TOUR COMMENT: IT'S ALL GONE QUIET
It's all gone quiet over here. After a maelstrom of allegations and the withdrawal of the two outstanding favourites for the Tour de France we’re now stood around wondering who’s next going to mention the enormous African elephant in the room.
Drugs? Ah, that was last week’s word. This week let’s put our heads down and concentrate on the cycling.
Which is all very well, as long as it doesn’t lure anyone into a false sense of security. This is not an entirely dope-free Tour. It can’t be. But there is, perhaps, a change of attitude and a realisation that this cannot go on happening. The race is a farce already and it’s easier to enjoy the spectacle and the cultural aspects than give a monkeys about the results. What’s the point of lauding today’s victor if tomorrow he’s at the centre of the next scandal?
And who, apart from the riders themselves, can really declare one way or other about the contents of their medical cabinets?
Cycling Weekly and Cycle Sport are not the only news media to be caught out time and time again by the scandals. Last week’s cover star was Jan Ullrich, this month’s is Ivan Basso. But what is the alternative? Ignore the words that come out of the riders’ mouths entirely? Might not be a bad idea.
The riders are the only ones who can change things, particularly while the teams and sponsors avoid the real responsibility. They talk a good game, making their riders sign declarations and then sacking them if they get caught. This is not taking a hard line – it’s simply having an escape clause and the means to hang the rider out to dry if they are exposed.
Meanwhile, there is a murmuring of satisfaction from some riders who have quietly expressed satisfaction at the recent revelations from Spain. Let’s hope those riders are clean or else it’s a particularly low line to peddle.
One question is why the riders themselves don’t speak out and shop the riders they know are breaking the rules? But look at what has happened to the whistleblowers – starting with Paul Kimmage, cast adrift for spitting in the soup, then the disgraceful treatment of Christophe Bassons, the tarring of Jesus Manzano as a nutcase with a grudge and even the attempt to ostracise Filippo Simeoni.
What on earth is going on with the other sports allegedly on the list? One day there were some footballers on it, next day there weren’t. Hmm, we wonder what’s been going on in the background to make the Spanish revise their information?
Whether or not the tennis player Rafael Nadal is going to be part of the investigation remains to be seen but we bet the BBC’s coverage of Wimbledon is not being dominated by the news that his name was allegedly on the list.
Maybe I’ve got that wrong and the BBC are explaining to their viewers all about the unpleasant practice of blood doping and its benefits and implications. I suspect not, given that there’s barely a mention of the affair on the corporation’s website.
Meanwhile, enjoy the show. Try not to get caught up in heralding the the next big thing to excess. Remember the saviour of the last scandal-hit Tour in 1998? Perhaps if we – fans and media – start ignoring the riders, the clean ones will start putting the pressure on those they know are breaking the rules. Perhaps then, we’ll see some real change.