Friday, June 29, 2007

The Lumberjack Song

I'm a Lumberjack and I'm Okay: yes indeed, in the wake of being smacked out of the German national championships, Jorg "Who, Me?" Jaksche has decided it's time to sing, and his lawyer gleefully assures us that not only has he himself decided to confess to the doping he somehow mistakenly said he never did in Monday's Der Spiegel, but he's ready to fell half the peloton along with himself, and name every sap who's had the misfortune to encounter him on the way to the doctor's office. Watch out management! Word of caution: having also sworn to pimp yourself to WADA UCI and everyone else who'll take a piece of you, Jorg, can you please not go *too* unbearably Jesus Manzano on us, and just get a nice quiet job somewhere as a blameless Directeur Sportif like every other cheating filthy skank?

You *Still* Blow, Bjarne!: and, CSC's finalized its Tour roster, which, while happily letting in Dave Zabriskie, and of course the usual suspects like we love Jens Voigt and O'Grady, has completely crappily left poor we love Bobby Julich out in the dust. Y'know, it's his last year in the peloton. He's a mentor to the younger riders; a mellow presence in the midst of your roiling cesspool of a troubled team; both a Classics and a Grand Tour stalwart; a damn good time trialist; and he can *still* set a blistering pace for his team leader when he's called on. He's had some crap luck this season but also shown some pretty decent form, and he's about the only guy in the field you can count on to actually be having a stomach ailment when he's claiming one the day before a doping control. And this is thanks and the @#$%y farewell to his fabulous career you give him Bjarne you total son of a !@#$%?! Bite me!

A Little Late to the Party: and, I note that Danilo di Luca, scheduled for the Italian Inquisition on July 5th, has now grandly signed the UCI Purity Pledge right when he's guaranteed not to need it for the Tour, expressing astonishment that any rider wouldn't sign this eminently reasonable promise, and that naturally, the entire hoo-ha over his chilling in a dope-prepping doctor's office right after he got a phone call imploring him to come take his EPO before the control-evasion window closed was merely some sort of misunderstanding about coming by for a shot of espresso. Good luck Killer--if CONI finally caved and went after national treasure/pinup studmuffin Ivan Basso, I think you're really gonna need it!

Perry Mason Rides Again: finally, big points for Discovery guru Johan Bruyneel, righteously insisting that of course every one of his fine and spotless riders is proud to sign the official UCI Invitation to Perjury, while at the same time pointing out that--not like this matters or anything--but he's confident it's not legally binding on anyone. Um, not to bring up any bad memories Johan, but didn't this same overconfident philosophy rather come back to bite you in the !@# with Ivan Basso and the ProTour "No Op Puerto Riders" agreement?

I'm Too Sexy For My Shirt...

...So Sexy It Hurts: well, it's a good thing that Danilo DiLuca's got a new gig strutting the catwalk for fashion house Byblos, because it sure doesn't look good for his cycling career that he was both recorded (1) cheerfully discussing his need for an immediate EPO injection with his doc over the phone and (2) filmed in the waiting room while said drug pimp prepped the syringes (which at least thankfully doesn't further downgrade the increasingly weak Tour de France roster, as I believe he was planning to ride elsewhere for even more embarrassing sums of cash.) And our pal Eddy Mazzoleni? Yes, Astana and its Tour squad takes another whack, as he too gets called on the CONI carpet for having the breathtaking lack of discretion to text the same doc about his doping needs. Y'know, eventually Astana's just gonna run out of firepower here, which if crap luck for Vinokorouv at least raises the possibility that someone else might get within half an hour of the podium at the Tour (lame as that race will be, at this rate). Your one-team antidoping crusade is going great, Vino!

Monday, Monday: well, it's not like Alessandro Petacchi's got anything else to do next week, like, say, train for the Tour, which is lucky cause he gets to spend all next Monday answering questions about the same Therapeutic Use Exemption that UCI has been all to happy to grant him and every other rider who gacks up a polite cough for the officials like so much sprinkled fairy dust. Y'know, I have limited sympathy for dopers, particularly the wah-wahing "I'm sorry I was caught with a needle in my @#$" types (you know who you are!), but given that the date of the Tour de France isn't exactly a big freakin' mystery, and, for example, the Mazzoleni scandal has been lying around gathering dust for 3 years now, might the prosecutors and assorted cycling feds try getting in gear a reasonable period ahead of time so that at least the riders know if they oughta be training for a post-stage-win podium-babe-infused champagne spray, or sitting at home in front of the TV in a funk scarfing beer and frantically consulting their lawyers?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I Love A Parade

I Flit, I Fly: yes, with UCI having sworn inaction on the Op Puerto blood bags until after the Tour de France, the riders are all now flocking to sign the organization's idiot Virginity Pledge, serene in the knowledge that, even if they were stupid enough to leave a bucket of their bodily fluids with Eufemiano "King of Meticulous Recordkeeping" Fuentes with their dog's name slapped on the name tag, they can continue their dope-soaked pursuit of victory and blaze across the line with an arms-raised triumph at the Tour without any threat it'll be taken away from them, even if they are forced to hand over their DNA someday in the unlikely event they're busted, til long after anyone cares about anything but that they've taken a stage win at the Greatest Show on Earth. A sweet deal for all concerned, I must say! Meantime, the riders continue to be split on the issue even as their own teams brass-knuckle them into mute lemming compliance, with even eternally-laid-back Dave Zabriskie raising polite concerns about the accuracy of positive test results--why, after the perfectly handled Landis matter, who would doubt that?-- and a disgusted Fabian Cancellara openly (and rightly) calling the whole idea "truly stupid" and our hero Pat "Dick" McQuaid "a godfather." And, in a development guaranteed to both turn Astana even more paranoid and screw Andreas Kloden's podium prospects even further, Matthias Kessler has had to be suspended for "anomalous" testosterone results while everyone waits for the inevitable confirmation by the B sample. At the same time, Alessandro Petacchi was called on the carpet over at CONI today over his little overtreatment-of-asthma problem, responding with the excellent defense of "You guys have always allowed me to snort enough salbutamol to stun a rhino, why the problem with it now?" and "But guys--it really, really works!" Well done Ale-Jet!

