The Tour de France is disintegrating on the world stage. As in most sports, the pressure to perform causes some athletes to abandon reason. Cheating occurs in every sport I can think of. In auto racing the car is manipulated to gain a performance advantage. In cycling, it is the human body that takes on the role of what must be manipulated to gain a performance edge. Yet despite rigorous and random testing, riders are still trying to cheat. It boggles my mind. It would seem to me that cheating would spoil the feeling of achievement and pride for winning.
Le Tour de Fracas 2007:
Prior to the tour many famous riders admitted to doping, drugging or otherwise cheating. Jan Ullrich, perhaps the most famous rider besides Lance Armstrong, was one of these.
Also prior to the tour, T-Mobile rider Sinkewitz submitted to a test. During the second week of the tour, that pre-tour test’s results showed that he elevated levels of testosterone. He was dismissed. T-Mobile was allowed to continue without him.
This week the tour imploded. It started with Vinokourov failing a test for blood doping, the practice of taking a blood transfusion to increase the amount of red blood cells available to transport oxygen to the muscles. Vinokourov was the favorite to win the tour at the outset. His hopes vanished after a nasty crash left him with stitches in both knees and one elbow. The way he soldiered on was an inspiration. He could have been a hero of the tour. Not only did he get dismissed for cheating during the tour, his entire team, Astana, was dismissed as well.
Similar circumstances occurred with Moreni of Team Cofidis. He got caught cheating during the tour, he had high levels of testosterone, and he and his entire team were dismissed this morning.
And then tour leader Rasmussen of Rabobank admits to lying and gets dismissed, by his team, not the tour organizers. This one is a little harder to understand. Because of the rampant nature of doping in cycling, the organizers have decided that random testing, even when the rider is not at an event, is the way to go. That seems to be a good decision because it was one of these random tests that uncovered Sinkewitz’s cheating. Rasmussen was unavailable for a few of these random tests before the tour, and it turns out that he lied to his team about where he was. He claimed to be in Mexico, where his wife is from, but instead he now admits that he was in Italy. It was enough of a lie that Rabobank felt it was better to dismiss him.
What a fracas this tour has become.
But it can be seen as a good thing. Maybe the cheaters will finally get the message.
I have been saying for many years that drug use within the major sports here in the USA, performance and recreational drug use, could be curtailed if the punishments were more stringent. One strike and you are out. NASCAR has the most strict policies on this. Not baseball, football or basketball; NASCAR. One strike and you get an indefinite suspension. You have to prove via random drug tests for the rest of your career that you are worthy to participate. If you are caught again you are banned from NASCAR permanently.
I can’t begin to assume I understand the pressures these athletes must endure. But I do know that cheating is not the answer.