Perhaps after today’s Luxembourg-themed bombshell, Tom Jones needs to rewrite the lyrics to his raunchy sounding tune, writes Anthony Tan from Pau.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

Having just come from my journalist friend Daniel Friebe's book launch of Eddy Merckx РThe Cannibal at the Bar L'Imparfait on the Rue H̩das, my travelling colleague Gregor Brown and I had barely sat down for an evening dinner when an email from the UCI turned up in our smartphone inboxes.

"Probably another rest-day doping bombshell," joked Gregor, unwittingly.

I shot him a look of contempt. Stop being so damn cynical, was my disapproving facial expression.

After all, only last week, maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins responded to my doping-related question by saying that after some introspection, he felt he needed to "build bridges" with the media, to prove to us and the wider public that what he was doing was being done on "bread and water" alone. Furthermore, the following day, he told me that despite recommendations by the doctors at Sky, he was thinking about making his biological passport data publicly available by year's end, despite grave potential for misinterpretation.

Turned out, though, Gregor was right.

Read the first two paragraphs of the UCI press release, which came with the headline, Adverse Analytical Finding for Fränk Schleck

"Earlier today, the UCI advised the Luxembourger rider Fränk Schleck of an Adverse Analytical Finding (presence of the diuretic Xipamide based on the report from the WADA accredited laboratory in Châtenay-Malabry) in the urine sample collected from him at an in competition test at the Tour de France on 14 July 2012.

"Mr Schleck has the right to request and attend the analysis of his B sample."

That date is Bastille Day, a national holiday in France. Ordinarily, a day to be celebrated by all at Le Tour.

That day, André Greipel, the German juggernaut, was dropped on the Mont Saint-Clair berg 23km from the Stage 13 finish in Cap d'Agde, only to be paced back on to the 40-man front group by his indefatigable Lotto-Belisol team-mates, and in so doing, won his third stage at this year's race.

Wiggins led out team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen but Greipel was simply too fast and too strong for maillot vert Peter Sagan and the Norwegian wunderkind. 'Twas thrilling stuff and after witnessing it in the flesh, I thought it'd be a stage that would be remembered for a long time yet.

Now it will be known as The Day Fränk Schleck Tested Positive.

A little over a week ago, I fired off this tweet:

It was in reference to the news that Cofidis rider Rémy Di Gregorio had been arrested on the night of 9 July after a police raid at his team's hotel in Bourg-en-Bresse, before the Tour's first rest day in Mâcon, to which a guy called John Galloway with the Twitter handle @sofaboy immediately responded:

Jonathan Vaughters, Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda CEO, tweeted back to both of us, saying, "love that".

Di Gregorio was suspended, effective immediately. "If the suspicions are confirmed, he will be sacked on the spot – in accordance with the stipulations in his contract and in line with the ethical policy of the team," read the team statement.

"In recent years we have put in place an exemplary anti-doping program that goes well beyond what is imposed by the international anti-doping authorities.

"We see that in spite of these measures we are powerless in the face of individuals with no scruples who tarnish the image of the sponsor and sully the reputation of all the riders in the team."

I duly responded.

The conversation continued in the Twitterverse, but I stopped there.

I said what I believed to be true, and, as a pragmatist, what one would expect from a journalist that has covered more doping scandals than has enjoyed birthdays (I turned 39 this year, for what it's worth).

On Thursday 12 July, judicial authorities in Marseille confirmed Di Gregorio had been charged with "possession of banned substances or illegal devices", including blood transfusion equipment reportedly found in his apartment. One of those arrested, a Marseille naturopath, admitted to injecting ozone and glucose into Di Gregorio's bloodstream, both prohibited under UCI anti-doping law.

Not a commonly used diuretic, xipamide, however, is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of prohibited substances. Instead under the category of "specified substances", it means that the elder of the Schleck brothers now needs to prove he took the drug with no intention of enhancing his own performance.

In the case of "specified substances", the UCI anti-doping rules, in accordance with the WADA code, do not provide for an immediate provisional suspension, but later on, the UCI was none too subtle in its press release:

"However, the UCI is confident that his team will take the necessary steps to enable the Tour de France to continue in serenity and to ensure that their rider has the opportunity to properly prepare his defence in particular within the legal timeline, which allows four days for him to have his B sample analysed."

No more than 90 minutes later came a release from Schleck's RadioShack-Nissan-Trek squad, whose holding company, Leopard SA, has been fighting rumours of financial insolvency the past fortnight. (On Tuesday a team spokesman confirmed to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany's largest subscription daily newspaper, that the Schlecks and Fabian Cancellara had lodged a complaint with the UCI over non-payment of salaries; the brothers are owed around 500,000 euros total, the paper estimated.)

Unsurprisingly, RadioShack-Nissan-Trek picked up on the "nudge-nudge-wink-wink" hint and yanked Schleck The Elder out of the 99th edition of La Grande Boucle, post-haste.

Read the relevant part of the team statement.

"Even though an abnormal A sample does not require these measures, Mr Schleck and the team believe this is the right thing to do, to ensure the Tour de France can go on in calm and that Fränk Schleck can prepare his defence in accordance with the legal timing to do so.

"On the subject of xipamide the team can declare the following: it is not a product that is present in any of the medicine that the team uses and the reason for the presence of xipamide in the urine sample of Mr Schleck is unclear to the team. Therefore, the team is not able to explain the adverse findings at this point.

"However, the team is fully determined to collaborate with the anti-doping agencies in order to resolve the matter."

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but from now until Paris, there is no chance "the Tour de France can go on in calm".

Fränk Schleck is a podium finisher from the previous year and was 12th overall in this edition, nine minutes and 45 seconds behind Wiggins. It was highly unlikely he was going to make the podium but there was the possibility of a stage win the next two days, as the race delves deep into the heart and soul of the Pyrénées.

And, pun intended, that's perhaps the only positive out of this: he could have won a stage and stuffed up the results sheet as a by-product of his doping infraction, like so many have done before him.

I remain hopeful that one day we may see not an end but a serious reduction in doping positives. But I also remain cynical that the peloton will ever be 100 per cent clean, and will continue to view these athletes with a healthy degree of scepticism until through their actions and words on fighting the good fight, they convince me otherwise.