So far the results of the Tour de France have been seemingly devoid of dope-enhanced performances. Less than a minute separates most of the field and none of the break-aways have been able to stay away. In fact, if I'm looking at the right stat sheet, the largest break-away margin was less than five minutes. So what's the big deal with all the doping talk!?
Well, in today's issue of the Boston Globe, an opinion piece by Matthew Stevenson rails against the sport of cycling and even seems to suggest that it might have been better for the Tour de France if the 2007 edition was shelved. That's right, Stevenson indicates that some people thought a year off would help the sport.
I disagree. I think that cycling is already rebounding. The riders are probably still doping and some will definitely get caught this year. But it's not going to disable cycling and it certainly won't wreck the Tour de France.
I also feel that Floyd Landis will be found innocent soon and that will bolster interest in cycling, not create more cynicism. The trouble is really the limited understanding people have when it comes to the testing procedures, the demands of the sport, the guilty until proven innocent pattern, and the dictatorship that is the UCI.
This year, riders couldn't even ride in the Tour de France unless they signed a contract with the UCI saying that they would forfeit all of their 2007 earnings if they were found guilty of using banned substances.
Here's the conundrum for a rider...up until July, unless you're a top top top rider, you have made only a fraction of the possible money you could make for the year. If you do poorly in the TDF, then you still are making minimal money for a pro athlete (other than those who have HUGE endorsement deals).
SO, if you need to finish high in the Tour de France to make more money. AND if you can only finish high in the Tour by doping. What do you have to lose? If you don't get caught, you have more money and a better record. If you do get caught, you lose the money that doping helped you earn. It's a gamble, but for about 150 of the 189 riders in the race, they won't be on the podium and therefore won't be locks to get tested. So the gamble is minimal.
Before today's stage, there were 53 riders tested randomly. I'll keep you updated on those results.
I still think the sport is as clean as any other major sport - maybe cleaner. The overreaching issue is the amount of information we have about the drugs and testing process in cycling.
If we had better access to Major League Baseball - or if the sport had the guts to open its doors to independent testing organizations - that would be the sport facing extinction.
For now, the wheels in the Tour de France keep turning. That's the way it should be.
Updates on Stage 3 coming up.