2013 Tour de France

Tour De France: Should the History of the Tour Be Wiped Clean?

CORBEIL-ESSONNES, FRANCE - JULY 24:  Lance Armstrong of the USA riding for the Discovery Channel team, shows seven fingers (meaning seven victories) before Stage 21 of the Tour de France between Corbeille-Essones and The Champs Elysees on July 24, 2005 in Paris, France. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Will ProtheroeContributor IIIJune 22, 2013

Jan Ullrich admitted to the world that he was assisted by performance-enhancing drugs during his Tour de France winning career.

The announcement should come as no surprise. The German had already been banned retroactively earlier this year and had been stripped of all achievements since May 2005.

The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com) detailed Ullrich's candid conversation with the German magazine Focus:

I didn't take anything which the others were not taking. For me, betrayal only begins when I gain an advantage, but that was not the case

On this point it is hard to argue with Ullrich. His admission now means that we are faced with the fact that from 1996 to 2006, every winner of Le Tour has either admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs or is under a very large cloud of suspicion.

On June 29, the world's greatest cycling race will start its 100th edition. This is a history which contains legends of the sport. Names such as Merckx, HinaultIndurain and Armstr...

Wait, scratch that last one. He doesn't exist anymore.

Earlier this year, a story surfaced which linked five-time winner Miguel Indurain and his Banesto team with Dr. Francesco Conconi, the man a judge described as "morally guilty" for promoting doping among the riders he worked with.

This is by no means evidence that Indurain is guilty of doping or that his Tour wins should be treated as suspicious.

However, the story has at the very least linked the Spanish legend with the idea of doping.

This now means that from 1991 to 2007 every winner of the race has either already been stripped of his title, admitted to doping or has at the very least been associated with performance-enhancing drugs.

The media furore surrounding Lance Armstrong's admission of guilt has led us to the ridiculous situation in which there is no official winner of the race between 1999 and 2005.

Ullrich's admission now means that surely there should be no winner of the 1997 race. This raises the question, should we completely wipe the history of the Tour de France?

Bjarne Riis has openly admitted to doping on his way to winning the 1996, but he somehow remains the winner in the annals of history.

Riis was initially stripped of his Tour win after his admission of guilt in 2007 but was subsequently written back in a year later. 

Philippe Sudres, media director for the Tour de France explained the reasoning behind the reinstatement to Danish magazine Politiken (h/t BikeRadar.com):

We cannot rewrite history. Therefore we recognise Bjarne Riis as the winner of the 1996 Tour de France. But with an asterisk.

Does Ullrich deserve an asterisk, or shall we strike his name from the record books and forget he ever existed? The German put it better than anyone else could:

I am no better than Armstrong, but no worse either.

Maybe it is too soon and the wounds are too fresh, but celebrating the 100th edition of the Tour without recognising its greatest champion is as stupid as wiping the history of the event altogether.

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