CSC You In Hell, Bjarne!: so at the same moment that Zabriskie is expressing optimism that he'll hit the start line in London, cyclingnews is paradoxically reporting that the boy is not only not on the confirmed CSC start list, he's not even on the roster of 4 slugging it out for the last two spots, which raises the questions, (1) what (or--no, I better not go there) the hell *do* you have to do to get a gig besides taking stages in each Grand Tour, wearing and defending the maillot jaune, and building power and showing good current form in the mountains and (2) why the @#$% are Zabriskie and Bobby Julich of all people having to compete with Lars freakin' Bak (no offense) for a slot at all? (And if you're going to come up with some bull@#$$ about saving them for the Vuelta, you can doubly bite me--I'm tired of every goddamn team using it as a dumping ground for every non-Spaniard deemed unfit to play with the big boys in Paris, a monstrous diss to a magnificent race.) Anyhow, not to doubt your brilliance here Bjarne, but you blow!

Le Teams: and, while Discovery belatedly throws a party for the wholly deserving Levi Leipheimer after 9 consecutive months of kicking him right in the nuts, Saunier Duval has, I note happily, thrown its weight (but not so hard as to scare him) behind we love Iban Mayo in the mountains, with, sadly, a concurrent vote of confidence for St. David Millar in the London opener. Y'know, I hardly ever wish anyone ill results, even if, like with the tiresome Millar, my baser instincts might lean that way. So am I still going straight to Hades if I sincerely wish Millar the race of his life in the time trial, and that everyone else in the peloton including the hopeless Euskaltel utterly crushes him?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Things that Make You Go Hmm...and, the Tour Teams

Nice Timing!: So, Gazzetta dello Sport is just reporting that Gilberto Simoni has become the first Italian to sign UCI's ludicrous antidoping pledge--given the known annoyance of your countrymen, watch your back from now on, Gibo!--totally coincidentally I'm sure right as the news broke that he, DiLuca, Ricco' and Mazzoleni have freakish testosterone irregularities, which also rather begs the question of how UCI actually expects to get a year's salary out Simoni if he's only busted once he quits the ProTour later this season and heads off to the hills on his mountain bike. Between that and blowing his Saunier Duval bucks on an attorney to break that meaningless promise, good luck getting any money out of him UCI! Meantime, I remain deeply fond of Simoni, not only because it's theoretically possible he actually hasn't cheated (shut up! is too), but because even if he did, he both verbally abused Ivan Basso in the face of massive swooning fan madness despite the serious threat to his life and limb, and kicked ass at this year's Giro, thereby putting him up on, say, Roberto Heras' quieter, but equally beloved, pedestal. Do what you gotta do to appease these two-faced moronothons over at UCI, Gilberto--we love you anyway!

Le Teams, Le Tour: so, I'm sorting out my faves for the Tour, assuming half of them aren't gone next week (and I'm frankly assuming the Tour won't have the !@#$s to do it), and my thoughts have lightly turned from the individual boys to the teams. Who's the one to beat? Assuming for the moment that Astana, objectively the best ship in the fleet, will indeed sink under the weight of its Battle of the Egos, for my money, it's still CSC, despite the unfortunate fact that possibly alone among the ProTour their riders' blood profiles are apparently all within normal human parameters (particularly given that dear Sastre's Tour de Suisse time trial wasn't the hideous disaster it might've been), because T-Mobile's still reeling from their damn stupid, if morally superior, jettisoning of Jan Ullrich and Andreas Kloden, Caisse d'Epargne's been too busy trying to rein in presumptive '06 king (sorry, Floyd--I do still think it *should* be you) Oscar Pereiro's cycle of celebration and Tour-stolen misery to help Valverde fend off the press vultures, Cunego's still a bit sleepy from the Giro, Saunier Duval can't afford to put any GC pressure on psychologically fragile flower we love Iban Mayo, the sprint teams are universally useless for anything else, and Discovery's been smacked by Lance's diss and Ivan Basso's loss (redeemed leader Levi likely excepted, despite the endless good sport that he is) into total demoralized submission. Pull it together Thor, and give me a reason to at least watch the flats, and please, someone from Euskaltel keep me guessing in the mountains!

Amuse Bouche of the Day: was anyone else cracking up when Oscar Sevilla won in Relax colors over at Ruta del Sud, only to be egregiously dope-slapped by the petty whining of the other riders that they had lost to someone 'tainted' by Op Puerto? Who the hell else do you think you're gonna be riding with in two weeks, you babies, and how many of you wah-wahing hypocrites are on the damn list yourself if UCI would only bestir themselves to read it?

Finally: I must say my heart rather goes out to fellow race fanatics like racer blue squirrel, who've sworn, from sheer love of the sport, not to mention doping ever again. (Much as I admire it, I cannot emulate it, sworn to both sleaze and glory as I am.) Hell, are any pro cycling newbies even aware the Tour de France is a bike race, vs. a series of pit stops for dope-pumped blood transfusions in a series of attractive French villages?

And a Post-Finally "You Suck!": to the German cycling fed for booting we love Erik Zabel out of the Worlds under pressure by some wanky Ministry of Total Unmitigated Toolishness, on the grounds that he, alone among the German riders (the rest of whom, as we know, are busy doping right n...oh, forget it, why ask for trouble?), doped for a week 10 freakin' years ago. Let's face it guys, Zabel's the *least* of your problems--can we land on Planet Reality here and aim for some targets really worth taking out?

