Monday, December 11, 2006

Oh, Snap!

Il Grande ProTour: just days after WADA paid a surprise visit to Discovery's training camp to snag blood and urine samples from Ivan Basso, the International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT),the ProTour teams' association, held a preliminary vote to kick Discovery out of it because they're really, really jealous none of the rest of them had the audacity to sign Basso, I mean they're really, really mad that Discovery blew off the "gentlemen's agreement" that all these team management clowns intentionally didn't put in writing in the first place but that they really, really meant. Antidoping crusader/head honcho Lefevre, natch, wants to "talk" ahead of the January 11 final decision, presumably either about Disco kicking guaranteed Tour podium Basso off the team, or if Discovery's really determined to take the gloves off by keeping Ivan on hand, which of these other vultures gets to scavenge for Jan Ullrich and every other continental-bound OP alleged dope fiend from impending obscurity at what bargain-basement price. T-Mobile, of course, seems downright delighted about the whole thing, which still doesn't change the fact that they completely imploded this contract season by throwing all of their non-OP-implicated Grand Tour contenders off the team bus in what appeared to be a colossal revenge snit over friendships with Jan Ullrich. (Armstrong, of course, completely disingenuously defended Basso by saying he offered to give a DNA sample, what more can he do? Um, offer it to people who are actually in possession of anonymous code-named blood bags? Sure, it goes against all American ideals of innocent-til-proven guilty. Isn't, say, the Tour actually located somewhere else?) Anyway, lookin' forward to the chat with Bruyneel in January!

Speaking of OP: Ex-Liberty Seguroses Astana's Alberto Contador and Relax's Jesus Hernandez were the first called to testify in front of the Spanish inquisition, out of the 50-odd riders expected to be on the hook, apparently limited by the judge to 3 questions: (1) What's your relationship with Dr. Fuentes, Saiz, & Co.? (2) what treatments did you get? and (3) didja suffer any health problems? Now, again, I have only the utmost esteem for the Spanish legal system, particularly (listen up, you leak-happy goons at UCI!) its careful attention to due process. But am I on absolute crack here, or oughtn't one of these questions (indeed, perhaps the only one we all really want to know the answer to) be "hey, is any of that blood yours, buddy?" Unless, of course, I've missed the news that it was all just collected by Eufemiano "I treasure their good health" Fuentes as a do-good blood drive for the Red Cross, though last time I checked, donors didn't have to cough up 60k euros for the privilege of doing that. Come on, cut to the chase already! Surely none of these guys would lie about doping?

OP, Due: Meantime, we love UCI rider representative Chechu Rubiera has weighed in on OP, expressing his concern for his OP-implicated Spanish compatriots who are mostly out of a job at this point (Free Joseba!), and regrets that the riders themselves are in self-destructive chaos, with, for example, we also love Jens Voigt openly calling for Ivan Basso to get the hell out of the sport. And Jan Ullrich's spokesman was recently busy clarifying the odd (perhaps mistranslated?) statement that the OP court said it does not "lay any value on his testimony in this case," which to me sounds either like they think he's not involved so his testimony is pointless, or that they think he's gonna lie if called to the stand so his testimony is useless, but apparently just means they're not gonna call him at the moment, as they're taking the Spanish riders' testimony first. Am I the only one still confused here?

License to Ill: So the ProTour slugfest between Astana Barloworld and Unibet, which keeps getting put off but is purportedly on the block this week for sure, may face a new challenge with the confirmed signing of alleged dopester Jose Rujano for 2 years with Unibet. I thought all these guys were off limits (or at least that their potential brethren in the ProTour would be irked enough to whine to UCI against such teams' entrance)? Is it something about kicking !@# at the Giro that's getting these guys a free pass? Lesser minds want to know!

Le Tour: Poor Floyd Landis is quite down on his chances of winning his fight, suggesting the sport doesn't want him to (damn straight!), and that if he wins, everyone'll think'll be over some crap technicality (I hope not!), but that anyway, it's gonna cost him $500k to smack it out anyhow through UCI's threatened appeals (what, all the publicity hasn't encouraged his legal team to offer him some small discount? Are none of these people cycling fans? Hell, I'd work for a cheapo team water bottle!), and he flat-out lacks the cash. Nice job taking care of your own, Phonak!

An Open Letter to AJ Smith: finally, a shout-out to wunderkind AJ Smith, who thinks anyone not a pro cyclist should shut the hell up about doping: yep, we don't all ride. Some of us are dedicated amateurs who suffer on the bike to great personal physical and spiritual--but no monetary-- gain, some of us are just humble armchair tifosi with no athletic talent who admire those who have it and the power and beauty of the sport. Of course we'll weigh in, and of course we've got the right to. Without a sponsor, team, buckets of people whose livelihoods depend on you and your fans that justify you a paycheck, you're just another brilliant recreational rider on a private, personal battle against the cols. We hope you're all clean, even if we harbor no illusions about that likelihood, because we don't want you to die of the crap unregulated products out there or someday, like Pantani, of the pressure, and also because we want our favorite riders, for whatever petty biased noble or ridiculous reasons they become that way, who may be clean or want to be, to have a fair shake at the podium. So slam us for our naivete or ignorance--fair enough, we're not on the team bus, alone in a hotel room with a syringe and a choice to make, at the beck and call of a hundred people, or sitting in a doctor's office with our livelihood on our minds. But if you don't want our opinions, garbage as they may well be, to be out there, choose a private relationship with your bike and the road instead!

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