Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Curioser and Curioser

The Matrix: A day after the French authorities flip out over the half-competent hacking of the lab that's handily botched virtually every doping test within memory by an apparent "close associate" of Floyd Landis, leaking unfortunate self-critical internal documents that make the lab employees look like complete monkeys, the lab's conceded that it mislabeled Landis' (alleged) B sample in the doping report, raising the not unreasonable question as to whether they actually tested the correct B sample in the first place. Landis, with characteristic understatement, pointed out calmly that if the hacking story is true, it's just another example of how crappy the lab is anyway, and he still plans to unveil an updated presentation in his defense, this time via a physician-run slide show at a Tucson convention center. Unclenching my jaw for the moment over yet another legal-team miscalculation by the Landis camp, and going back to the point that someone else's B sample may have been positive entirely, how does the esteemed amoral one-man leakfest Dick "Dick" Pound respond to this crucial news? Why, by being outraged at the hacking of the nit lab's computer system, of course! I'm so glad this international expert on cybercrime has turned our focus to what really counts. After all, why let Landis' possible innocence on Tour de France-stripping career-destroying doping charges get in the way of a suddenly far more important witchhunt to find a nefarious hacking computer geek? I know I feel closer to justice on this one!

Ill-timedly, perhaps, Oscar Pereiro has now said he'll boycott the '07 Tour if a winner's not actually named by then. Sure that still stands if Floyd gets to keep it, Oscar? Dick, meanwhile, has helpfully weighed in on the lame standard of proof he's willing to accept for crucifying possible dope heads out of their livelihoods, namely "a comfortable satisfaction with the evidence", less than a reasonable doubt, but more than a mere balance of probabilities. So what exactly makes you "comfortable," Dick? Face-saving political expediency after you've prematurely leaked some poor bastard's positive A sample to the press without even the courtesy of a heads-up phone call? The opportunity to carry out grudges against guys you're *sure* are doping, but just haven't been able to actually catch yet? What flunking 1st grade Spongebob-weaned civics student sets these standards?

Yeah, Right: Now, we all know from the Festina, Cofidis and Liberty Seguros affairs, plus our relentless sponsor apologists over at UCI and WADA, that teams have, and have always had, nothing to do with rider doping whatsover. Given that, and even with the beating the OP-implicated riders' teams have taken in the press, is anyone else the least bit suspicious about the virulent new crop of anti-doping programs recently announced by teams like CSC and T-Mobile? (And I note that Riis in particular, amidst all the crying over the violation of the rider-rejected "gentleman's agreement" by the teams who didn't get Basso and co. on board because they're under suspicion and won't gack up DNA swabs to soothe the sponsors' shareholders, isn't requiring DNA profiles of his riders.) I mean, if the teams are controlling who they're testing, what they're testing for, and when, can't they just reap the self-righteous PR benefits of anti-cheat aggression while accidentally not testing anyone for anything anytime that might be an actual threat? Not to suggest anything against Bjarne Riis, who after all has to lick his wounds over the Ivan Basso fiasco somehow, or T-Mobile, who don't need any more help harming themselves at this point. I'm just sayin'.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Body: Well, I see that Team Tinkoff has backed off bashing poor Jan Ullrich a bit, now that it confirms that it has a contract offer out to him (though not for the huge chunk of change previously rumored), saying (1) it really doesn't think he gets *irredeemably* bloated in the off-season and (2) it didn't really mean to suggest that if Jan is forced to exit the peloton he's gonna immediately go on a drug binge and OD in a clubland alley after all. Well, that oughta make Jan feel welcome! And, continuing their apparent policy of "all (alleged) ProTour dopers, all the time," they've now managed to sign not only Danilo Hondo, reportedly Tyler Hamilton, and hopefully Jan Ullrich,but also Francisco Mancebo at 600,000 euro a year. Stunning. Who better to mentor the team's promising young Russian domestiques and stars-of-the-future than guys who really understand what it takes to get there? Apropos of nothing, I hear Manolo Saiz is looking for a new group to nurture...

Speaking of Jan, Dr. Werner "Hound of Hell" Franke has made more allegations against the boy, namely that Jan flew to Madrid on May 10, a Giro rest day, to meet with Fuentes for treatment personally, and they've got relevant phone numbers including a landline implicating Ullrich, apparently all courtesy of a leak from an Op Puerto investigator. Manager Wolfgang Strohband, natch, dismissed the claim as "fantasy," and while that's nice and all, correct my memory but isn't there already an outstanding permanent injunction with a monstrous 250k euro fine that your legal team can slap on his @#$? And Jan, didn't you just say you've hired a new attorney whose first (or at least second) task should be to clamp down on this self-aggrandizing crap (whether it's actually crap or not)?

Erik the Pink: So we love Erik Zabel, who has entertained numerous questions on his possible return to T-Mobile, concedes that the colors may be the same, but the team has rather, well, changed. He's also just won (after losing the lead in) the Munich Six-Day and, in yet another reason to love him, has surmised that UCI and WADA "heads should roll" over the Ivan Basso/totally incompetently handled doping fiascos. Is there anything that Zabel isn't doing right these days?

Damn Right: Finally, Austrian youngster Bernhard Kohl has tossed his helmet in the ring on the Ullrich situation, saying the unfounded allegations against Ulle and others are "character assassination". Good thing he's already left T-Mobile for Gerolsteiner, or they'd pull a Kloden on him and kick his traitor @#$ off the team!

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