Le Tour, Mon Amour; and, Dammit Gibo!

Simoni Non E Uomo, E' Ragazzo: just when I thought I could relax and enjoy my relatively untainted Giro, comes the deep consternation of the Italian cycling fed on the "extremely bizarre" results of Danilo Di Luca, Eddy Mazzoleni, Ricardo Ricco' and Gilberto Simoni, who apparently showed levels of testosterone akin to those of "prepubescent boys" on the stage to Zoncolan, a day when one might reasonably conclude they actually needed some, and the concurrent demand that UCI turn over their blood profiles. The concern? Not for their manhood--for the presence of masking agents such levels typically indicate. Dammit, can't any of you clowns give me *one* day's rest from this crap? And while we're at it Simoni--your time trialing *still* sucked--if you're going to dope, can't you at least improve enough to justify it? Luckily, on the eve of a Tour that UCI and the race organizers are desperate to let the contenders in, the same policy of disgusting avoidance will likely apply to the Giro as well, as there seems to be a study about showing that riders' testosterone levels routinely drop like rocks for no reason. @#$%^%!

Le Tour, I Swear: so after Andreas Kloden completely smoked the time trial at Tour de Suisse, my question is, does Vino really mean it when he claims "there won't be any problems" and he'll "work for whoever's stronger on the road" at the Tour? After all, we're talking a guy who (1) got jacked out of the Tour last year and (2) is getting a little long in the tooth in Grand Tour years, and (3) *two* guys with a truly impressive history of bushwhacking their own team leader at the Tour (hi Jan!). My guess is that a paranoid desperate Vinokorouv, especially with a Kazakh consortium backing him, absolutely won't let Kloden off the leash except for a non-GC-threatening stage win, to both reward a proven podium finisher so he doesn't look too scrimy about it (and, to be fair, as a generally just Vinokorouv is typically wont to do) and to keep Kloden from open rebellion in the mountains. Y'know, I'm sorry Vino took the hit for Liberty Seguros (particularly since he probably oughta be taking the hit for T-Mobile), but despite his clear superiority in almost everything and the almost embarassing way he took the Vuelta, I'm rooting for Kloden on this one--plus, let's face it, this coming Tour could already use some excitement. You've got Matthias Kessler with your back--a worthy foil to Vino's Kashechkin--don't take any crap Andreas!

Bite me, Bjarne!: While we're on the subject of the Tour, is anyone else surprised as I am that we love Dave Zabriskie is still in limbo regarding his place on CSC's Tour squad? Fine, Riis needs some firepower in the mountains (where Zabriskie performed surprisingly well of late), and Cancellara has, and deserves, his backing in the time trials (where Zabriskie hasn't exactly bitten Bjarne!). But he's had a decent season, and he's won stages in the Tour and worn the maillot jaune for heck's sake--free Zabriskie!

A Last Lament: finally, with Valverde's status in some doubt, nearly every other rider worth watching retired or banned for doping, and Thor Hushovd in crap form and barring some miraculous reversal no contester for any of the sprints, I'm fearing that this is going to be one major snoozer of a Tour. Anyone else thinking we oughta just let Ullrich Basso Mancebo and Landis in, maybe at the base of a few climbs and Ullrich again at the time trials, just to shake up the peloton a bit?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Abandon Ship!

Captain My @#$!: boy, could Lance Armstrong, in between bouts of decrying his own innocence yet again now that the same French book from last year's been recycled into English, have bailed on the sinking ship (the day's events at Suisse excepted) that is Discovery any faster? First, he slags their crap performance in the Dauphine (even after Levi's late pre-crash resurgence); then, he says he's only going to show at the Tour for the Prologue, in favor of an immediate US return for a more-exciting celebrity golf tourney, and he'll come back for the rest of it only if it looks like The Team that Lance Built won't totally humiliate him, I mean, itself. Way to motivate the troops there Lance!

Now, my take is that this is just Lance being Lance--bad enough he's not riding himself for the cameras, but if Discovery can't stuff his voracious ego by making him look like a producer of superstars, as usual with anyone who betrays him, like Heras, Hamilton, or Landis, he's got no use whatsoever for their sorry !@#es. Man, no wonder dog-loyal lieutenant Hincapie is rumored to be talking to T-Mobile! But it's been suggested to me that Lance is simply dropping the team because of his personal golden-boy Basso's debacle--that Bruyneel actually might not've ever wanted Basso over Leipheimer due to Op Puerto, though I'm inclined to doubt that simply for the cash-cow factor in Lance's dreamboat poster boy, and he didn't for example have any problem signing tainted baby prodigy Alberto Contador and sprint hope Allan Davis from Liberty Seguros--and, if my notoriously lame Italian is correct, Basso sez he's actually never lost touch with Lance, that they're texting, which, without being privy to the messages of course, seems a lot nicer than Lance usually is to his exes, in that at least he's not openly gesturing to Basso to shove it a la Landis at the Tour de Georgia. Anyhow, is anyone else thinking that Lance's "Doping is the Tool of Pathetic Satan-Slurped Weaklings" routine is the slightest bit undercut by his continued support of an admitted 'attempted' doper?

