Friday, June 30, 2006
TOUR EVE CATASTROPHE
Ivan Basso is out.
Francisco Mancebo is out.
Joseba Beloki is out.
Though he is personally innocent, Alexandre Vinokourov's team is out.
Before the day is over, Tour de France organizers expect 15-22 riders to be out of the race one day before it starts.
All are implicated in a sophisticated stealth doping regimen prescribed by Spanish physician Eufemiano Fuentes. The evidence in the Spanish police investigation "Operacion Puerta" is just now available to cycling team leaders. Allegations that have been reported in the press and via rumors is now confirmed. And teams are dutifully suspending implicated riders.
The scandal is unprecedented and incredibly damaging. It is tragic. It is sad. It is disgusting. It is unnerving. Ullrich's ex-trainer Peter Becker calls it correctly: "It is a catastrophe."
Suspending riders on strong evidence of doping is necessary. Giving them a fair hearing and letting justice be done is also necessary. Claims and written statements of innocence must be met with unequivocal evidence of wrong-doing. Words and deeds must be verified...now more than ever.
This could signal a new chapter, a new start for cycling. As well as a catastrophe it is an opportunity to be seized and built on. It will take time and the worst is still to come. For those of us keen on this beautiful sport lets look forward to the racing.