Well, unless you are a normal person who doesn’t follow bike racing, you already know that the Tour de France has been thrown into total turmoil by a new doping scandal. Commentators are always talking about how much doping goes on in cycling, but show me another sport where the suspicion of doping can get you thrown out of the most prestigious event — and where conviction gets you a two-year suspension. Please . . . in baseball, it’s a couple of weeks and you’re back on the field — and that’s if you’re caught with a lockerful. Anything less is considered too uncertain to risk someone’s career.
My rant about other sports aside, this has turned everything on its head. Ivan Basso, who won the Giro D’Italia with such an amazing (and, now, perhaps drug-enhanced) performance, is out. Jan Ullrich, perennial also-ran, is out. Vinokourov and the entire Liberty-Seguros/Astana-Wurth squad: out. Beloki, Mancebo, Gutierrez: out. Not only are all these riders out, but their teams aren’t allowed to substitute for them. I won’t even be sure who’s left until the Tour starts this morning. It’s chaos.
As terrible as this is for the sport and the Tour, it could be great news for the Americans. No one on Discovery was implicated, and George Hincapie and Tom Danielson have a real shot with a strong team. I think Bobby Julich’s still on for CSC, which only lost Basso, and they still have VandeVelde and Zabriskie on a very strong team that includes Jens Voigt, Carlos Sastre and Stuart O’Grady, and which dominated the Giro. Then there’s Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner, and Floyd Landis — Floyd had a great Spring. So as wide open as the Tour was before, it has really blown open now.
I’ll be watching the Tour for the next three weeks. If you don’t hear from me, that’s why.