Rider Revolt: meantime, the snarking over UCI's Virginity Pledge continues, with first the Italian cyclists' fed, and now the entire riders' group, ripping into the meaningless pre-Tour show-pony for the farce that it is, particularly since, as usual, the same fakers who organize races that encourage them to dope are now demanding that they forfeit their salaries if they essentially do what they're told, and more, that the camera-glomming publicity sluts in spandex who coincidentally parked themselves at the press conference with pen, paper and smug grins in hand completely jacked and betrayed their brethren. And the haunted (and hunted) among them? Well, Alejandro Valverde is particularly irked at any suggestion he's been linked to Op Puerto (unsurprisingly, given the lengths the Spaniards have gone to to reassure their top Tour GC contender that he won't be), and even more annoyed by the idea that anyone should have to give up money in the unlikely event they actually test positive for anything. Somehow I wouldn't actually worry too much about that happening, Alejandro--at least not to you! While we're at it, Jorg Jaksche, lately fired along with Hamilton and Hondo by a bizarrely outraged Oleg "How Many Dopers Can You Fit Into a Single Team Bus" Tinkov but still mysteriously continuing to compete and win in Tinkoff team kit (and now under investigation for contract fraud, just like Jan), has no intention of signing on to UCI's idiot invitation-to-perjury purity promise, and I gotta say, guilty as he probably is, I'm with Jorg on this one--why not just lie yourself to WADA directly, and avoid the tiresome middleman entirely?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Here Come the Men In Black

The Pink Panther Strikes Again: In an astonishing reversal of their determination not to nail anyone for doping pre-Tour, UCI has announced that they've been tailing an incredible 6 or 7 "well-known riders", brought under suspicion by the nefarious act in the high passes without their team kits, in an obvious and wily (but not wily enough, you fools!) attempt to draw suspicion away from their open and notorious doping practices. Well, that's "6 or 7" out of 107 implicated in Op Puerto who're gonna be barred from the Tour--let's forget about everyone else in Quick Step and, frankly, most of the rest of the peloton--a fine and comprehensive job by UCI, I must say! Does *anyone* see the sense or justice in excluding 6 or 7 riders who are actually entertaining to watch in favor of keeping 100 completely stoked second-tier contenders and guys whose main job is schlepping back to the team car to stuff their jerseys full of water bottles for their team like some ignominious camel?

The Reaction: interestingly, and having nothing to fear I'm sure, the boys in baby blue over at Astana, led natch by clean freak Alexander "oops, I better ditch Godefroot...oops, I better ditch my personal doctor..." Vinokorouv, immediately flipped out out of nowhere and having been actually accused of nothing, issuing a frantic press release that if their riders ever trained out of team kit it was to avoid the stalking fanatic tifosi who haunted them by car inch-by-inch as they trained up the Cote d'Azur. Feeling twitchy, are we? I'm certain it's just the normal pre-Tour nerves. Just move along now--nothing to see here, you Looky Lous!

Spanish Fly: Meantime, the Germans, French, and Belgians, none of whose riders have ever doped, went ballistic over at the UCI/ProTour meeting at the suggestion that Alejandro Valverde was clean enough to ride, at least if no-one got around to reading the Op Puerto file, which resulted in UCI's brave reversal and decision to...let Alejandro ride anyway, plus most everybody else from Liberty Seguros, including Discovery's Allan Davis and Alberto Contador, which begs the question (or just the rant), you completely screwed we love Joseba Beloki you repulsive cowardly clowns, now go find him a contract and the suitcase full of cash he deserves, you !@#$%#s! Naturally, unemployed sad-sack/media whore Jesus Manzano immediately went on the attack, saying that in 2002 Alejandro meandered into dinner with a testosterone patch brazenly displayed on his arm, and while we're at, his many current friends in the peloton, apparently eager to get their own !@#es investigated by UCI, are constantly complaining to Manzano that while of course they are all still doping, they are cruelly and unjustly obliged to be more discreet now. Cry me a river, boys! And Jesus--doped or not, he's still better than you ever were--accept the cold hard truth and just let it rest now, willya?

While we're at it, if all these dope-snarfing skeezbags are really gonna be allowed to ride the Tour unquestioned so long as they have a team doc or soigneur with the savvy to beat the tests-- unless they're one of the newly-tracked "6 or 7" that UCI suddenly has some petty targeted grudge against, thereby showing even their latest antidoping crusade to be a total farce--I'm wondering why, in the interests of fair play, they oughtn't *all* just be allowed to play in Paris. Hell, let's bring Floyd, Jan, and Basso back in, too! Sure, they lack contracts and a team--but that's again the injustice of selective enforcement--so why not just hand 'em over to the still-unemployed boys from Liberty and let 'em all wild-card in as a supergroup? Don't give me this "but we promise to bar *somebody* from the Prologue" crap, UCI--fair is fair!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Not Any of the Cyclists, I Imagine: as UCI strikes a staggering blow for impotence, irrelevance and self-interest, and against concrete action over any rider who matters, by...oooooooh, making the riders sign a statement saying they're not doping ahead of the Tour de France! And of course, to add to the pain, they're also gonna publish a list on the UCI website of who's signed and who hasn't. I don't know about you, but I were an amoral stoked cheat in the peloton paying thousands of euros to scarf stuff I know is banned, the shame of a lie-by-dotted-line and publication on a list on a website even the hard-care cycling fanatics don't read, plus the highly limited likelihood of testing poz for anything barring a grievous miscalculation by any given rider's Dr. Feelgood, will sure scare me off practices that could net me millions of euros in contracts and endorsements!

On the plus side, UCI's also asking signatories to "agree" to forfeit a year's salary if they're later busted--leading natch to the ridiculous possibility that one of my amnesty-post suggestions might actually unknowingly be adopted--though how that provides an incentive to sign without it simply being a mandatory penalty for everyone caught doping is a mystery to me. Frankly, could the pro-cheating (or at least willfully blind) among the ProTour teams have dreamed of a better deal than this?

So, between this exceedingly lame project, and UCI's outright acknowledgement that no-one much is gonna be barred from the start line no matter who from Op Puerto or Quick Step deserves to be, it looks like, Basso and Ullrich (and now Serguei Gonchar) excepted of course, we're gonna have a hell of a competitive lineup for the Tour, and if we're very, very lucky, maybe 1 of 100 users will actually get caught during the post-stage doping controls. Heck, why not just pick a solo scapegoat randomly this year, instead of going through all the potentially embarrassing lab-screwup hoo-ha a la Landis you might encounter during an actual test?

