Cycling Fans Try Not to Go Sour on Tour

Those who love bicycle racing stay enthusiastic about the Tour de France in the face of a new doping scandal. Phil Jahnke, an assistant manager of Gotham Bicycles in New York, talks with Madeleine Brand.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

I'm joined by Phil Jahnke. He's assistant manager of Gotham Bicycles in New York. And Phil Jahnke, what's your reaction to this news?

Mr. PHIL JAHNKE (Assistant Manager, Gotham Bicycles): It's pretty upsetting. They are two of my all-time favorite riders right now who are involved in a huge scandal. So it, you know, it kinda makes me question the integrity of this sport at times.

BRAND: This is Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso?

Mr. JAHNKE: Yes.

BRAND: And is it a surprise that they were involved?

Mr. JAHNKE: It is, and it isn't. It is because this is one of the biggest races of anybody's career and much less the season. And I would think that they would be smart enough not to do this, especially at this time and with this Tour de France coming up.

BRAND: Mm hmm. Well, some people have said this might be a good thing for the Tour in general and that'll clean it up.

Mr. JAHNKE: Definitely. Yeah, definitely this'll put the fear of God into a lot of people right now. Cycling is just plagued right now with so many doping scandals and so many people, you know, under investigation that - I mean, it hurts the sport. You don't see this in soccer or football or baseball so much.

BRAND: Well, baseball.

Mr. JAHNKE: To some degree. But in baseball, it's almost - I don't wanna say accepted, but people kind of brush it off a little bit. But when people see a cyclist, they instantly think that they're on drugs.

BRAND: Hmm. And is that because of controversy around Lance Armstrong?

Mr. JAHNKE: To some degree with him - but there's been so many people who have been banned. Tyler Hamilton, Johann Museeuw - a real famous Belgian rider who's under investigation right now, after his career ended. You know, things like this. I mean, every year there's, you know, four or five people who become suspects.

BRAND: I'm wondering if this is going to change people's interest in the sport, in watching this Tour de France.

Mr. JAHNKE: Definitely. Oh, yeah. I mean, it's negative publicity. I mean, you wanna see people go out there and do their best and do their best at their natural abilities, you know, like what I do when I race at a purely amateur level. But the whole idea is just to go out there and push yourself, do the best you can and get the results that you deserve through the strength of your own legs.

BRAND: The Tour de France is notoriously grueling. Is it possible to complete in this sport to the level that these athletes do without performance-enhancing drugs?

Mr. JAHNKE: I think it is. But the game would change. People wanna see a real fast Tour de France. They wanna see these guys go, you know, 25, 30 miles an hour for 3,000 some odd miles. And there's a famous quote of a French cyclist in the 50s, Jacques Anquetil, who won it five times and said, we don't do this on salads and mineral water. They were taking performance-enhancing drugs even then.

BRAND: Phil Jahnke. He's an assistant manager of Gotham Bicycles in New York City. Phil, thank you very much.

Mr. JAHNKE: Thank you.

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