Aug 23 2007
Argument number one billion to revise the UCI ProTour: the sport’s “minor leagues” end up stacked to the brim with tainted athletes. Unconvicted doping pariah du jour Michael Rasmussen is currently in talks to ride with Acqua-Sapone for the rest of the season, and believe me, he’s not their first liaison. The Italian squad even went so far as hire Michele Scarponi this spring, before the rider finally owned up to his offenses.
And it’s not like Acqua is the only offender. The rosters of Relax-GAM and Tinkoff Credit Systems form a dramatis personae from every doping show of the past half-decade. While some ProTour teams (Astana, Disco) have done their part dodging the rules to recycle suspected riders, without the paranoia and home-bred nepotism of the TdF selection committee, it might be more difficult to name a “clean” Continental Squad than a “dirty” one. And trust me, this isn’t the Continental Tour’s fault.
While the additional two years faced by ProTour dopers might seem like a tough stance, whose samples do you think underwent more scrutiny this summer: Alberto Contador’s or Santiago Botero’s? ProTour riders not only have to pass the UCI’s ever-increasing test load, but also face progressively tougher team-imposed monitoring as well. Rasmussen found himself temporarily unemployed long before the sport’s recent crises, and Serguy Honchar was unceremoniously dumped from T-Mobile this spring, before racing at a single marquee event.
Most people seem to have notions of trimming down the size of the ProTour peloton, or eliminating less storied races altogether. Perhaps in time – first, the UCI needs to shore up its current ethical charter. The doping revelations since its inception have blown holes in its role as a deterrent, and as Jon Vaughters points out, it’s in the sport’s best interest to keep the old dopers away from the neo-pros for as long as possible. The best way to do that is to keep the cheats – and their outmoded mindset – where the anti-doping heat is hottest: the UCI ProTour.