Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Adventures in Doping, Part Endless

Giving Lance the Lance: so the New York Times reported today that Frankie Andreu and another ex-teammate who sensibly wants to remain anonymous, the former of course having testified that he and his wife Betsy personally heard Lance Armstrong admitting doping to his doctors while being treated for cancer, have now admitted that they used EPO in 1999 to help Lance in that year's Tour de France. Not that that's surprising--but the admission certainly is. Let's leave aside for the moment the question of whether Lance himself actually doped (if only because his lawyers immediately go for the jugular of anyone who suggests it.) What would be more surprising, frankly, is if control-freak Lance, who was given such massive unquestioned unilateral control over his teams once he began winning the Tour, didn't know about it. Even the noble admissions are in doubt, though, as a presumably chastised (if not subpoenaed) Andreu promptly issued a statement saying he never told the Times he doped in 1999, only that he did dope, but he still wasn't gonna say when he doped, which is a heck of retraction all right.

I must say as an aside that I'm really quite caught on this issue. On the one hand, it only took a week at a European grand tour this year to strip me of my American apple-pie naivete and convince me, in accordance with what seems to be the prevailing view of the perhaps less sentimental European fans, that these spectacular feats of athleticism and yes, showmanship simply aren't possible on a diet of carbs and Red Bull and that something extra is indeed common, even necessary, to compete at the most elite level. Then there's the question of the inherent unfairness or at least seemingly random bad luck of who actually gets caught vs. who doesn't--are we truly bent on punishing the guilty here, or merely the unfortunate and those of limited budgets? If the latter, that seems not only wasteful and ridiculous, but borderline offensive. And to natter on about the evils of illegal doping, but to advertise products like "EP-NO" after every ten seconds of Vuelta coverage, seems an incongruous message at best. On the other hand, I wear my "Doper's Suck" paraphernalia (if hypocritically modified to excuse riders I particularly favor) with pride, and despise the endless trajectory of ever-more-sophisticated cheating that has brought this mind-bogglingly gorgeous sport into such disrepute, especially among cycling-ignorant Short-Attention-Span-Theatered Americans. And need we even discuss the unknown future health threats these pregnancy-hormone-popping boys are facing after they retire, and there's no longer a cash reward for those long-ago runs to the line, much less the calculated rip-off to those (even if they are only a few) who really do ride clean? Perhaps what I really am though is less genuinely accepting than just plain resigned. What is a cynic after all but a hearbroken idealist?

On a less pretentious philosophical note, Floyd Landis' legal team has formally filed its appeal on the grounds that the urine sample was grossly mishandled, the testing protocols failed to meet WADA's standards, the B sample's identifying number did not match the A sample's, and the results are therefore crap. Good luck Floyd!

Yes, Virginia, There is a Vuelta a Espana: In our happy return to the mountains today (happy in the sens that I don't actually have to climb them), a Euskaltel rider (not Iban Mayo, dammit--can he please not crack for *one* day in the high passes?--we still think you can do it Iban even if it's only 'cause I'm a helpless martyr sap for underdogs!) finally took a stage; Danielson held on for a late resurgence and recovered a bit of his post-hype dignity; DiLuca continued to ride the Vuelta he was powerless to pull off in the Giro; and, in an utter nailbiter, Sastre attacked then cracked then just clawed back on again, decimating a hell of a fine larger grupetto in his fruitless attempt to break the incredibly calm and easy Valverde while Vino slugged it out with them both in an immovable trio, leaving Sastre to bonk just in the final kilometer to the tune of luckily only 5 seconds back, while poor Kaschechkin's off the virtual podium and Vino's tied with the quite-suffering Sastre (though he always looks worried, poor thing)at still over a minute back. I don't think anyone can take out Valverde at this point, he looks so cool and strong, but then, Vinokorouv not only clings to a wheel like a tick but really can power out of nowhere once he decides he's had enough of that, but if you can't crush Valverde or get rid of Vino, I'm still pulling for you on the podium Sastre! Plus, we love Triki Beltran moved up to 6th. Right on Triki!

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