Whatever illusions certain fools in the pro peleton may have had should well be erased by now. The constant bickering between the UCI, ASO, and the Pro-Tour teams aside – a clear message has been sent: you cannot use performance enhancing drugs and participate in the Tour de France.
Today’s ejection of climbing “phenom” Riccardo Ricco – after two stage wins in the tour and some amazing climbing performances in this year’s Giro d’Italia: all now under question – marks the third rider within the first half of the current tour to be caught and expelled for EPO use. Ricco’s team, Saunier-Duval/Scott followed suit and removed themselves from the race voluntarilly (for reasons yet to be known as I write this).
So my thought today is the same as it was last week when former Team Discovery rider and teammate of Lance Armstrong, Manuel Beltran was expelled: Who are these guys that they really think that they can get away with this now? Since WADA has taken over the drug testing and ASO has taken such an abrasively staunch anti-doping stance there have been so many positive tests and suspensions – in and out of the Tour – you really must be a fool to think that you can get away with it.
And now, with successful teams such as Columbia/HighRoad and Garmin/Chipotle’ racing in fantastic form this year as teams with thorough and neutral anti-doping programs, it is being proven with every passing day that the tour can be raced (and maybe won?) by a clean rider.
We are ten-years removed from the infamous “Festina Affair” that nearly tore the sport apart and blew the doors open on the problem of doping in pro cycling and while I think most of us hoped that this year would be a problem-free race – it may prove that the Tours of 2007 and 2008 were watershed events in the fight for fair and dope-free professional cycling. There will always be some fool trying to make up for his inadequacies by using illegal methods – but it looks as though we now have the capacity to flush them out. Time will tell.