|ESPN.com: Tour de France 2008||[Print without images]|
|After Riccardo Ricco's positive test, the rest of the Saunier Duval team withdrew from the Tour de France.|
We are the most tested athletes in the world. We have in-competition and out-of-competition testing. My team, Team CSC-SaxoBank, and others, Garmin-Chipotle and Team Columbia, have independent testing on top of that. We have to report our whereabouts to officials so we can routinely be found for testing. I believe in the testing 100 percent. I have to believe the best riders of the Tour right now are performing naturally. Of course, when news like this comes out, you start to question yourself and ask, "Am I being na´ve?" With all the writing on the wall in the past, especially the past three years, you have to wonder what riders like Ricco are thinking. Since the positive tests came early in the Tour, are they trying to beat the system by taking these enhancers in between big races in the hope that they will be out of their systems before the Tour starts? All of this proves that we need to have one plan for every team across the board. Every team should have independent testing along with other tests, the way CSC, Garmin and Columbia do. All of our histories are on paper. Give every team the exact same protocol. It will cost money and raise some eyebrows, but if we want this sport to have credibility, we have to have everyone under the same testing system. The same level has to be set. It will eliminate doubt. If you sign a contract, you commit to X number of out-of-competition tests. If you have nothing to hide, it's not a problem. The process is a pain; you can be called for testing at any time. But you and your family have to understand these are the sacrifices you make to be a pro cyclist. And what about those cyclists who are riding clean? My CSC teammate Frank Schleck is one of the best endurance cyclists in the world. Did he miss out on a Stage 10 win? Saunier Duval's Juan Jose Cobo and Leonardo Piepoli broke away from Schleck and dueled to the finish of the stage as Piepoli took the win. But will people question their performance now that the entire team is out of the Tour because of Ricco's test result? Doping was supposed to be a problem of the old guard, a problem of the past. The moment we start to see 23- and 24-year-old riders testing positive (Ricco is 24), we have to ask questions. Doping and the temptation to do it have been out of young riders' minds, or so we thought. They come into the sport and are happy to be there. They shouldn't feel the need to cheat. This changes everything -- even for the young riders. Now, they will be questioned, too. I was hoping we would have weeded out the "old guard" problem. But having a rider of Ricco's age and stature test positive changes a lot. And that scares me. It's not acceptable. Thursday was a wake-up call. But I am still proud to be part of a sport that is trying to do something about the problem and not looking the other way. Bobby Julich, a member of Team CSC-Saxo Bank, will be providing a diary for ESPN.com throughout the Tour de France. The American has been a professional cyclist since 1992. He finished third overall in the 1998 Tour de France and won the Paris-Nice race in 2005.