Thursday, July 10, 2008

Doping in the Tour de France

I've been watching the Tour de France on Versus. There has been a lot of emphasis on a "clean" tour, without doping, at least in the promotional spots. They are running these clips that show former positive testers and running the film backwards to the music of "making a brand new start". Erik Zabel stepping off of the podium instead of on, Vinokourov cycling backwards, Jan Ullrich going backwards and Landis taking off the yellow jersey, all running the film backwards. It's kind of creative. They've also been interviewing Jonathan Vaughters a lot who is sports director of the team Garmin Chipotle who have been testing their own riders in an effort to clean up the sport.

But there are many skeletons hanging in the closet. For instance, tonight they showed a piece from the 96 tour in which Bjarne Riis won and brought an end to Miguel Indurain's winning streak, with the help of Jan Ullrich. 1996 was when I got into following along with the tour. And recently we found out that Riis admitted to doping and it was most likely a big reason he won. Yet they showed this film about Indurain loosing to Riis and only at the end of it did they add that Riis admitted. It was like all of this great racing happened,... (oh and Riis admitted doping, like all of us insiders knew it all along) And now they try to put this spin on the whole thing like there are a few bad apples and now things are changing, and perhaps they are.

In the years since 96, Pantani won a tour, and then came the Armstrong dynasty, and his teammates, Andreu admitted, Heras caught, Hamilton caught, Landis caught. After the whole Riis, Ullrich, Zabel Team Telecom thing. I really have to wonder. The interesting thing about Riis admitting was that he really didn't have to do it. Public pressure finally got to him, but the insiders always knew, and he just got to the point that he couldn't live with it. I admire him for coming clean, yet he has taken something away from the sport and someone else who might have won and won't get another chance.

Well I don't know what it is about me. I'd just like to get to the bottom of it. I feel like I've been cheated I guess. But for me to have a problem with Riis ending Indurain's winning streak I'd have to know that Indurain was clean. Who knows? I'm not ready to move beyond it just yet. I think the only way to be good with anything that has happend in the last decade is to assume that everyone was doping. And clearly I think that the insiders just might know something that the rest of us don't. It will be a while before we can really take it all seriously.

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