There is No Joy in Racejunkieville/Mighty Heras Has Bailed Out: fine, he's a dirty doping tainted product of a filthy cheating generation of selfish liars and the spinelessly abandoned son of a Machiavellian organizer of systemic Spanish treachery, yap, he got what he deserved just like Vinokorouv and Ullrich, yap, he should burn in hell with the rest of Manolo Saiz' EPO-snarfing blood-doping perverted poseur proteges, yap yap yap. But even accepting as, well, implausible, his astonishing explosion in time-trial mastery in 2005 (and believe me, I do), let's talk about what else we still love Roberto Heras nonetheless is and was: one of the most beautiful climbers in the history of the sport, bar none, and no matter what the hell you're on, you can't turn the lumpen grinding of an Evans into that. A brief review of his palmares: a blazing start to his career with a Giro stage (against a pretty formidable field of Italians with national pride as stake, no less) while at Kelme; years of mountain servitude to Armstrong at Postal in a domestique role far below his actual capacity for personal victory; and, with teams that let's be honest here were seldom gifted with the power of the squads reserved for the season's earlier Tour, 3 smashing Vueltas plus Menchov's, who, whatever Heras may have been stoked on, clearly wasn't ready to earn it in his own right til this year in any case. But Heras is of course correct in throwing in the towel--no matter what he was allegedly offered by any of the Continental teams, none of them could do him or his existing legacy any justice at this point, especially after two years out of competition and no hope of returning to the support level ProTour 'til he's hit 35, already downgraded back to domestique when he gets there. Self-aggrandizing human frailties and all, Roberto, your retirement's a great loss!
Now, before both of you go off all affronted on my continued adoration of Heras and resolute respect for his unparalled climbing genius in the face of his grotesque disrespect for pure sport, let's consider his sainted contemporaries, shall we? 107 riders implicated in Op Puerto in 2006, less than a year into Heras' exile, including basically all of Liberty Seguros and the entire Grand-Tour-contender elite. Yet, as evidence mounts that several teams have been intimately involved in organizing and directing broad-brush doping programs among their cyclists, and damned recently at that, many of these boys not only continued to ride in the comparative poverty and obscurity of Continental squads, but remained cuddled in ProTour luxury til later misadventures cast, or sometimes failed to cast, them out. And in light of such shenanigans, is it really so likely that only the stars of the teams were doped up by their masters, and the press-pimped baby Next Lance Armstrongs were not? I object not to harsh antidoping punishments--which, even aside from the benefit of fostering integrity, hopefully encourage safe-supplement practices that protect the riders' health even better than say our hero Eufemiano Fuentes--but to their shockingly arbitrary application by the ringmasters over at UCI, WADA, the race organizations, and the sports federations. Even the Darwinian explanation of natural-selection-by-culling-of-the-reckless-and-stupid fails to comfort, as it seems ironic that one should be rewarded by being an even wilier bastard (worse, in the cases of those who could afford outside assistance, a richer wilier bastard) than one's more broke or merely luckless contemporary. Explain to me again how doping is discouraged at all if there's a smashingly high chance that, assuming you manage not to irk somebody important, you'll actually manage get away with it?
Of course, the new generation of riders is clean nowadays, and are committed to truth beauty justice and fairness in a way that the cheating sad-sacks of prior days were not; such follies will, after all, die utterly as the dirty tacticians of the old school, victims of their decaying bodies and even more decayed souls, age out of the peloton. Right, Kessler and Sinkewitz?
Oh Roberto. You should have melted down for the cameras, pimped your equally-dirty-but-more-discreet compatriots to the narcs, and raised a few euros for the bambini in your exile. Perhaps you might still find a home as a born-again DS somewhere if you fess up now?