Thursday, July 27, 2006

Adventures in Doping

You suck, Spain! I'm glad you've cleared our beloved Joseba, but could you have gotten your act together a little sooner and not stripped him of a chance to continue to regain his form at the Tour since his hideous podium-stripping crash a few years back? (Right, right, it's also nice about the fine young Contador, Davis, particularly Isidro Nozal, and Paulinho for Discovery's sake.) And while I have no great affection for Vinokorouv, particularly since he bushwhacked his own team leader Ullrich last year (though I very much admire his continued devotion to his friend the excellent Andrei Kivilev who died so sadly in a crash, and of course largely blame T-Mobile's leadership for failure to control their boys), it is excruciatingly unfair to him to have taken his likely chance at a podium spot or at least a couple of Pyreneean or Alpine stage wins only to have all of the remaining Tour team he needed to compete retroactively cleared. Also unfair to the fans and the race, which would hugely have benefitted from his appearance in that if nothing else it's a lively day in the peloton guaranteed when he's got his legs under him. And where that leave these five boys with Vino rushing desperately to revitalize and reform a devastated Astana--wouldn't one think he'd be justifiably more than a bit gun-shy of taking them back cleared or not particularly after the benefits he reaped from his spirited defense of Saiz at the start of the scandal? And where does this leave them all for the Vuelta?

Not to say that any or all of these guys are or are not actually innocent, as I'm pretty much convinced that the entire peloton is not riding along solely on the strength of caffeine and power bars. But it does seem unjust that only the stupid (or those with ties to the stupid) are getting pegged--inevitable with any sort of criminality I suppose, and normally the sort of Darwinian culling I might support, but a damned shame nonetheless. Indeed, in that situation, you're distinctly not levelling out the playing field for everybody by eliminating only some but not all or even most of the tainted, which is (in addition to protecting the riders' health, I dearly hope) after all the point, isn't it?

Speculation of course is running rampant as to the A-sample guilty party in the Tour this year--after all the immediate pre-Tour fallout from Operacion Puerto, and the righteous rampages of the various team leaderships, perhaps I'm flat wrong to have said you shouldn't be prosecuted for stupidity--and all the local federations are denying they've been contacted. All I can say is, don't let it be Floyd. Let me retain whatever miniscule naivete I still have about this beautiful sport!

While we're at it, I'd like to take this opportunity to restate my distate for former hero Manolo Saiz's wussbag tactics for so promptly selling we love Heras down the river to Spanish authorities by claiming that if anything happened it was entirely at Roberto's insistence and he was powerless to do anything but his bidding. Like a control freak directeur sportif with a massive financial stake in his team is going to be helpless beneath the bone-crushing influence of one rider who, despite his perfect Vuelta wins, has made the team look egregiously overhyped by ignominiously tanking in the last two Tours? Coward.

Well, allez--I'm sure the Tour's big news will come! Oh and apparently Boonen nailed McEwen in a criterium sprint--nice to see him back on form since apparently the maillot jaune wasn't enough for everybody, and I hope the press lays off him now instead of piling what-ifs on his otherwise magnificent season.

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