Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

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

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I keep wanting to post something about the Tour de France, but I have no idea what to post. This is just getting silly.

The first Tour de France I ever watched was a VHS of the 1998 tour. It was in 2005, in the spring, and the nascent Portland State cycling club folks thought I should come do a couple of races, so I grabbed this tape to see what bike racing was all about. Of course, race fans will know this was the year of the Festina Scandal, when a massive, systemic doping program was found among the biggest French team in the Tour -- or teams, I'm not quite sure. Either way, about half of the tour quit in disgrace, protest, or both, and the eventual winner was Marco Pantani, over Jan Ullrich of Germany. Pantani, of course, passed away from a drug-related overdose, and Ullrich forcibly retired from cycling after doping scandals caught up with him.

I was confused and stunned, even watching the tape.

New tests, new protocols, and significantly stiffer penalties were instated after that scandal, but, it seems, doping just got swept under the rug, for a while.

I thought last year's tour would've been the Last Straw about doping tolerance: an odd-on prediction for a potential Tour podium would've been Basso, Ullrich, and Vinokourov, and all of those weren't permitted to start the tour because of doping scandals, along with a pile of others. Then, Floyd Landis picked up the pieces and won the Tour in spectacular fashion, only to be disqualified post hoc for doping; he fervently denies the charge, and the verdict of a May hearing on the matter has yet to be released.

Isn't that enough? Isn't it?

I watched what at first looked like the most exciting, wide-open Tour I'd seen. Epic battles, defeat and lazarus-like resurgence, the whole bit. But it didn't last. Now, the only thing of note to dicuss about the Tour is Le Dopage. I'm sick of it. I watched Alexandre Vinokourov win the first time trial in a spectacular comeback fashion, then falter on the next stage. The -next- stage, he triumphs over everyone, takes the victory, and is promptly disqualified for doping.
Denmark's Michael Rasmussen takes a yellow jersey in the Alps that he's never expected to keep, defends it in the time trial, resoundingly defeats all comers in the Pyrenees, and is promptly disqualified -- preemptively, by his own team -- for suspicion of doping.

The lead now passes to Alberto Contador, who was banned from last year's tour for suspicion of doping. For lack of evidence, that case evanesced away, for the moment.

What next?

What is this?


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