Tour de France '07 – No Rest Day for Dopers

Jul 24 2007

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, with all the savagery and suddenness of a Great White, word of another positive test. Can I call it, or what? Kinda gives new meaning to Bobby Julich’s nickname for the about-to-be-disgraced Kazakh, doesn’t it? Throughout my outrage at the suspensions last July, I continually used Vino’ as a rallying point, noting how, while most of his team was connected the Fuentes’ doping ring, he’d never been implicated, yet was still compelled not to race. I feel really stupid about that now.

But can you imagine being Andreas Kloden? The poor guy gets signed to a team built by Kazakhs for a Kazakh, outperforms said Kazakh on nearly every occasion, but still can’t get his other Kazakh teammates to ride for him. Finally, after two stage wins, Vino’ says “I am now all for Kloden” but immediate gets ejected from the Tour, and – insult to injury – takes the rest of the team down with him (granted, after Kessler and Mazzoleni, the whole team’s a bit suspect). The German fans must love that. When Kloden was sitting there in front of his contract last August, about sign, I wonder if any of this passed through his head?

And where, exactly, does this leave the sport of cycling? I like to hope that Jon Vaughters is right, and that it’s a small percent of very driven, very unscrupulous riders who dope. This seems to be supported by the fact that only big names seem to get caught (Sinkewitz and Kessler, though not superstars, were certainly upper-tier). There seems to be a consensus feeling that this Tour has been cleaner, and I think the general drop in “amazing”, or even “gutsy” rides (“like a bunch of amateurs”, you might say) supports this – if you’ve spend the last decade dosed up to your eyeballs, you’ll feel like sitting on a lot more once you’re clean.

Yes, in the end, I think Vino’s positive is good for cycling. David Millar’s reaction pretty much summed up my own; shock and dismay, followed by the realization that there’s now one less doper. With every rider that gets caught, and with every case that gets pursued fairly, the viability of doping is eroded. Even Michael Rasmussen, who, as Rabobank’s lawyer is quick to note, hasn’t broken any rules, finds himself increasingly isolated as the evidence against him mounts. While German politicians might make speeches to the contrary, the exposure of new dopers will not kill cycling; in the end, it only makes it stronger.

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