The 2007 Tour de France is over, and what a strange and exciting one it’s been. There are those out there who want to stress the negative – both the overwhelming pre-race favourite Vinokourov and the guy who probably would have won it kicked out of the race. But to me there is much to be positive about.
The most positive thing is that the dopers are getting caught, and removed, and it’s costing both them and their team-mates big. They lose the money they would have gotten in the Tour, but more importantly they lose an opportunity for positive exposure and personal advancement. And when you’re in pro sports, your career isn’t that long so a lost year hurts really bad. And when you’re on the team of a cheater, people start wondering if you cheated as well. It won’t be long before the riders get the word that harbouring a cheater in your midst isn’t good for your team or your career.
The next most positive thing is that the sport is being taken over by the youngsters who weren’t even around when there was no test for EPO so everybody was using it, or when Festina was caught with a car full of drugs. It was a pretty amazing sight to watch the white jersey for best young rider being worn by the guy who was third in that competition because the best “best young rider” was wearing the yellow jersey of overall champion, and the second “best young rider” was wearing the polka dot jersey of King Of The Mountains.
And the next most positive thing was seeing Team Rabobank removing their own rider, even though he probably could have kept riding and won the Tour, based not on positive drug tests, but on suspicious behaviour (and suspicious results – Michael Rasmussen should not be able to time trial like that).
I think the next thing the Tour, and pro cycling in general, needs is some more shaking out of the old guard. Directer Sportif’s who cheated when they were riders (like BR), and even DS’s who are willing to give contracts to riders who had been named in a doping investigation but who hadn’t yet been charged (I’m looking at you, JB) need to go. Your presence makes us wonder whether you’d be as strong as Rabobank was, or if faced with a similar situation you’d cover it up.
I’d also like them to hunt down and find the other doping doctors. Operation Puerto taught us that there are a lot of big cheaters out there who are turning in great results, and who aren’t getting caught by the doping controls. That can’t be the only doping operation out there. Find them, find their customers, and boot them the fuck out of pro cycling.
Sadly, my hope that Floyd Landis was innocent and really did turn in the best mountain stage in history and really did deserve to win the 2006 Tour is fading. Seeing Vinokourov and Rasmussen go down makes me feel that a rider facing the end of his career and the end of his dream will stop at nothing to win, and even the best will be tempted at the end. And that for me is sadder than anything else that happened in this year’s Tour.