Tuesday, October 09, 2007

You've Got to Fight/For Your Right...

To Paaaaaaar-taaaaay!: as besieged German Stefan Schumacher apologetically cops to driving drunk (after initially using a cab) in search of his out-of-cell-phone-range girlfriend during a night on the town, but gamely denies German tabloid reports that recreational drugs were also found in his system, while his clearly irked Gerolsteiner manager Hans Michael Holczer snarls that, though he hopes the report is crap, anyone who knows him knows what he thinks about that possibility. Wow, with the German parliament now demanding a neutral investigation of Schumacher's two irregular pre-Worlds out-of-competition doping controls--blamed by Team Schumi on the wholly innocent effects of a disgusting intestinal problem--on the ludicrous grounds that it is "not okay for such cases to be explained solely by experts working for the athlete," can the boy's day *get* any better? Meantime, the Italian press, for the first time in weeks given something else to do besides defend Paolo Bettini's virtue, has leapt joyfully on the story, salaciously comparing Schumacher's no-drugs-no-doping claims with fellow German Jan Ullrich's after he was busted for driving drunk and using Ecstasy at a nightclub, and we all know how clean *he* was on the bike, by the way. Anyone care to take bets on how long it'll take Pat "Dick" McQuaid and Dick "Dick" Pound to explain how this too is all the filthy cheating Spaniards' and Italians' fault?

Manic Monday: yes, Oscar Pereiro finally gets his 2006 yellow jersey next Monday with a huge celebration in front of screaming local fans in Madrid, the Spaniards are understandably wild with excitement at their Tour de France two-fer, and I must admit, I'm of decidedly mixed feelings about this. I love Pereiro; I think that, on form, he's a very fine racer, and I do appreciate that for at least a year until the verdict was finally in, Pereiro showed admirable discretion under the perpetual "how does it feel to have Landis steal your Tour?" press onslaught. And obviously, if Floyd did do it, Pereiro was selfishly jacked out of receiving the greatest accolades a rider will ever obtain in this sport (I don't say "honor," because I still like the Vuelta and Giro better), and deserves now, at the very least, a colossal belated party on his home turf. Let's even leave aside the fact that, but for Basso Ullrich Vino and half the other lords of the peloton being excluded by the Op Puerto fiasco, neither one of these boys (sorry Floyd, but Phonak was comparatively weak) would've been within 1000 feet of the podium. But I remain quite sympathetic to Landis on the yellow jersey issue, not because I think he didn't dope--I sure hope not, and even naively cling to the possibility in the gullible recesses of my cynical brain that he hasn't, but what the hell do I know?--but because this whole repulsive process so mercilessly screwed him, and the entire sport while we're at it, that no-one but he will ever truly know if it ought to've been taken from him in the first place. Y'know, even if Pereiro won the thing, he himself did it with a handy UCI Therapeutic Use Exemption and attendant approved asthma inhaler tucked in his jersey--can we just call it a draw on those grounds, and let 'em share the maillot jaune at this point?

Pedal to the Medal: while we're at it, in non-cycling news, I see Marion Jones has handed back her Olympic track medals, leading to the obvious question for our fair friends at UCI: Bjarne Riis already offered to let you dig his yellow jersey out of his closet, so tell me again why Landis is the first boy to be stripped of his Tour for doping? And please don't give me that crap about "everybody in '96 was stoked, so there's really no-one to give it to"--am I the only one to have noticed any similar problems in '07, much less in '06, and rumors of a replacement lab already in place the second Fuentes went down?

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