Tuesday, July 24, 2007


No, not la Lohan's latest run in with LAPD's finest - Alexandre Vinokourov's bust for using illegal blood transfusions to win a stage (or two) in the Tour de France.

Incredible. Doping's the story of the tour, sadly enough. Vino just won the second Pyrenean stage yesterday on a long, audacious breakaway. Then today, a previous blood sample comes back positive, he's suspended, and his team drops out of the tour - taking with it another (long-shot) contender for the overall win, Andreas Kloeden.

I was going to write at least a bit about the great race on Monday and a bit about the accelerating speed of doping scandals, but why bother now? I mean, it doesn't much matter that all the way up the last climb yesterday, young Alberto Contador attacked and attacked and attacked race leader Michael Rasmussen, trying not so much to break away and steal time from Rasmussen as to do psychological damage and weaken Rasmussen for Wednesday's last, brutal mountain stage.

Nope, what matters now is that the Tour looks (even more) ridiculous, with a two-stage winner - the best story of the Tour so far! - out on doping charges, the best team in the race withdrawn in shame, and all the posing about a clean Tour shown to be just so much hot air.

But it is really incredible, how the doping bust cycle - from accusation to punishment - is getting shorter and shorter. Infinity: rumors of doping followed Lance Armstrong throughout his run of seven consecutive wins, but nothing was (or has been yet) proven. Many years: the 1998 bust of Festina, a French team that was doped to the gills, almost brought the Tour to a halt, but took a very long time to come to something like an end. A few years: the Operacion Puerto scandal disqualified some of the pre-race favorites on the day before the Tour began, and is still exacting legal and professional consequences today. Months: Floyd Landis won the tour last year, and almost immediately afterwards was accused of doping; his case, too, is still pending. Weeks: in May, Bjarne Riis, who won the tour in 1996, admitted doping and was summarily removed from the Tour record books. Days and hours: two-thirds of the way through this year's tour, Vinokourov has been accused, kicked out, and shamed.

Given this ludicrous situation, I halfway expect to see tomorrow that the Tour has ejected the winner of next Saturday's time trial - just to tie a nice knot in time's arrow.