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tour de farce

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Tour de France 2007 report

We normally report only on books but the recently completed Tour de France bicycle race was too dramatic to resist. Normally the CBS one hour weekly summary of the race is superficicial but today July 29 they did an excellent job of sorting out and reporting the scandals of this final week of the race.

Alexandre Vinokourov Alexandre Vinokourov

After losing 30 minutes in stage 14, Alexandre Vinokourov came back in stage 15 to win by five minutes. He then tested positive for blood doping and the entire Kazakhstan team Astane was disqualified.

Team Confidis protested Rabobank’s Michael Rasmussen’s missing two drug tests in June by delaying the start of stage 16. Cristian Moreni of Confidis then tested positive for drugs after stage 16, ironically, and the entire team was disqualified. Rasmussen won stage 16 and held a commanding 3 minute lead heading into the final time trial.

Rasmussen Family Rasmussen Family

Michael Rasmussen claimed that he was in Mexico with his Mexican wife during the missed drug tests in June. If he misses three out of race drug tests it is considered a positive result. Davide Cassani, former professional bicycle rider and Italian television commentator saw Rasmussen training in the Dolomites and praised him for his dedication, not realizing that Rasmussen claimed to be in Mexico at the time. The Cassani news aired in Italy and later Rasmussen held a press conference still claiming he was in Mexico. When told of the Italian news, Rabobank team manager DeRooy confronted then fired Rasmussen from the team after Rasmussen admitted to lying about his whereabouts. Rasmussen had been in the leader’s yellow jersey for nine days when fired. CBS praised Rabobank for its decision which was not required since technically Rasmussen had not failed a drug test.

Tour winners
Cadel Evans Alberto Contador Levi Leipheimer

The shocked race continued and after the final time trial only 31 seconds separated 1st through 3rd place. Spaniard Alberto Contador of Discovery Channel won the race by 23 seconds over Australian Cadel Evans of Predictor-Lotto and 31 seconds over Discovery Channel team leader Levi Leipheimer. Contador, only 24 years old was named in the Spanish drug scandal a year ago but was cleared.

The world of cycling has been caught up in drug scandals since the Festina team scandal of 1998 with team director Bruno Roussel and team lead Richard Virenque and the entire Festina team banned from racing. Festina’s director and doctor were charged under French law with drug violations.

Before the race, Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso were named in a Spanish drug scandal and both retired from racing. Floyd Landis, last year’s winner, has still not been cleared of doping charges and is under a cloud.

This year was even worse than the 1998 race but CBS tried to put a positive face on things. This year saw 50 first time riders, one Contador, winning the race. Maybe a new generation will clean up racing. Rabobank voluntarily fired a rider for lying to them about his whereabouts, so maybe the teams themselves will start to take a more active roll in enforcement. Don’t hold your breath.

For an even more pessimistic look see RIP