Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dope slaps

From the Washington Post this evening:

One of it's biggest stars is already gone, and now so is the leader of the Tour de France.

Michael Rasmussen was removed from the race by his Rabobank team after winning Wednesday's stage, a day after Alexandre Vinokourov and his team withdrew when the star cyclist tested positive for a banned blood transfusion. . . .

All this talk of doping prompted Jean-Francois Lamour, vice president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, to suggest the sport should be yanked from the Olympics.
Get real, Lamour. By that rationale, track and field should have been yanked years ago, after the 1988 Summer Olympics. And what about the proposed return of golf, given the recent doping scandal in that sport? And shouldn't you have removed swimming from the Olympics after 1976? What about tennis and soccer/football? Shouldn't they go too?

I'm not saying that cycling is clean, just that it's not the only dirty sport around. It's just everyone's favorite whipping boy right now. Ironically, the reason is that cycling looks so dirty is because it's catching more athletes than any other sport because it has the most aggressive drug testing protocols of any sport.

Golf, for example, has no drug testing. Don't even get me started about the charade that passes for drug testing in US football. How is it that the NFL will suspend--rightly so, I think--Michael Vick for his dogfighting indictment, but won't put an effective drug testing and enforcement program in place--even knowing what it does about players like Bill "'Roid Rage" Romanowski?

And even though there has been plenty of talk about soccer players/footballers being associated with Operation Puerto, have any of them been identified publicly? How about questioned? Tested? Summarily suspended until further notice? Cyclists caught up in Puerto have been not only identified and questioned but also tested and suspended--even without evidence to warrant a suspension.

And how about baseball? As Brother #2 pointed out in a phone call tonight, one of the world's top cycling teams just pulled their team leader, who was leading the biggest race in all of cycling because his behavior gave the appearance that he was engaged in suspicious activity. Back here in the States, Barry "Balco" Bonds is still free to chase Hank Aaron's hallowed home run record, despite continuing investigations into his use of illegal drugs and his possible perjury in his grand jury testimony.

And yes, cycling is doing itself a huge disservice with its unprofessional testing procedures--leaking confidential results before they're confirmed, using a lab whose procedures and objectivity are questionable, having far too many organizations with only partial control of the situation. Nonetheless, I haven't seen any other sport make even a half-assed attempt at solving the doping problem. Until they do, I don't think that they're in any position to throw stones at cycling.

And until WADA and the IOC puts a muzzle on Dick Pound, or for that matter, Lamour, they don't have much credibility on this topic either, which is sad, given their positions as the enforcers of anti-doping regulations. I can't understand why Lamour would suggest pulling the only sport that's making a credible effort against cheats, unless, like Dick, he's only interested in his own reputation, not those of the sports or athletes that he is allegedly working to keep clean--between interviews with the media, that is.

As for the Tour, I'm still watching. How can I not watch when this morning the whole race was sewed up and tomorrow it's a wide open race again? And for those of you who wonder how I can watch with all that's transpired, I suppose that means that you don't watch any baseball or football--US or the FIFA variety--or golf or track and field or swimming or gymnastics or cross-country skiing or . . .

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  1. What really bums me out about the whole thing is that Vino was playing such a great head game before the drug stuff started. I wish they could just play fair.

  2. Hence the Lotto-Predictor lawsuit, which claims, in part, that Vino's cheating altered all of the stages by forcing teams to react to his tactics, which were only made possible by doping. If Vino hadn't been there, their argument goes, they might have contested the stages differently--ridden more or less aggressively, or sent a rider in a breakaway, or something else. I think that their strongest case is that they should be compensated for their lost publicity for the stage he won over their man, Evans, who came in second to Vino.

    But their argument that they might be in first if Vino wasn't there, or wasn't able to ride so well, or wasn't capable of playing such head games, is an interesting one. It's like saying that if Barry Bonds wasn't so sure to hit a home run, more teams might have pitched to him rather than around him, which would have meant fewer walks for him, a lower on-base average, shorter innings, less wear on their pitchers' arms, etc.

    It's an interesting point, but it's hard to prove a hypothetical.

  3. Anonymous4:21 PM

    I always wonder about all the testing and games that are played in every sport.

    I can picture a time when every sport has severe and strict testing and nobody uses anything.

    But I can also see a world where they give up and just let everyone use whatever they want. And that won't end pretty - but the ratings will be gonzo. (And it's not like money ever wins any battles.)

  4. I am sure he must have been on something to cause him to fall off his bike, call the whole team back to get him going, except the injured Kloden, and ride away from the team because they could not keep up with him to the finish. Ditching half the peloton in the wind, including a competitor who had been suggesting he quit over a few stitches in his knees in the process required more than just sheer muscle. Too bad someone thought muscle was not sufficient.