Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Wheels of Justice

Oops: Much to the relief of pretty near every Spaniard in the peloton I imagine, plus Ivan Basso (but possibly not Jan Ullrich, who has allegedly imbibed in damn near every country in Europe), apparently the entire Operacion Puerto investigation is on the skids and the judges are considering dropping all the charges against everybody entirely. Why? Because a huge cache of steroids, EPO, transfusion equipment, 200 bags of blood and plasma, and phone taps involving managers of specific superstars are just too darn circumstantial to think anyone's remotely done anything wrong. That, and evidently they cower like dogs in thunderstorms before the mighty power of Manolo Saiz's latest lawsuit threat. Well done, Spain! Meantime, France, which moves slowly as hell but does indeed try to make stuff stick, is back to the 2004 Cofidis affair, and with any luck will not only be done with the riders' testimony--welcome back St. Millar!--but also manage to cough up an actual verdict sometime before Millar & Co hit the nursing home. Allez! And as usual, is anyone else pissed that guys like Millar are lionized as do-gooding martyr heroes for the weepy self-righteous mea culpas they spit out only when--and because-- they're caught with a freakin' needle in their arm, and other riders who are busted on far weaker evidence are smashed in the press for their filthy cheating lack of sportsmanship when they take their managers' advice and discreetly keep their mouths shut in public?

Speaking of dopers, Team Tinkoff has recently jerked out the welcome mat from under poor Jan Ullrich by noting that, while they like him and all, he really does get too fat in the winter, and anyway, he can't seem to find a country that'll take him. Might as well start loading on the weinerschnitzel anyway Jan! However, Tinkoff has no such reservations about Italian studmuffin Ivan Basso, who has officially confirmed he's eyeing the continental squads as the ProTour remains in some inexplicable snit and Tinkoff, with Ullrich dissed, confirms it's in the hunt. Indeed, Relax-Gam has just signed totally coincidental Tyler Hamilton '04 Phonak teammate/newly freed dope snarfer Santi Perez. With the continental teams mercifuly devoid of any morality whatsoever, is anyone else suddenly feeling cheerfully optimistic about we love Roberto Heras' chances for a new contract (very) late season 2007?

Now, not to diss the continental teams, or the individual talents of Basso & Co. And maybe it is, frankly, just a question of bankroll. But you need superdomestiques, and even--and especially--rank and file domestiques, to win a class or a sprint, much less an entire Grand Tour. And again frankly, many of the guys at this rank in the ProTour would be team leader material on most of the conentinental squads. So even if Basso and Ullrich and Mancebo and every other dope fiend ends up on a continental team, and even if they score a wild card to the Giro or the Tour, have they honestly got the backup firepower it'll take to put them on the podium anymore? Anyhow, even if it's all genuinely fair in the end--and I doubt it--I'm demoralized. And am I the only one to suspect that there's gotta be more'n one prominent rider left in the ProTour peloton who had the good sense to either (1) go individually to a less famous doctor in say Switzerland Austria France or Germany; or (2) since the teams, their managers, directeurs sportif, doctors and soigneurs have been under absolutely zero oversight pressure or scrutiny by the sponsor-sucking hypocrites at UCI and WADA, handle things discreetly in-house?

Valuable Insight: So jailbait sprinter Bernhard Eisel is happy with his new gig at T-Mobile, and notes of new US boss Bob Stapleton that he hadn't much to do with cycling before, being merely a useless dilettante millionaire until that got too boring. Well, that explains some of the numbnut decisions coming out of T-Mobile this year--sounds like a recipe for success in '07!

On a final note, my wish has been granted and Joseba Beloki's been freed, but there's no word from Vino or his owner Saiz as to whether his existing team, whatever the hell it is at this point, is gonna use him next year. So I change my clarion call to, "Sign Joseba!"

No comments: