Cycling Moving Away from Scandals, Says Tour de France Boss
"For the first time since I joined (Tour de France organizers) ASO in 2004, I had a peaceful month of July and nothing came out between August 10 and 20," Prudhomme told Reuters, referring to this year's Tour and the high-profile doping cases that have tarnished it in recent years.
"(French anti-doping agency president) Pierre Bordry recently confirmed to me that there had been no suspicious case (from the 2009 Tour). This means that the fight against doping is working," he added.
"I realize this is an arduous task that must be continued step by step but it is obvious that cycling has changed. You can see it, even if we have to remain careful."
Cycling's showcase event has been persistently tainted by doping scandals that culminated in 2006 when American Floyd Landis became the first Tour winner to fail a drugs test during the race, was stripped of the title and given a two-year ban.
The following year, pre-race favorite Alexander Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping after winning a time trial and was sacked by his Astana team, who left the race.
Trouble returned last year when Italian Riccardo Ricco was kicked out of the race after failing a test for the new generation of blood-boosting drug EPO called CERA.
Austrian Bernhard Kohl, third overall and the race's top climber that same year, and two other riders were also found guilty of using CERA following retroactive tests.
Prudhomme, who will unveil the route of the 2010 Tour de France on Wednesday in Paris, welcomed the International Cycling Union (UCI)'s decision to progressively ban earpieces allowing communication between sports directors and their riders.
"I was very disappointed by the attitude of the teams during the Tour de France regarding earpieces, but I welcome with enthusiasm UCI's decision to have them banned by 2012," he said.
Earpieces stirred controversy on this year's Tour when teams reacted to UCI's decision to ban them on two stages by filing a petition to the sports' governing body and riding the 10th stage at a leisurely pace.
More generally, Prudhomme said he wanted a return to the days when panache rather than strategy decided races.
"Cycling must not be a standardized sport," he said. "Its legend was built by riders attacking in the Haute Levee climb, 100 kilometers from the finish line from Liege-Bastogne-Liege, rather than by riders waiting for the go-ahead before making a move."
The 2009 Tour de France, whose route was criticized by some observers as not tough enough, became exciting only because eventual winner Alberto Contador of Spain ignored team orders to attack twice, Prudhomme said.
"I'm still convinced the route of the last Tour de France was great, exciting and capable of producing a great race, even if we had to wait for it," he said.
"Fortunately, Alberto Contador disobeyed his bosses' orders by attacking at Arcalis, then Verbier, which allowed us not to wait too long," he added.
Prudhomme promised surprises on Wednesday and said seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who came out of retirement to place third in this year's Tour and will continue riding in 2010 with a new team, RadioShack, would attend the presentation.