Monday, June 18, 2007

UCI Can't Believe What Simps They Are

Spanish Punks On Dope: yes, UCI, in its fearless crusade against the evil that is illicit performance enhancement, has managed to provide a free ride for every doper scum-cheat who might possibly have a good shot at the podium at the Tour de France, except Ivan Basso, the ever-dope-slapped Jan Ullrich, and of course the possibly-not-even-guilty-and-already-disproportionately-punished Floyd Landis, cheerfully reassuring the skittish ProTour DSes that they "don't have time" to read all the Op Puerto documents before the Tour, so besides the aforementioned scapegoats and the incredibly yanked Saiz-pimped elder statesmen from Liberty Seguros (free Joseba!), everyone else is off the hook at least til after the finish line in Paris. Your 'stomach problems' can all improve now, boys!

Frankly, the blustering skanks at UCI make me sick, and for any of these mudsucking snakes to claim they really care about eliminating doping is a farce beyond belief. I'm no Einstein--hell, I'm hardly the Count from Sesame Street--but it seems to me that if you hire 60 quasi-literate Neanderthals and sit 'em down in a reasonably well-lit room with a cooler of Red Bull, they can each be handed 100 documents, a yellow highlighter, and a list of rider names for comparison, and blow through 6000 pages of Op Puerto file in no time. And you've had the docs for a month already, you clowns--that forces your lackeys to a Dr. Seuss-reader rate of only a little more than 3 freakin' pages a day. You don't have 'time'?--you don't have the desire, suck it up and admit it!

Gone But Not Forgotten: speaking of Prince Charming--and conceding that, while he certainly did deserve what he got, he certainly didn't deserve it any more than all the other riders who aren't getting it--the always-tranquillo Basso's sworn to come back big in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, and, with the support of his loving wife and friends in the peloton who shall remain nameless, has promised his little bambina that he will return to win the Giro yet again. What's more, he did so tell the Italian cycling fed everything he knew, and, in response to a surprising question from the wisenheimers at Gazzetta, amiably agreed that his beloved dog Birillo is always with him. A small but promising start to repairing the damage you've done to his blameless puppy name, Ivan--now if you'll only cop to what everything thinks you ought to cop to!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Amnesty International

The Elephant In the Room: so I've been agonizing for weeks over where I come down on the whole punishment for doping thing, particularly after Shameless St. Millar Defender's thoughtful comments on amnesty, except for my obvious belief that everyone who constantly whores themselves for the cameras post-wah-wah-I'm-busted-Oprah-confessional should fry in the seventh circle of hell and everyone who shuts up and does their job, by contrast, should get off scot-free, and my frankly lowlife belief that everyone I just don't like is fit to hit the flames and everyone I like, shouldn't. But even leaving aside my more barbarian instincts, it seems to me we can't even begin to frame this discussion realistically unless we deal with a fundamental, and highly uncomfortable, truth: if we're really gonna ban everyone who's currently guilty of doping from riding, we're not gonna have a single damn race worth racing for at least 10 years, because the entire current generation of setting, shining, and rising stars is going to have to be flat @#$%^%$ banned from the peloton, and we're all gonna be stuck watching two bonking neo-pros from some half-@#$ed incompetent day-old continental squad desperately sucking the wheels of the team cars in the hope of even making the first 100 meters of the Alpe d'Huez without dropping dead of exhaustion. So the question is, if we're not willing to show the spine and true love for fair sport to do that, exactly how far are we really willing to go?

Thus, a humble proposal, which I'll surely start disagreeing with myself before I'm even halfway done with it:

1. 1990s and before: from catching trains during stages to smoking cigarettes to increase oxygen consumption to the greats' recent revelations of popping amphetamines like Skittles, cheating has a long, storied, if occasionally fatal history in this sport, and everyone's always been looking for an edge, particularly one the medieval testing protocols are far too stupid to catch. Amnesty for everyone, including those insufferable hypocrites Bjarne Riis and Patrick "Dick" Lefevere, from 1999 on back. On a purely selfish note, this also has the convenient side effect of completely exonerating we love Erik Zabel, who proved just today in the Tour de Suisse that it doesn't matter what the hell Daniele Bennati's snarfing on the team bus, experience still counts for something. Can we all let Pantani rest in peace now?

2. 2000-2005: You've got one year, count 'em, one, to come forward and mug for the press corps right now. That includes you Armstrong. Anyone else busted after that--and I don't mean by Jesus Manzano or some broke-ass soigneur with a grudge to get off his chest and a family to support by whining about people who can actually ride--gets a two-year ban. This will ensure that it doesn't matter much to those in the twilight of their careers, the youngsters will still have time for some late-career wins on their return, and those at the peak of their powers will still be able to put in some good results as they move up a generation.

