Nothing says more about different countries and the relations between them than sports. You can learn at least as much about America by watching the World Series as attending a Republican or Democratic convention, and for the past century, no cultural phenomenon has been more central to French life than the Tour de France. That lies behind the bitter row which has erupted, with accusations--a remarkably long time after the event--that Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs in the 1999 Tour, the first of his barely believable sequence of seven victories. For the French, we are talking about something more than a bike race. The Tour is part of national culture.
So it is bad enough that no French rider has won it in 20 years; for an American of all people to have dominated is intolerable. And as if to illustrate the continuing rift between the countries, Mr. Armstrong was out biking only days ago with his friend and fellow Texan, George W. Bush.