Yet another tour and yet another doping scandal is in the pipeline . The words ‘cycling’ and ‘drugs’ have of recent years become almost one to the general public . However there is a much bigger picture which most are slow to acknowledge or even give the time to think about .
An example of rushing headlong in a panic around the drugs/cycling issue last week was Christian Prudommes midnight call on thursday night accusing Pat McQuaid and the UCI of trying to destroy the Tour . Five minutes of internet googling would have informed him that a Danish journalist had contacted the head of the Danish federation after discovering the data on the missed tests and in order to head off the following days tabloid headlines the Danish official released a statement which outlined the datails and confirmed that Rasmussen would be ineligable to ride for Denmark in the worlds or Olympics next year .
Drugs , however are indemic in not just cycling but all sports where big money is involved . The reason why cycling is the one which is most publicised is because the money is not big enough . Take for example Operation Puerto in Spain last year . 200 names which included 57 cyclists . The 57 cyclists were named or investigated but what happened to the rest ?
The others named included a tennis player who was second in this years Wimbledon and a host of soccer players including most of the Spanish national team . How have all of these escaped ? The answer is money and politics .
A good professional cyclist will earn one tenth of what a soccer player at the same level in his sport will earn . Enitre cities will fanaticaly support their soccer team . A cyclist who is favourite to win the biggest race in the world can be removed from the start line of the race before an investigation has been undertaken without any fuss from the general public . Imagine if Zidane was told that he could not play in the last world cup because he might be implicated in a new drugs scandal which had not yet been investigated . There would be pandamonium .
Last week T-Mobile released the news that during an internal team test their rider Patrick Sinkiwitz had tested positive for testosterone . Immediatly the two German channels stopped coverage of the tour . This was a proactive move made by a fully transparent team which may result in their extinction . T-Mobile should have been applauded for their internal procedures instead of being punished . What , now will be the incentive for other teams to adopt an internal testing regime when they see how this team have been dealt with .
Two weeks ago I watched a documentary on Tiger Woods on the Biography channel and was very impressed with his character and his sporting ability . Then last week when former world number one Gary Player came out with the revealtion that at least 10 of the worlds top golfers were on THG and HGH I was very dissapointed with Woods’ reaction that it was impossible and that he was totally unaware of any doping in golf . Had he said that it woludn’t surprise him , but that he was totally clean and was willing to be tested at any time I would have been satisfied . But his ostrich in the sand reply left me slightly disillusioned .
Getting back to this years tour , Rasmussen would be an unacceptable victor to most people not just because of the missed tests but more so because of the upcoming doping scandal which will face him in the coming week . David Walshe revealed over the weekend that a former friend was asked to bring a pair of shoes to Italy for Rasmussen but when he opened the box he found eight cartons of a haemoglobin based oxygen carrier along with clear plastic IV sets .
So who should win the tour ? Contador who rides for Lance Armstrongs former Discovery team . A team who gave George Hincapie , a heavy flat classics specialist the ability to win a mountain stage of the tour two years ago . Or Kloden , a product of the East German cycling culture which was rife with doping . What about Sastre riding for CSC whos’ owner Barjne Riis has recently confessed to what everyone knew all along , that he was up to his eyeballs on EPO whan he won his tour in 1996 .
Bradley Wiggins currently in 135th position overall over two hours down is the first rider on the list who is regarded as definitly clean . But would you want to watch a slower much less dramatic race ? probably not .
Cycling is probably the toughest sport in the world . The tour has been likened to running 21 marathons day after day . If a rider is earning 30k per year and someone says if you take x you can win a Classic or stage of a tour and be on 300k the temptation will always be there .
So how should we view the tour ?
Well I like to look on it like a really good concert . It contains the same if not more excitement and passion . The entertainment value is huge . Does anybody care if the band on stage are high as kites whilst performing ? the answer is probably not . The media definitly don’t ! So perhaps we should watch it for what we see and not for what may or may not be going on behind the scenes . Yesterdays duel to the finish between Rasmussen and Contador was spectacular . We should enjoy it for what it is , no more no less.
To end on a positive note . Consider that cycling is probably 10 to 20 years ahead of most other sports in the fight against doping . The average professional cyclist gets tested 30 to 40 times per year where as the average professional soccer player gets tested once every 3 to 4 years . Also bear in mind that this is probably the cleanest Tour in years so just enjoy it !