A particularly nasty corner of hell …
… is now reserved for Alexander Vinokourov, where he can share a condo with fellow dopers Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton. These are cyclists who have had me jumping up and down on my couch pulling for them as they suffered and struggled to win races that require complete dedication and insane amounts of suffering. The problem is, they cheated. Big time.
I’m not unforgiving. People can sin, repent, and regain their fame and glory. Some cyclists who have been tempted by the lure of doping and been caught know when to stop acting like they’re victims of the system (like Floyd) and not only admit their guilt and spare everyone the silly procedure of trying to get off on technicalities and flaws in the testing system, but accept their punishments, sit their suspensions, and come back determined to ride clean. Richard Virenque got busted, sat his two long years, and came back even more fun to watch as he killed himself on long climbs for France and for glory. David Millar broke down and cried when confronted with his crimes, blamed no one but himself (what a rarity these days), and took his punishment. Now he’s back in the peloton, and while he’s no longer a favorite to win short time trials, he’s a much better and more interesting cyclist overall, and a real evangelist for riding clean. It’s no coincidence that when confronted with the news of Vino’s positive test, he reacted with both anger and sadness.
The silver lining to this mess is that I read today that Slipstream, a US team that has a progressive anti-doping ethos, is looking to make the move to Europe next season. I’ve seen their riders in US racers this season, and they are adamant about not doping and riding 100% clean. Let’s hope they’re the avant garde of a new trend in cycling. If you look at the number of cyclists who have either been caught or forced out due to doping–Ullrich, Basso, Heras, Vinokourov, Hamilton, et al.–you have to think that eventually it has to stop. In this year’s Tour, when Linus Gerdemann of T-Mobile, which is an entirely new team after the expulsion of so many dubious cyclists, won an Alpine stage, the first thing he did was thank the fans who stick with the sport despite the scandals. He was clear about being a clean cyclist, and you have to think that he’s also part of this new trend toward clean riding. Let’s hope this is all a dirty memory in a few years.
Oh, does Rasmussen cheat? Most likely, but until he’s caught I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.