3. 2006-2007: Let's face it, between Quick Step, Op Puerto, and rumors of a sexy new lab in Valencia, everyone remotely worth watching right now (fine, except Millar, Jesus!) is either stoked to the gills, or being led by someone who spent his entire career stoked to the gills and is also a helpless victim of mass amnesia regarding the doping totally coincidentally going on by the riders right in front of them. Therefore, since justice in terms of substantive bans is frankly out of the question at this point, I propose a nice clean penalty that everyone can understand: money:
--Race Organizers: yeah, that's right, you, Grand Tours, and the rest of you disingenuous weasels. Apropos of nothing, anyone else watch the Dauphine this week--7 categorized climbs in one stage, which you apparently expect to be completed at a pace somewhere above a stoned crawl, and you lying sacks of @#$% who organize all these races are still trying to claim you don't want people doping? Please. You get *one* queen stage, and you don't get to try to snake out of it with 3k of flat after a giant number of mountains and call it a "sprint." More'n that, the whining riders association gets to go on strike and fix the stage, and you forfeit 50% of revenue that year.
--Sponsors: forfeit of one year's cycling revenue, and no advertising--banners, flags, giant inflatable arches, names plastered on rider's garish spandex bodies--at any cycling events for two years, so even after everyone's moved on to the next dirty scandal and forgotten you, you've still got a year to feel the hurt.
--Directeur Sportifs and General Managers: any one of your boys turns up positive, you automatically forfeit a year's salary. What's more, you're banned from earning a similar salary at any other management capacity for a year, and any money you try to make pimping your own proteges in a book deal automatically goes to the current ProTour leader's team, second place if it's yours. I'd also, as a perpetual proletarian rabble-rouser, like to see you demoted to being one of the brilliant mechanics or degraded soigneurs you constantly @#$! on, but in the spirit of conciliation, and the knowledge that you're all telling the truth when you've never noticed or encouraged anyone doping anytime anywhere ever, I'll settle for cold hard cash.
--Riders: any of you turns up positive, or is definitively linked to doping despite your suppliers' canny ability to keep you safe, you forfeit a year's salary, all endorsements deals are cancelled, and after you retire or otherwise suddenly suffer an incurable career-ending ailment in humiliation, you can't be a full-fledged DS for a year. Enjoy your 12 months of towel duty, boys--you earned it! Bonus penalty: any jerkface who let that oily tool Fuentes slander their innocent dogs by using them as code names forfeits an extra 6 months' pay.
--Soigneurs, Couriers, and Assorted Hangers-On: no book deals. Othern' that, you're probably the most sympathetic out of this entire tainted bunch, but given the likelihood you'll get fired anyway, you might polish up your resumes preemptively.

4. 2008 on: one strike and you're out. I've had it.

5. UCI and WADA: no coddling your own. First xenophobic son-of-a-!@#$% to make a nationalistic slur against another rider, team or their governing body while protecting their own under the exact same circumstances wears the rival team kit and/or national flag apparel for 12 months at all public appearances.

Now, of course this won't ever stop doping, and of course it's not fair that some guilty saps will continue to get caught and some will, well, win the Grand Tours and other races without ever being held to account. That's justice for you, striving yet ever-imperfect. But with any luck, we can keep on with this pleasant trend of late of fewer healthy 23-year-old newbies dropping dead of undiagnosed "heart problems", and, if not clean up the show, at least keep the infestation under some control. Now it's time for the Tour--allez!

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Quick and the Dead

The Hunt for Red October: yep, as everyone now knows, 10/24/08 is the date of Ivan Basso's return to the peloton, at least to some crap Continental squad that can't do him justice 'til he's too creaky and bloated to be a serious ProTour threat, despite lawyer Massimo Martelli's impassioned plea that, between losing his Tour with CSC and his subsequent contract with Discovery, the boy's already served 7 months of his sentence anyway, upon which Basso was duly given credit for 236 days served--pretty sweet, but not enough. Oh Massimo. Even you, in your brilliance, could only do so much. Hell, even Einstein couldn't solve *all* the mysteries of the universe! Anyway, the reason for the supermax penalty, according to the Italian cycling fed? Classic snake oil--Basso promised to take down everyone with him in exchange for a deal, and only turned over some inconsequential half-assed hanger-on Fuentes courier instead. Right, that's exactly who they were looking for, you weaselly nit! That, and his regoddamndiculous "I smoked, but I didn't inhale" defense couldn't have helped either. Sorry Ivan--as fellow pretty-boy strongman Jan Ullrich can tell you, pouting your comely lips for the cameras can only get you so far--and you still got a hell of a lot farther than Jan did!

As for the Basso tifosi loyalists, still clinging to the sheer walls of the Dolomites in the hope their hero will ride by once more with the clearly inferior and equally culpable Simoni gasping on his wheel? Well, skimming Gazzetta dello Sport's comments pages, it looks about 10-to-1 strongly in favor of beating the crap out of anyone who dares to question his rightful supremacy and demanding his immediate return to the road, with so far only one lone, heartbroken "biggest fan" meekly conceding, "giusto." You need money, Ivan? I think you've got a "Fairness Fund" for the taking right here! Still and all, besides being obliged to rather admire Ivan for his (public) grace and humility in defeat, I've gotta say, his knee-jerk defenders have a point that he's not the only Italian who oughta be taking the fall for this filth-ridden crackhouse of a sport, and for my money, the whole leadership's arbitrary scattershot approach to crime and punishment is total bull!@#$. I mean, Francisco freakin' Mancebo might get to ride the !@#$%&* Tour, but Basso and Ullrich do not?

Sue 'em all, Iban!!: Meantime, I'm delighted to note that as quickly as he was named, we love-and-fully-expect-to-take-another-mountain-stage-in-the-Tour this year Iban Mayo was officially cleared of doping related to his fluctuating testosterone levels at the Giro, and, in a double shocker, thereby proving that (1) in a rare situation with a rider they don't have a petty vicious schoolyard vendetta against (cough! Landis! cough!), UCI can actually show some fairness and (2) we now have incontrovertible proof that at least one cyclist in the pro peloton isn't doping (yeah, I know, you cynics, at least not with testosterone). Now crush those slandering scumsucking hack newspaper bastards Iban, and if you need an English-speaking lawyer, you know who to call!

