On a Downhill Cycle

A doping scandal forces the Tour de France to wrestle with a champion's legacy and its own future

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The Spanish Civil Guard carried out Operación Puerto in late May, raiding several apartments in Madrid, where they found stashes of frozen blood, steroids, growth hormones and EPO, among other substances. Five people were arrested, including a doctor, Eufemiano Fuentes, who has links to many élite riders. The Spanish Cycling Federation handed over a report to Tour officials implicating the three high-profile barred riders in the doping ring. The report also named five riders from the Astaná-Würth team, forcing all nine of its riders off the Tour (a team needs six cyclists to start the race). So although he's not named in the probe, Astaná-Würth's lead rider, Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan, is also out of the race; he finished fifth in last year's Tour. The Spanish Civil Guard told TIME that more racers could be implicated.

That leaves the Tour de France field, already wide open in the wake of Armstrong's retirement, an even wilder mishmash. Asked shortly before the race began about his improving prospects, American Floyd Landis just sighs. "Jesus," says Landis, "I have to wait to know who's here--which is sad to say, because [the race] starts in about 24 hours." It could be the Tour's roughest ride yet.

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