The Dope's On You: The Missing ProTour Revision

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.

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10 Responses to “The Dope's On You: The Missing ProTour Revision”

  1. sam 23 August 2007 at 4:38 pm #

    sorry for the off-topic comment, but i noticed during last year’s and this year’s tour de france that all cyclists wore helmets on every stage, but if you watch highlights of previous tours (even lance’s most recent wins), most riders didn’t wear helmets on the climbing stages.

    was there a new rule enacted requiring helmets at all times?

  2. ciaccmo 23 August 2007 at 8:57 pm #

    where have you been?

  3. Troy Walters 24 August 2007 at 1:32 am #

    Sam, you’re at the wrong blog.

  4. colin 24 August 2007 at 8:32 am #

    In other words… yes.

    And even during Lance’s run I believe the rule was that they could only lose the helmets on the final climb to a mountaintop finish.

  5. sam 24 August 2007 at 9:57 am #

    thanks colin.

  6. spokejunky 24 August 2007 at 9:58 am #

    Helmets must be worn at all times except for ITT:

    Section 1.3.031

    Gotta get my underwear at K-Mart, Judge Wopner at 4 o’clock.

  7. lyne 24 August 2007 at 10:59 am #

    Rule stating that helmets had to be worn at all times removing the clause about the last kms on a climb was changed in 2005.

  8. Cosmo 24 August 2007 at 1:41 pm #

    Adding to this ridiculous aside, I think it’s a real bummer they scratched the rule that let you ride casqueless for the final 5km of a climb. I’m a serious helmet proponent (very, very rare that I ever ride without one), but the images of bareheaded cyclists battling the final pitches of a long climb are some of the most compelling in the sport.

    I just can’t see a final 5km crash causing serious head trauma. I suppose it could still happen, but I feel like the “helmets all the way” rule is more a product of helmet makers wanting more TV time, and overinfluential team managers not wanting to keep track of their riders’ lids during the most critical moments of every mountain stage.

  9. sam 24 August 2007 at 4:35 pm #

    cosmo, sorry for the offtopic comments, i realize i should have posted this elsewhere. feel free to delete.


  10. Sebastian 24 August 2007 at 6:09 pm #

    Long live the tangent! There were occasional attempts to institute helmet laws in the 90s. I recall a stage in the 1991 Tour when some riders wore fedoras and leather Kangol caps in order to mockingly exploit a loophole in an ordinance that had just been passed. (You’ll have to translate French Wikipedia to get the full story on that.) In 2003 they passed an almost-universal helmet rule — you had to wear them except for the last 5 Ks of a mountaintop finish — after Andrei Kivilev’s death in Paris-Nice. In 2005 the exception was scrapped, and thus the photo of Valverde beating Armstrong to the top of Courchevel that year shows both in helmets (vs. Basso and Armstrong at La Mongie the year before).

    I agree wholeheartedly with Cosmo that the last-5K exception was great because it preserved one of the sport’s most photogenic competitions, the battle to the top of a col.

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