Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Friday, June 30, 2006

It’s all over.

The Tour de France was set to start this weekend in Strasbourg, Germany.

I hear they’re still planning on running it.

I don’t know, I don’t care, I can’t watch.

What is going on here?

Though Bernard Hinault said, “Doping is not generalised among 400 or 500 riders, there are just 50 implicated,” one has to wonder.

This is the list from one investigation. From one doctor. To me, it seems like one of a few things:

  • everyone of consequence in cycling dopes, and these ones just happened to get caught
  • Since not-on-the-list riders, like Armstrong and Landis, have proven they can beat on-the-list riders, perhaps there are innocent riders on the list
  • Perhaps doping doesn’t really help as much as we’d thing

When I heard José Gutierrez Cataluna of Phonak was implicated, it “made sense.” After all, the guy went from being essentially nameless in cycling to challenging Basso for the Giro win, hanging tough in ways no one had ever seen him do.

This list is strange.

It involves two entire Spanish teams, a lot of Spanish riders, but then the trump cards: Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich.

Every bit of speculation about the tour winner this year has been, “Will Basso win, or will Ullrich?”

Now what have we got?

Has Ullrich been doping since 1996, when at 23 he could’ve easily upstaged Bjarne Riis for the Tour win?

Has Basso been doping a little more every year he’s been improving from 4th, to 3rd, to 2nd?

If so, then the corruption is so deep that I fear it’ll be impossible to dig out.

If not, then WHY would a rider who has already won big risk putting his entire career to thame?

I just don’t understand.

In any event, if they're still going to run the tour, they're down a lot of riders. Comunidad Valenciana was already out, and Astana-Wurth looks dead. Basso and Ullrich, perennial top-10 finisher Francisco Mancebo, ten others who were on the start list. It's so late into the game that none of the riders can be replaced, for technical and legal reasons.

There was the Festina Affair in 1998 in which the tour was reduced from 21 teams to 14, from nearly 200 riders to under 100.

It all certainly looks up for the American riders. Not Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, nor even Chris Horner, Bobby Julich, Christian Vandevelde, or any other star-and-striper was named.

Are the clean? Are they simply using doctors in the 'States, better protected by privacy laws in a country that cares little about cycling? Can we know?

What NOW?

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