The Operation Puerto Space Opera

Jun 27 2006

A lot of you are wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that I’ve been in something of a feud with Google over the (previous) contents of this page. Then there was a brief technical issue with TextDrive, my hosting company, that, though quickly resolved, took down the page for a bit. But primarily, what’s kept me quiet is the fact that there really isn’t anything worth posting about going on in the cycling world. No, seriously. The last bit of cycling news that gave me any pleasure was Oscar Freire bunny-hopping a median and busting away to win a stage at the Tour de Suisse (see it on Cycling.TV‘s Premium service). Since then, it’s been all Operation Puerto, all the time.

So, as the case has now reached truly epic proportions, let’s recap all the fun, yeah? Manolo Saiz and some other cycling notables get arrested with a doc named Fuentes and a whole lot of dope and stored blood. Cycling “journalists” then report 200 riders are implicated in Fuentes’ records, and, just to make sure you’re paying attention, they mention Ivan Basso; somewhere, Rupert Murdock sprays his pants. Meanwhile, some Spanish cycling officials realize all this scandal might hurt their pocketbooks, but for some reason, they can’t seem to translate that word correctly; they keep coming up with “sport”, or occassionally “cycling”. Phonak, on the other hand, realizing that they now have high-profile dope positives Nos. 5 and 6 from the past two years, say “Oh F—” and “bench” (“Botero and Gutierrez are neither dismissed nor suspended”) two riders; I say “I told you so“.

As things develop further, the French get indignant because all their riders suck (though this “peloton at two speeds” thing is beginning to hold significantly more water), and, because scandal needs scapegoats, they boot Team CV from the Tour. Then, just to remind the UCI who runs the biggest race in the world, they wait for the sport’s governing body to approve the team formerly known as Liberty Seguros before showing them the door as well. The ASO is just pure class, isn’t it? Furthermore, in a rather Robspierrian twist of justice, the French sports minister demanded the media release all the names involved with the scandal, because the Tour may only take place with riders “who cannot be suspected of having benefited from these transfusions”. (the italics are mine, not his). Zeus shows his anger by guiding a Spanish team to victory in the hunt for the maillot tricolor.

That brings us roughly up to two days ago, a week before Tour de France, when El Pais puts forth a semi-unreleased list of 58 riders (down from 200, and apparently with no Basso). It possibly includes Jan Ullrich, and (according to TuttoBici) definitely includes Tyler Hamilton. And, of course, the riders react in the most moronic ways possible. T-Ham claims not to know what they’re talking about and adds that he’s a member of the Imperial Senate on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan. Vino’ feigns confusion at the whole business, but, as he still thinks he’ll be starting the Tour next month, might actually just be confused. Oh, and riders at the Spanish Road Championships decide not to race to protest the “orchestrated harassment” associated with the case. Now, as far as I can tell, this isn’t the ’98 Tour and no one’s getting raided at 4am the day before 200k in the Alps. Sure, they’ve had to deal with people asking if they’re on drugs, but as pro cyclists, they should be used to that by now.

So, at time of publication, it looks like the issue of whether Astana-Wurth will race the Tour is to be settled by a CAS decision sometime in the next 4 days. Given the hasty preparation time I can only imagine it be poorly-run and definitively settle nothing (kind of like the latest decision in the Hamilton case, in which the American was allowed to keep his gold medal, just in time for detailed records of his alleged doping to emerge and likely force a retrial). While some have criticized the UCI for remaining so inactive in the disciplining of this affair, I disagree; after all, their reason for “delaying” action has been to respect the integrity of their own rules and regulations. I just wish they didn’t seem so reticent about going by the book. And, also, it might be nice if they dropped their pretences of incorruptibility when they’ve raised plenty of eyebrows in the past.

Finally, just because enough is never enough, several little subplots have been hovering like horseflies over this dungwad of a story. Simplest is the ongoing saga of Danilo Hondo (he got un-re-banned again earlier this month – simple, right?). More complex is the latest Armstrong “she-said, he-said”, courtesy of l’Equipe. And you know every time there’s an “Armstrong dopes” story, you-know-who‘s just gotta sound off on it (though I give the guy credit (after) for losing weight (before)). And, like anything dope related, this is all rich fodder for my boy Dick Pound, who recently rejected (without really saying why) the independent report clearing Armstrong of the previous allegations against him. Big Tex, for his part, has tried to make lemons into lemonade by suggesting that it was Pound who leaked the documents for this latest story to l’Equipe, thus forming further reason for the Canadian to be ousted from WADA.

So, did you follow all that? Now you know why I don’t want to. Especially when this whole sh!tstorm could have been avoided if the morons who run this sport had paid more attention to this guy two years ago.

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