$0.02: Latest Tour debacle is fault of organizers
February 18, 2008
People wonder why professional cycling is in such shambles. It’s pretty simple. Across the board, the decisions being made are horrendous. I’m not just talking about the riders electing to dope. Those guys are dumb and greedy, sure. But perhaps the most inexplicable decision of all came down last week, and it was made by the body that owns the Tour de France, Amaury Sport Organization (ASO).ASO banned Team Astana from competing in any events it organizes this year, including the Tour. ASO made the move in light of Astana’s past transgressions, which included last year’s disaster, when pre-race favorite Alexander Vinokourov was kicked out for blood doping mid-race.You can sympathize with ASO for a moment here. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” But if you’re going to ban a team for its shady history, do it immediately after last year’s race. Or do it in October. Or November. Any time except after this season has already begun.That’s the hugely unfair element here. Astana was completely overhauled in the offseason. In the place of suspect management and riders came reputable replacements like Johan Bruyneel (who directed Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour wins as well as last year’s Discovery squad, which put two riders on the podium), Alberto Contador (last year’s Tour champ), Levi Leipheimer (third at the 2007 Tour) and Andreas Kloeden (a former Tour runner-up). Now, we won’t get to see the defending Tour de France champ race. We won’t get to see Leipheimer, the aging top American, compete for the one huge victory that has always eluded him. And we’ve got even more anger in a sport full of it – when it all could’ve been avoided had ASO made this move months earlier.”I do not understand the world any longer,” Kloeden wrote on his website, as reported on http://www.velonews.com. “I was tested five or six times last year – always negatively. I am suffering because of the fact that others dope, get caught and we all get it in the neck.”As Leipheimer said, “We are all left wondering.” …I don’t watch a ton of NASCAR. But I tuned in Sunday right about the same time I always do for the Daytona 500, with about 20 laps left in the 200-lap race. The finish was incredible theater, a daring final-lap move at 190 mph. Yet I still don’t understand how it was legal. Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch are teammates on the Penske Dodge squad, and when Newman needed a boost to get past leader Tony Stewart, Busch put his car behind Newman’s and literally pushed him to the victory.I understand it’s a team sport of sorts, but how is that different from, say, a runner carrying an unconscious teammate to the finish line? …Quote of the Week comes from San Francisco southpaw Barry Zito. Speaking about the change in clubhouse atmosphere since Barry Bonds is no longer with the team, Zito told reporters last week: “People will be allowed to be who they want to be, not who they think they have to be because there is such a heavy presence in the clubhouse, such a superstar.” …I watched the majority of last week’s absurdly strange Clemens-McNamee hearing live, and after doing so, I had to check: Is “misremember” a word? It actually is. (But I still think Clemens is lying.) … Headline of the Week is another solid one from SI.com: “Ex-stripper: De La Hoya lingerie pics are real.” …In parting, do yourself a favor the next time you’re at a computer and look up some spring training photos. Nothing puts a winterized person in a better mood than seeing all that green grass and sun, and knowing farmer’s tans are only a few days away.Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs on Tuesdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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