The Puerto-nic Plague: yes, after a three-hour bloodbath of a meeting, and with the UCI blessedly clearly determined not to read the incriminating Op Puerto documents for cash-cow riders' names ahead of the Tour, the ProTour teams have disingenuously pledged to take down the "under investigation" among them, if for no other reason than to desperately contain the spate of sponsorship bailouts that are leaving the Directeur Sportifs' wallets feeling, well, threatened, with righteous crusader Patrick "Do As I Say, Not As I Do" Lefevere leading the charge against the two sap domestiques that'll actually end up getting kicked out ahead of the start line in London. I'm welling up with the beauty of this scam, truly! Meantime, anyone else notice the rising tide of key Op Puerto (and other scandal)-linked riders suddenly coming down with vague-yet-body-crushing intestinal ailments right before the final rosters, and any riders under suspicion, are announced for the Tour?

Oprah's Book Club: speaking (somewhere in here) of Floyd Landis, keep an eye out for an appearance near you, as Floyd hits the circuit in support of his new tome/revenue source, which apparently rather apologizes for the Therapeutic Use Exemption he snagged for a desperately-needed cortisone shot to his agonized and deteriorating hip socket. Floyd, I don't know what you did and didn't do on Morzine, though I'm inclined to think you didn't do anything. But to even think you need to justify taking a hit for that hip when something like 80% of your compatriots are claiming some kind of total @#$%!(* inability to breathe in and out? Whatever toll the rest of this mess has taken on you, cut yourself some slack already!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Freaks O' Nature

As I Said Yesterday, I Don't Give a Rat's @#$ if Iban Mayo is Doping: yet I still feel like I'm absolutely gonna yack, so apparently I'm not only a hypocrite, but a total failure at shedding the presumed-dead remnants of my pathetic naivete, tho' Iban's spankin' new poz test for elevated testosterone at the Giro is already being blamed (not only by his own hacks, even) on his long-established, UCI-approved wildly swinging hormone levels. Which isn't stopping anyone from checking for exogenous testosterone a la' Floyd, but hey--can't a guy have a little male PMS without everyone treating him like a criminal? As for well-known chronic asthmatics Alessandro Petacchi and Leonardo "Thank God It's Not Simoni" Piepoli, newly poz for salbutamol? Luckily for the boys, (1) they've got the same handy Therapeutic Use Exemption as 90% of the rest of the sickly peloton, including virtuous Tour runner-up Oscar Pereiro and (2) thanks to the total lack of WADA limits on what constitutes unacceptable amounts of asthma drugs, you can apparently take enough of this crap to blast a Chunnel through your chest at the base of any given decisive climb without arousing suspicion. So with virtually every damn rider in the ProTour either a genetic freak, a speed-snarfer, or the sort of delicate gasping flower who can still somehow ride 150 miles a day uphill for 3 weeks without bonking, can anyone explain to me why Landis should get nailed for anything even if he were to slap a thousand testosterone patches on his works right in front of Pat "Dick" McQuaid and Dick "Dick" Pound and a thousand assembled press corps? Anyway, free Iban, and bite me, Euskaltel, you still @#$%ed up firing him!

Dauphine'! Libere'! Fraternite'!: indeed, it's downright dandy to see defending Dauphine champ (considered a climber apparently, though I tend to think of him as more of a time-trialist lately) we love Levi Leipheimer doing so well in the GC, right? Wrong!, according to Johan "Basso Who?" Bruyneel, who's said Levi blew himself for the Tour de France last year actually working hard enough to win the Dauphine and, since he's absolutely always been their solo GC conteder for the Tour, with no-one else ever even considered for the post, he's not gonna let that happen again. Right, because Disco coughed up 6 million euros for Ivan Basso to be some low-rent twink daily schlepping bottles of Gatorade up from the ass-end of the peloton at the team car to the real riders on the team! Y'know, it's great to see Levi not getting completely screwed by Discovery for the first time since Prince Charming bailed out of CSC, and even being supported in his desire for the maillot jaune this year, but aren't you insulting his dignity just a little bit more by your over-pious--and ridiculous--revisionist history spouting every two seconds for the cameras? Keep yappin', Johan!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dope On Wheels

Friday the 13th (well, 15th): it's only a hop-skip-and-a-jump to the surely-productive meeting between UCI and the ProTour teams, designed to reassure the Directeurs Sportif that their GC contenders and higher-level domestiques won't be openly matched to the Op Puerto blood bags til well after the Tour start in Paris, I mean, to join together in valiant combat against the shameful scourge that is doping in time to obliterate it all before the first Maillot Jaune is worn this year. The guarantor of its success? Why, Quick Step Grand Poobah Patrick "Needles? I Thought They Were for Acupuncture" Lefevere, who immediately crowed his delight and dedication at the noble task ahead. I'm reassured, aren't you?

It Ain't Just Cycling Anymore: top Canadian wheelchair marathoner/Sydney multi-medalist Jeff Adams has been busted and banned for 2 years for doping after testing poz for cocaine. Smashing lawyer defense: coke "is not a performance-enhancing drug." So what about the ever- beloved blow-and-heroin cocktail "Pot Belge," back in the news just the other day as the syringe-du-jour of the Quick Step raids? Well, I'm sure it's the heroin that perks you up and propels you over Mont Ventoux at a thousand k an hour...

Le Tour: yes, VeloNews' fine preview issue is out, and big love to legend Bernard Hinault for (1) giving we love Iban Mayo the credit and props he so deserves and (2) pointing out that Euskaltel's flat-out sucked since he left. While my own jury's still out on that for the long haul, given that I fully expect an Haimar Zubeldia-fueled Sammy Sanchez to take to the podium at the Vuelta in August, I'm delighted to see the team smacked nonetheless after their vicious treatment of Iban, particularly considering the beleaguered boy's spiffy late-season-06 results. And speaking of the VeloNews coverage, did anyone on Caisse d'Epargne even bother to give presumptive 06 TdF king (sorry Floyd, even if you're innocent, I still think you're hosed) Oscar "Before Valverde Can Win the Tour, First He's Got to Finish a Tour" Pereiro a heads-up before straight-on announcing Valverde--not Oscar, alone or in combination--as the sole team leader for the Tour, despite the ambitious Pereiro's coy suggestions to the contrary? Okay, he was competing against a bit of a half-assed tier of GC contenders with Basso, Vino and the rest of the Brady Bunch mired in the Op Puerto gulag...still, ouch!

