German free-to-air broadcasters ARD & ZDF will abandon live coverage of the Tour de France in 2012, due to concerns over doping. ‘The focus is often doping, to which the audience lends an understandably critical eye’, said the state broadcasters in a 2 February statement. ‘German TV viewers only have a low acceptance of the most important cycling race in the world and as such, the long live transmission lines are no longer justified’. The broadcasters will continue to cover the tour in news reports.
Both broadcasters have refused to join a new contract between the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – which represents national broadcasters such as the BBC – and Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), which oraganises the Tour. As such, they will still cover the 2011 edition of the Tour, which runs 2 July to 24 July. The contract between the EBU, ASO and national broadcasters allows withdrawal if riders are implicated in doping. Both broadcasters withdrew from covering the 2009 edition of the Tour due to concerns over doping.
The withdrawal demonstrates the commercial impact that doping can have on sport. This will be one of the many issues discussed at Tackling Doping in Sport 2011, organised by World Sports Law Report in Association with UK Anti-Doping and Squire Sanders Hammonds on 16-17 March 2011.