Jul 26 2007
So finally, the Chicken has been plucked. But when one asks “Why now? Why not ten days ago?”, that’s when the feathers really fly. Rabobank Manager Theo DeRooy says that the Dane claimed to have been training in Mexico all through June. But yesterday, DeRooy heard from an Italian Journalist that Rasmussen was in Italy during that time. After this, the stories diverge.
DeRooy claims Rasmussen admitted that he was, in fact, in Italy, and thus the team fired him “because you don’t lie to family”. Rasmussen says “I was never in Italy, and I never told you I was”. Great. Another innocent cyclist, just like Vinokourov, Sinkewitz, Landis, Basso, etc. ad nauseam. It gives one a paradoxical respect for Cristian Moreni, (even though he protested against dopers mere hours before being caught doping) because he manned up an admitted he was wrong. If only there were some way to incentivize such honesty…
While Rasmussen had been enveloped in the stench of suspicion for some time, his involuntary departure does set a dangerous sort of precedent. Or rather, it follows the dangerous precedent set before last year’s Tour: if the right people boo loudly enough, your team will collapse to their pressure and give you the ax.
While he tested clean across the board, and went out of his way to keep the UCI informed of his whereabouts, Lance Armstrong was at times as reviled as the Dane had come to be in the past few days. And certainly, there was never a shortage of allegations against him. One gets the feeling that, were he still racing, Disco might feel inclined to yank him, due solely to the number of Frenchmen shouting “dope!” as he rode past.
But for all the mayhem, the race still went on pretty much as normal today, with sprinter Daniele Bennati winning a small break sprint to take his first win. This continued racing is a very good sign; back in 1998, the riders almost refused to ride after the last round of major dope ejections. Today, there was only one apparent protest departure, and by and large, the riders seem determined to root out any remaining dopers.
Additionally, the alphabet soup of organizers seems happy with the ejections, and many companies have announced their intentions to continue sponsorship. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the biggest threat to cycling wasn’t doping, but the European press. But why would a bunch of European journalists want to destroy the sport that helps feed them? Commentator Bob Roll has a few theories.