Thursday, July 17, 2008

Et Tu, Ricco?

So, lots of folks over at the bikeforums Tour de France sub-forum are all up in arms about the fact that Ricardo Ricco of team Saunier Duval failed a doping test and the entire team today pulled out of the 2008 Tour de France.

I said it on the forum today, and I'll say it here: "If you find yourself shocked or surprised by this news, I really think you ought to find yourself a good therapist and have a talk about your grasp on reality." A decade or more of scandals, ejected riders, disgraced or dis-invited teams, and governing bodies eating their own tails, and people continue to feel shocked and disappointed?

I am angry. I am sad. But I don't think I can ever be shocked by the behavior of professional athletes -- or their teams or governing bodies -- again, especially not in cycling.

I purposely did not pay the extra $45 to my cable provider so I could watch the (very good) coverage on Versus this year. Every day, I sorely miss Phil Ligget's voice, the super-extensive coverage, and the abundant, lucid graphics on Versus. I do tune in to the race via the Eurosport audio feed (and sometimes watch one of the free European video feeds along with it on Pop UP TV), but it's a poor man's Tour over there. The various problems with that include 1) unreliable video, 2) visuals not matched to audio commentary, and 3) (and by far the worst:) Sean Kelly's achingly monotonous brogue droning on and on, and adding precious little to my understanding of the proceedings. Sean, you were undisputed royalty on the bike, but I'm begging you: Stop talking. You make my hair hurt.

Still, for all the fun I'm missing on Versus, I have successfully achieved my two main goals: 1) I avoided the inevitable disgust that would ensue at the point when I got totally hooked on the drama unfolding in full color on my big screen – and then some yutz (or yutzes) in the thick of the fight for the jerseys turned up positive; and 2) I'm putting zero francs in the pantalons of ASO, the private company that owns the Tour (and just about every other major bike race in the world -- they even recently started a marketing partnership with the as-yet unsullied Tour of California). I won't get into ASO's surrealistic "business" practices here, nor how they've contributed mightily to the irrelevancy of their own event, and the sport in general. Look here if you want to know more. But remember, you were warned.

Finally, if you want to know where I stand on doping and sport (and personally, I find my position fascinatingly nuanced, not to mention substantiated with masterful dabs of historical reference), check out this earlier post. I really enjoyed writing it, even though the conclusion continues to pain me today -- and apparently will for the foreseeable future.

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