Tour Recovering After Drug Scandal
By Salvatore Zanca
Saturday, July 18, 1998; 3:19 p.m. EDT
CORREZE, France Defending champion Jan Ullrich regained the overall lead in the Tour de France by winning a time trial Saturday, and a lot of people barely noticed.
Ullrich's victory came amid the tearful departure of cyclists from the Festina team which was thrown out of the Tour because of a drug scandal.
The team's director, doctor and masseur were being questioned by police about performance-enhancing drugs which the director said was part of Festina's operation.
Ullrich won the 36-mile time trial by more than a minute over Americans Tyler Hamilton and Bobby Julich.
Jacques Chirac, the French president, was at the finish to congratulate Ullrich, who was timed in 1 hour, 15 minutes, 25 seconds. Overall, Ullrich leads by a minute 18 seconds over Bo Hamburger of Denmark.
Julich, who races for the French team Cofidis, was third in the same time as Hamburger.
Missing was last year's runnerup, Richard Virenque, who was among the nine Festina cyclists who withdrew at the request of the Tour de France.
"It's better we stop the Tour now,'' said Virenque, who cried. "From a judicial point of view, we could participate but we decided not to continue.
"I don't know what the Tour will do without Festina. Festina has given a lot to the Tour. And today we are excluded for the image of the race.''
Tour officials decided to throw the top-ranked team out of the three-week race Friday after team director Bruno Roussel admitted the team had supplied banned substances with medical supervision to improve performances.
Roussel, team doctor Erik Ryckaert and masseur Wily Voet in under police custody after customs officials found a stash of performance-enhacing drugs in Voet's car bearing Festina emblems.
Roussel and team doctor Erik Ryckaert were placed under investigation for importing prohibited substances and other counts.
Chirac called for the "eradication of (doping) networks'' and that those who are behind them should be punished.
"We don't have the right to play with the health of young sportsmen who get caught up in doping,'' he said. "Doping is above all dishonesty. It is cheating and as such must be condemned and punished in the strongest way.''
The sad day for cycling came as Americans made an unusually good showing.
"It's a dream. It's geat for American cycling,'' Julich said. "It's about time.''
After the retirement of three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond and the Lance Armstrong recovering from cancer after winning the 1993 world title and two Tour stages, U.S. cycling needed a boost.
It also came from Hamilton, who was battling stomach problems the first week.
"I felt strong. I just rode steady the whole way and it worked out,'' Hamilton said.
Hamilton, who rides for the U.S. Postal team, is now fifth overall.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press