Monday, April 30, 2007

Cancel the Tour

P.I.M.P.: All right, so Ivan Basso's sudden post-Bruyneel-meeting "resignation" from Discovery pretty well makes him look as guilty as hell, even putting aside that yesterday his most skilled and ardent defender, brilliant lawyer o' the gods Massimo Martelli, while still denying most of the Basso allegations could only manage to gack up an uninspiring "we will see" when it comes to the actual Fuentes blood bags (and I can't imagine how it helps to have hired Jan Ullrich's lawyer over in Spain, as he couldn't keep the boy's blood bags away from the Germans, but one can only do so much). And it's very sweet and diplomatic of Basso, one must concede, to say he was resigning from Discovery totally "voluntarily" and only because "the team's trying to find a new sponsor" and his situation is "a distraction" from that and the fine bike riding they are putting in this year. Indeed, Bruyneel himself maintains that no-one there wanted Basso to leave, though as I recall he'd actually started imprinting his boot on Basso's shapely spandex @#$ the second the CONI investigation reopened.

But all that is total @#$%^&*, kids--you're a spineless sellout wuss, Bruyneel! Why? Because Johan and Discovery wasted no time pimping Basso alone and unprotected to the authorities, and immediately began covering themselves against any forthcoming legal action by anyone in the most weaselly technical lawyer language imaginable--and I say that with a mixture of disgust and respect, seeing it often as one of the loathed profession-- cannily claiming "we did our due diligence," i.e., Basso's a lying SOB we never once suspected ever might've doped, and no-one like us would ever, ever have something to do with anyone like him if we ever, ever had any clue whatsoever he wasn't the shining prince we so genuinely believed him to be.

Are you @#$damned kidding me, Discovery? And don't give that innocent til proven guilty wah-wah--there's an absolute difference between a necessarily careful and thorough adjudication by a neutral body that someone is, and a reasonable suspicion and willful denial from a potential and incredibly self-interested team that he might be. Op Puerto takes down Manolo Saiz, Eufemiano Fuentes, and the entirety of Liberty Seguros, Gilberto Simoni is calling Ivan a fraud and an 'extraterrestri' during the Giro (though I still don't think that's why Basso won by 12 minutes), and when Basso is subsequently implicated as a possible Fuentes patient he's barred along with half the other guys worth watching from riding the Tour. He denies any involvement, as is his right, and gets his lawyer on the case, as any sensible person would do. Meanwhile, though, the teams are freakin' out, then Landis gets busted, everyone goes into paranoid bunker mode as Pat "Dick" McQuaid and Dick "Dick" Pound go on a blood-lust inquisition rampage, Phonak goes down in flames, half of Liberty can't find jobs, Basso's lawyer is reduced to claiming that his dog is being entirely slandered as Birillo isn't even the pup's name, Bjarne Riis throws Basso completely off the bus and works poor Carlos Sastre into an exhausted nub the rest of the season, even the riders start howling for DNA samples for heck's sake, the sponsor-losing teams swear on their gentlemanly honor they won't hire anyone implicated in Op Puerto, Spain indicates that their weak antidoping law unfortunately precludes asking any rider for a blood sample, CONI therefore reluctantly closes up shop on the Basso case, and what do you do? Completely screw Levi Leipheimer and the rest of the teams and immediately sign Basso for a sweet 6 million euros with the smug declaration that Ivan will be "happy" to submit DNA samples to "any future open investigation," which totally coincidentally Op Puerto and the CONI inquiry are not and (you wrongly guessed) won't be. So now that Ivan's busted again, where's your upright moral support for your upright moral rider now, hypocrites?

Take No Prisoners: meantime, Floyd Landis, beset by a seemingly endless parade of monstrous wrongs by the incompetent French lab chimps, is now on the attack for a whole 'nother reason: he claims the lab electronically destroyed original records of his tests and that the remaining data may well have been tampered with. Can this repulsive farce get any worse? Let's leave aside whether we're burning a totally innocent man at the stake, instead of a guilty one--how the hell would I know? But the great tragedy here is that thanks to the gross mismanagement and malfeasance of almost everyone involved--from WADA to USADA to UCI to the lab itself--no-one else will truly know (aside from Landis himself that is), either. A just process conducted openly engenders, if still perhaps a minor assortment of paranoid conspiracy theories on both sides, at least some reasonable level of trust that the truth has been well and fairly determined. But here? Never. As it is, if Landis wins, even if he is graciously given back the Tour victory to which he is entitled, there will still always be doubters who will be convinced that Landis got off on some scumly sort of a technicality and Pereiro got jacked. And if Landis loses, there will always be doubt among anyone with half a conscience as to whether an innocent man's gone down in flames. Either way the sport--let alone the riders, the teams, the tifosi, and Landis--loses. Clean house already, and give us a system and a result we can respect!

He's the One They Call Dr. Feelgood: finally, according to an additional 6000 page Fuentes dossier, another 49 riders in the peloton are now implicated in Op Puerto, making a grand total of 107 riders who, according to ASO director Christian "Oh Man, Should I Really Have Said This?" Prudhomme, shouldn't be at the start line at the Tour de France in July. For that matter, if if Prudhomme isn't a raging hypocrite (which I'm inclined to think he might be if, say, any French squad or riders turn up on the list), he'll also have to kick out the entirety of Quick Step (due to current allegations of systematic doping by their anonymous rider) and T-Mobile (due to an ex-soigneur saying the current team docs engaged in doping as far back as the Telekom days--oops, so much for the team's 2007 UCI Guardian of Purity (tm) Award!). Which, out of 180 riders that annually start the Tour, leaves us, by my reckoning, with a pathetic 55 or so--hardly enough to get us through the prologue, much less 3 weeks in the mountains, no? Take out the truly freakish proportion of the peloton with Therapeutic Use Exemptions for completely coincidentally oxygen-carrying performance-enhancing asthma drugs, and we've got, frankly, virtually no-one left. Hmmmm, maybe set up a bunch of wheezing ex-pro directeur sportifs to pitch in for the ride? Nope, can't do that, either--Quick Step's Lefevere and CSC's Bjarne Riis have also been whacked with career-doping rumors they've barely bothered to dispute. Well, you might find a few unpromising tykes on tricycles who haven't been busted for doping yet....

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