Tour de Farce, Tour de Doping, call it what you will, but we still can't call the sport of cycling anywhere close to clean.
Italian cyclist Riccardo Ricco blazed to unbelievable stage 6 and 9 wins, blowing past the peloton with attacks that almost seemed inhuman. In the Tour de France, you know what that means? Yep, busted.
Ricco, 24, tested positive to the blood-boosting drugerythropoietin (EPO) on Thursday. To a chorus of boos by onlooking cycling fans, Ricco was arrested by French police in the town of Lavelanet in accordance with a two-month old French law that makes riders criminally liable for using or possessing banned substances.It's a shame. As one of the few remains American fans of the Tour de France, I still geniunely enjoy getting up early and watching the races live on Versus, who does a tremendous job of covering the tour through France. If nothing else, the views are spectacular. What's missing, however, is the appreciation for an impressive climb up the Alpes. I, like most of you, write that off as being aided be performance-enhancing drugs. I'd rather label them all dopers, than foolishly be tricked into applauded a dopers efforts.
Bill Strickland who blogs for Bicycling.com has a great post up on Ricco with an interesting perspective:
I think it’s great that Riccardo Ricco shot himself so full of the new generation of EPO that he lost all sense and loosed those heartbreakingly ridiculous attacks that won him Stages 6 and 9. Those of us who witnessed those exploits and didn’t know that Ricco was doping had either never watched a Tour de France before, or had somehow found a way to sustain an admirably willful ignorance (which I guess arises from a kind of hope as sweet and doomed as a puppy love crush, or from the utopian delusion that we can somehow rewind the course of modern life to free ourselves from its scourges).It's really sad that it has come to this, but as Strickland continues, his point is to just accept cycling and the Tour de France for what it's become. It's never going to be what it was. It's not so much sport now, but theater, and doping is a part of the show.
I mean, Ricco was, literally, unbelievable, the way he was riding those mountains, his hands down in the drops, sprinting away from the best climbers in the world, up out of the saddle and pouncing on the steepness of the grade whenever his pace slacked, and the way he threw his arms in the air at the line each time, as if presenting himself to us rather than celebrating.
The man was stuffed with dope, and at this point in the life of professional bike racing — in the life of our culture — I think we need to stop pretending we’re outraged. Remember when we, as a society, could still be surprised by the antics of the cast of the Real World, or Survivor, or Big Brother, or American Idol (or our government)? We no longer tune in to reality shows to be shocked by alcoholics, or racism, or threesomes or whatever we might consider taboo; we watch, if we do at all, to see how the drama will unfold this time, with this group, with all the past seasons as context for participants as well as spectators.
Ricco's performance in the Stage 9 climb from Toulouse to Bagnères-de-Bigorre was just as entertaining to watch as Floyd Landis' stage 17 stunner in 2006. There was nothing authentic about either of those performances, and that's sad, but like a Mark McGwire 550-foot bomb there's still some entertainment value.
And despite all of this, there are some riders who have gone about this race the natural way. They may be finishing in the middle of the pack, but they are still sensational athletes at the top of the sport.
The percentage of dopers in cycling is not much larger than that of major league baseball. Just because cycling isn't the "American pastime" and more popular in Europe, there's no need to throw the entire sport off the Alpes.
Of Course He Was Doping [Sitting In]