Why I won't be rooting for Floyd

TOMORROW marks the start of the 94th Tour de France, and its first visit to London. Floyd Landis first rode into my awareness this time last year. I'll be glad if he keeps out of it this year.

TOMORROW marks the start of the 94th Tour de France, and its first visit to London.

Floyd Landis first rode into my awareness this time last year. I'll be glad if he keeps out of it this year.

At least he won't be riding the Tour de France, which is where my sporting interest will be focused for the next three weeks (beginning, oddly, in London).

Landis's “victory” in last year's Tour bore the foul taint of performance-enhancing drugs after he was later revealed to have failed a drugs test, carried out after he had wrested control of the race in an amazing break.

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If anything, his $2million bid to clear his name leaves an even nastier after taste for me.

The Tour de France is surely the toughest challenge in professional sport - and this year it will be as open a contest as I can imagine.

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After the apparent inevitability of the Lance Armstrong years, there are suddenly no big names left.

Last year the favourites were disqualified after doping allegations surfaced on the very eve of the race.

American Landis finished first but may yet be stripped of the title.

No wonder Christian Prudhomme, the race director, has said: “My wish for this Tour is to be sure the rider who will raise his arms on the Champs-Elysees is the real winner of the race. Cycling must not only get its credibility back, but even more its dignity. It is a romantic sport which must be dignified.”

There was precious little dignity last year - and even less in the unseemly circumstances of the American court process still rumbling on in its wake.

One of the most dignified of sportsmen, and one of the greatest, was the first American winner of the Tour, Greg LeMond.

After his first triumph, in 1986, the rangy Californian was shot and nearly killed in a hunting accident. Yet he came back in 1989, with shotgun pellets still in the lining of his heart, to beat home favourite Laurent Fignon by just eight seconds in the closest and most exciting Tour ever.

As race boss Prudhomme says: “Doping is the enemy of cycling and the enemy of the Tour de France.”

And to that he adds an explanation that invokes the real reason why the Tour is such an engrossing spectacle - and will continue to be this year, despite the absence of established stars.

“Doping brings a certain absence of suffering, which is at the opposite of the cycling myth.”

When it comes down to it, we all like to see a fellow suffer for his glory.

DESPITE the rain, and the tactical yelling and grunting, I've enjoyed this Wimbledon.

The women's tournament has been particularly entertaining. There are now more women than ever playing at a high level of skill, fitness and commitment, and that means better, more unpredictable matches.

The time surely has come for the women - as great an attraction as the guys and as well paid - to play five-set matches as the men do.

It is a simple physiological fact that men are stronger than women, so they can never play against each other on equal terms. But women have potentially greater stamina, so there is absolutely no reason why they shouldn't face longer matches.

THE TITLE told you nearly all you needed to know: “Three Fat Brides, One Thin Dress.”

The programme synopsis revealed further: “A former actress, a binge eater and a woman with sugar cravings lose weight for their wedding days by vying for their dream bridal gown.”

Does that sum up the sorry state of our society, the sad condition of our TV - or just the depths to which Channel 4 has sunk?

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