Roberto Heras Suspension Countdown: yep, it's only a few short months til disgraced Vuelta god we love Roberto Heras is back on the market, and he's "confident" (and I'm falling over with desperation) that he'll find a team for 2008. Hell, Jorg Jaksche had no problem getting a job and a pretty sweet salary, and his results were crap in comparison--venga Heras! Now, I realize I'm a completely disgusting hypocrite--like the ones I exceedingly slap around on an average day--for slagging boys like Ivan "Man Candy" Basso for doping when actually I don't give a rat's @#$ if Roberto Heras, plus, say, Gilberto Simoni, Paolo Bettini, Iban Mayo or even we love Thor Hushovd are passed out daily in their team kit in some skank doctor's opium den, but frankly, I like them better. However, I assure you all I feel very guilty and conflicted about that. Truly. Am I absolved yet?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

While the Cat's Away...

...Quick Step Won't Be Nailed for Systemic Doping, *Again*: well, the hoo-ha over the drug-ensnaring Quick Step raids has already died down, mere moments after the festering scandal erupted, as Patrick "Belgians Good!" Lefevere blasts the shocking assumption that anyone (else) on his team might be doping, the nervous prosecutors rush to reassure the (potentially violent) fans that no riders will ever be held accountable as all they're interested in is the dealers, and the only guy on the team busted so far is a--you guessed it--soigneur-to-the-stars. Who exactly the !@#$ do they think is using this #$%!, the hapless minion who's forced into superhuman feats of strength to scrub the sweat off Tom Boonen's chamois every evening? So anyhoo, with the Spaniards clearly the only boys in the peloton doping--and let's face it, even half of them are off the hook just in time for the start line in July--we can all rest assured that a resurgent Captain Dreamboat will be free to contest the sprint into Paris along with Alessandro, Thor, and Robbie the Ego, and that the TV ratings, ad revenue, "Young Tom Boonen--The Comic Book" (you can't make this stuff up) sales, and, most of all, the sponsors' take will remain resolutely astronomical. Nice work there, Keystone Kops!

Jesus, Manzano: yep, the unemployable camera whore is at it once more, groveling for money, I mean, earnestly pleading for truth and justice in the sport, by accusing an irked Alejandro "I Don't Even Have a Dog, I Swear!" Valverde yet again of snarfing drugs in astonishing quantities not only while at Kelme along with Jesus and the rest of the early-retired crap-results crybabies, but also undoubtedly while at Caisse d'Epargne, and that if we think the "only thing he was racing on is lettuce," he can guarantee that Alejandro is "up to his neck" in the Fuentes affair right now. More, he's happily yapping to the Italian authorities for as long as he can milk this cow, which I'm sure after all is a welcome diversion for CONI from the pressing question of how to score Ivan Basso a get-out-of-jail-free card without looking like swooning starstruck teenage simps and raising the ire and incessant hypocritical press-whining of the completely and sincerely anti-doping German squads like, say, T-Mobile. Y'know, I sympathize with Manzano saying he and everyone else at Kelme had to pop 8 Prozac a day just to get over the fear of jamming a needle in their rears (which still doesn't excuse the fact he just plain sucked, nice try Jesus), but is anyone else wishing he were even more sedated right now? And, in response to this latest round of accusations against the Next Indurain, the Spanish cycling fed has bravely stood forth and...yep, for no reason whatsoever politely asked UCI if it might get back to them soon on the question of whether the Op Puerto riders, none of whom are threats for the Tour GC I'm certain, might arrange for a bit of, well, total unquestioned amnesty, not that anyone even would need it except possibly a couple of nobody domestiques from the late Comunidad Valenciana, preferably again coincidentally before, oh, July 7 2007 or so. Boy, I think we're really on the road to cleaning up the sport here, don't you?

Man on the Run: and, it was a pleasure to see (well, almost, having been sidetracked by an afternoon by the pool) Floyd Landis on his bike again in Colorado, though you wouldn't know that from the local press, which was full of quotes by less-heralded riders on the scene who clearly felt that the presence of an obviously-guilty Floyd's was an embarassment to honest riders everywhere and, wholly tangentially I'm sure, a hindrance to their own infrequent chances for press coverage. Oh Floyd, we still want to believe!

Giro Roundup: finally, if only because I can't take any more of this idiocy tonight, I note the supreme crappiness of Gilberto Simoni's loss of the podium due to his consistently heinous time-trialing, which nonetheless gives a sort of soothing credence to the idea he's the only clean guy in the peloton, not the least because his time-trialing hasn't ever freakishly improved in a few short months like, oh--hell, why set myself up for a lawsuit?--and, most happily, the smashing win on a miserably cold Basque-unfriendly day by we love Iban Mayo, lauded by his own team as a triumph over Euskaltel's brutal psychological pressure machine and, dandily, ensuring Saunier-Duval's service at his command in the upcoming Tour de France. Venga Iban!

Friday, June 01, 2007

To Both My Faithful Readers

Buona vacanza!: alright, with the Giro nearly over, DiLuca imminently festooned with champagne and podium babes in Milano, and Gibo Simoni with both my stage win and a fabulously gracious set of press quotes for DiLuca in a great (if inadvertent--or is it?) smack to Ivan Basso, I'm off on vacation, and I humbly leave you with this to ponder for the week:

Dopers: Amnesty, or Iron Maiden?