>Yesterday, top cyclist Alexandre Vinokurov failed a doping test and his team abandoned the tour (predictably, Vino claimed innocence and persecution). Today, Italian cyclist Cristian Moreni failed a test and was taken away by police; his team also withdrew from the race. And Tour leader Michael Rasmussen was removed from the race not by anti-doping officials but by his own team. At this point, professional cycling’s credibility has been compared to that of Alberto Gonzales–which is to say it has none whatsoever.
You might not know much of this by watching today’s Tour coverage on Versus. Announcers Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin mentioned Vino’s doping positive once, in one sentence, and then merely in passing. The cable channel spent less than ten seconds of video on today’s protest at the start of the tour, and was less than genuine in its description (I only know this after listening to an account on BBC World News). The protest was staged by a number of teams who have instituted strong team anti-doping regulations; whereas Liggett and Sherwin described it as a simple refusal to start the race, in fact these teams blocked the course and forced a 13-minute delay before the remainder of the field could physically force their way through. Those riders who did were summarily jeered by the crowd (another fact ignored by Versus).
In the USA, this would be front-page news in the sports section, but it’s been pushed out by assorted problems in the NBA, the NFL, and Major League Baseball. All of a sudden, track looks maybe not squeaky-clean but at least reasonable.
Years ago, it was assumed that every doping positive would further decimate track’s already weak public image. I thought that attitude was bullshit then and I still do now. The truth is that track began to deal with its doping problems long before any other major sport even thought about it. Honesty may cause short-term pain but in the long run it is always better than lies. Cycling and baseball are taking their lumps now; football will get its share of suffering sometime soon. Track & field can hold its head high and know we’ve tried to do the right thing.