PARIS (AFP) — Five-time winner of the Tour de France Bernard Hinault on Thursday claimed that the future of the famous race was under threat because of the string of admissions and accusations about drug-taking in the sport’s past.
Hinault’s compatriot Laurent Jalabert was accused this week of taking the banned blood booster erythropoetin (EPO) during the scandal-hit 1998 Tour.
The 100th edition of the Tour, which starts on Saturday, is the first since the Lance Armstrong scandal last year, and cycling is hoping to move on from the damaging revelations of widespread doping in the peloton.
But the issue has refused to go away with the claims surrounding Jalabert — and an admission last weekend by 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich that he doped during his career.
Hinault told Europe 1 radio of the Jalabert allegations: “It was 15 years ago, so we’ve got to stop bringing out the dead.
“It’s like they want to kill the Tour. They want to kill the Tour de France, even the senators with their rubbish,” he said, referring to a French upper house committee currently probing the effectiveness of the fight against doping in sport.
According to L’Equipe, Jalabert’s alleged use of EPO emerged via documents relating to anonymous retrospective testing for drug use carried out in 2004 that were submitted to the committee.
Hinault, who won cycling’s biggest prize in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1985 and is France’s last winner of the race, questioned why the revelations had emerged now.
“Why are we always looking at cycling,” the 58-year-old said. “Why don’t samples from the 1990s (from other sports) still exist? Why haven’t they brought that out? They’ve got to stop this nonsense.
“It’s always cycling that gets it in the neck. We’re maybe not cleaner than other sports but we’re not dirtier either. At least I don’t think so.”
Hinault admitted that he was angry but called for every sport to be treated equally.
Speaking on the same program, the director of the Tour de France, Christian Prudhomme, repeated his call for a “truly independent commission” to cover all sports and doping cases.
“We haven’t got anything new to say about the end of the 1990s and early 2000s, which was an extremely dark period for cycling. We know that.
“Cycling cheated, perhaps more than other sports, but now it’s not different from other sports.”