French finance giant Crédit Lyonnais - famous for giving out cuddly lions to Tour stage winners - has signed a new sponsorship deal, good until 2008, with Amaury Sports Organisation, organiser of Le Tour.

Plush toy lions remain as Tour de France icons

Crédit Lyonnais will pay an annual fee of $4.47m. It has been a major Tour sponsor since 1987 and currently sponsors the famous yellow jersey.

However, like other corporate backers of cycling, Crédit Lyonnais only signed on the dotted line because of an opt-out clause that allows the company to jump ship if Le Tour is embroiled in any future doping scandals.

In theory, such scandals should be a thing of the past as riders in the Tour de France are now the most scrutinised, and dope-tested, athletes on the planet.

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