MONT VENTOUX, France — As he closes in on a fourth straight Tour de France title, Lance Armstrong is hearing a familiar but unwelcome chant from fans lining the route.
On Sunday, after another strong performance in the mountains extended his overall lead to almost 41/2 minutes, Armstrong had heard enough.
“If I had a dollar for every time somebody yelled, `Doe-PAY! Doe-PAY!’ (French for ‘Doped! Doped!’), I’d be a rich man,” he said. “It’s disappointing.”
For what it is worth, Armstrong has never failed a drug test, and he steadfastly denies ever using illegal substances. On the other hand, this is the story behind the French favorite:
Virenque is one of the riders who’s most popular with French fans, even though two years ago he confessed to taking drugs when competing for the Festina team. That whole squad, including Virenque, was thrown out of the 1998 Tour when a stash of banned drugs was found in a team car.
Hrmm. Makes you wonder.