So if you've been watching the news at all in the last week or so you are undoubtedly aware of the public humiliation the sport of cycling is currently enduring. I've had numerous people ask my thoughts regarding various allegations and operations that are currently underway. So here is my take (and if I may be so bold as to add Bob's name to this opinion as he and I have visited these topics as of late and seem to be in agreement upon the subject)
Et Tu? I never would have pictured small town Floyd as a doper. (Although I said the exact same thing about our friend Tyler) Yes, I know nothing has been confirmed yet. But to point out the obvious: 8 minutes down one day, gains it all back the next? While watching the live coverage of the now infamous stage 17 of the Tour de France I commented to those associates with whom I was priveledged to be watching such a momentus occasion that "...seems kind of odd. With all the doping scandals lately, can we still believe in sports miracles"
To make yet another reference to the currently suspended Tyler Hamilton- In a recent interview aired during the 2006 TDF Hamilton agreed with a comment his wife made to the effect that "this is all very confusing and we've been working with lots of doctors etc. to help us understand" contrast that with a statement Landis recently made while on Larry King Live, this is a direct quote "Well, I don't know. That's why I have some experts helping me out to try to understand what's going on here...I have a lot of very intelligent, experienced people helping with this" Face it, its not looking good. I think an historical tour win is turning into an historical embarrasment.
I would have thought a disorganized, secretive, and so far essentially ineffective operation like this would have been in French territory, not in Spain.
So here is a basic update in my limited cycling knowledge:
- Operation Puerto announced late spring/early summer
- Unrealeased list of those implicated includes cyclists and other sportsmen
- Day before TDF Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, and others name's released. Team managers hold meeting that evening and decide that any implicated rider will not be allowed to start and will not be replaced. As a result three top contenders of the Tour are suspended by their teams and one Alexander Vinokourov was unable to start the tour becuase five of his teammates were implicated. Vino was and has never been named.
- Two days after the TDF the five Astana (Vino's team) riders are cleared of any wrongdoing.
- A few days later the entire Comunidad Valenciana team was cleared by the investigation.
Anything look a little fishy to you?
#1- Officials had the names for weeks and they announce key players the night before the Tour begins? Could this have been a publicity stunt? No, they wouldn't dare do that to the racers, the teams, the fans, it must have simply been an oversight.
#2- Five members of Vino's team are implicated thereby keeping one of the favorites out of the Tour de France only to find out two days after the tour that, oops sorry, you're all clear? In the meantime the tour is won by an american (no complaint there) that potentially has permanently disgraced the greatest race in the world.
#3- 13 members of one team are now cleared after they could have raced in the Tour de France (had an assistant director not been implicated and arrested) and in the Vuelta (again denied admission due to the operation) and has now had sponsorship pulled no doubt in reaction to the allegations which have recently been recinded.
And the operation isn't over. I'm sure many more mistakes and should-be apologies are on their way.
Will cycling recover from this rash of injustices? Only time will tell. In the meantime sponsors are in a sweat, potential sponsors have had their check books sewn into their jacket pocket with a secure 10 digit- mixture of letters and numbers, with at least one symbol- password to keep cycling out. Cyclists themselves are donning baseball caps and dark shades to make it to the grocery store and back before someone can recognize them and question/chastise/lament the current state of the sport. The fans, oh the fans! The pains we have endured. We defend our sport enthusiastically to anyone who will listen. Despite our embarrasement we soldier on in the hopes that one day we'll have something to be proud of again.