour de Romandie this year. Cyclists who suffer from illness can, in some cases, be given such a Therapeutic Use Exemption to use otherwise-banned medication.

Because of that incident, the governing body’s TUE panel - not just a single UCI doctor - will from now on examine all such exemptions, the head of cycling’s governing body Brian Cookson said Friday, reasoning that “maybe they’re all of a potentially controversial nature.”

Cookson also said a key lesson for today’s competitors from Armstrong’s era was that sooner or later, “We will catch you.” While he said he couldn’t guarantee that new doping cases won’t come to light at this Tour, “the radar is being lowered all the time.”

In a meeting with two reporters, Cookson said the science and technology involved in catching drugs cheats are improving and sport authorities continue to enhance their anti-doping procedures.

“I think we are closer to the cheats than we have ever been,” he said.


PRE-RACE CASES: Two riders who were expected to compete in the Tour were suspended by their teams before the race. Daryl Impey of South Africa, who last year became the first African to wear the leader’s yellow jersey, failed a drugs test in February and was removed from the Orica-GreenEdge lineup after the Australian team was notified of the result.

Involved in a case dating back to 2011, Roman Kreuziger - a key climbing lieutenant of Alberto Contador on Tinkoff-Saxo - was dropped by the team because of anomalies in his biological passport detected in 2011 and 2012. The Czech rider, who won the Amstel Gold Race last year, was with Kazakh team Astana at the time. Kreuziger denies any wrongdoing.



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