Jul 27 2007
Say what you will about doping; I think today’s finish was the saddest and most unfair of the entire ’07 Tour. Not that three-time runner up Sandy Casar was an undeserving winner – he bounced back from an early spill, made his turns in the break, and played his speed edge perfectly in the finale. But poor Michael Boogerd; after two weeks of flogging himself to exhaustion, over the most heinous mountains in the world, in his final Tour de France, all for cheatin’ teammate he didn’t much care for, if there were any justice in this world, today’s stage would have been Boogie’s.
Not that anyone else out there thinks that. Ask people who don’t know what they’re talking about and the consensus is clear – all bike riders everywhere are on drugs. It’s kinda funny, really – cops make a drug bust, and it’s great press. Cleaning up the streets, they’d say. Cycling makes a drug bust, and it’s a sport “mired in scandal”. What a bunch of crotchless journo hacks. When Shawne Merriman gets a two year suspension, plus two seasons playing to empty seats in Utah, then you can talk to me about clean sport. Besides, it’s not like the doping bothers cycling fans that much. As The Simpsons so perfectly allegorized (in an episode about drug dependence, no less), fans of a sport will blind themselves to the most heinous of its flaws.
Which brings us to this – what if the Chicken really is telling the truth? Granted, if this is the case, it should be pretty easy to prove (well, prove convcingly) that he was in Mexico, not Italy, for his pre-Tour training. But with lawsuits flying, organizers dis-inviting, governing bodies using the the dope stories for political leverage and calling for summits, maybe Rabobank figured the advertising dollars weren’t worth the cost and cut the Dane free – even while still giving the riders their Tour winning bonus. Certainly, an ejection of an unpopular and probably-dosed-up rider isn’t something fans will think too deeply about.
And then there are those news stories that no one wants to hear. Greg Lemond, for example, turning the spotlight of suspicion onto Alberto Contador. While one would like to think the youngster is clean, for someone with the future of the Tour on his shoulders, he has something of a checkered past. And does it strain credulity that, stage after stage, Disco could put three riders against an isolated Rasmussen and Evans? Should we maybe inquire to see if these guys are on the UCI’s watch list – or would we rather just sit back and watch them sock a few dingers?