BY MIKE WOLVERTON SPORTS GUY I’m pretty bummed about the Tour de France. I watch every year and I love it — partly because of the complicated strategies that play out in what is really more a team event than an individual one, and partly because of the pure machismo on display during the crucial mountain climbs. And more than anything, I enjoy watching because no event takes place on such a glorious playing field . . . day after day, the views of sweeping vistas, majestic mountains and ancient castles are breathtaking. On some days, the scenery is even better than the race.
It’s too bad something so beautiful can turn so ugly.
The sport of cycling was already awash with drug and doping scandals. Then this week, “Vino” (Alexandre Vinokurov), the world’s 2nd most famous Kazak and a pre-race favorite, got busted with someone else’s blood in his veins. This is a little strange, as “blood doping” involves drawing your own blood, centrifuging out the plasma to leave a concentration of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, then re-injecting said blood at a later date. For Vino to have someone else’s blood in him sounds like 25-years-behind-the-times Kazakhstani cheating. And no, it wasn’t Borat’s blood. Vino was a hero to many and was always described as having “heart” and “guts,” both of which are still assumes, at this point, to be his own. Still, this whole episode reminds me of the time Spinal Tap’s drummer choked to death on vomit — somebody else‘s vomit.
Wednesday’s stage, the last in the mountains, was won by Michael Rasmussen, as he virtually assured himself of the overall Tour de France victory. But by Wednesday night, Rasmussen was off the Tour, pulled from competition by his own team for lying about his whereabouts before the race, when he missed two random drug tests (he said he was in Mexico but was spotted in Italy). What?s messed up is that all this was known before the Tour began, but his team waited until he had virtually won it before pulling the plug. I guess they were hoping he’d do poorly so they wouldn’t have to bother? Certainly the team sponsor gets more publicity this way.
After Vino was busted, I told my wife that I think they are all doing it . . . all the contenders, anyway. If putting potentially damaging substances in your body is worth it because of the competitive advantage it delivers, how is anybody keeping up with the cheaters unless they are doing it, too? I just figure some teams are better at it than others. With Rasmussen out, two of the top three riders are from the only American team, Team Discovery Channel. It doesn’t strain credulity to believe that the Americans are just better at cheating than the other teams. After all, Lance Armstrong has never failed a drug test and yet won — dominated — seven straight Tours against a field that was full of cheaters. Guilty or not, I hope Armstrong is never caught — if only because it would damage all the tremendous work done through his “LIVESTRONG” Foundation. Anyway, the race ends on Sunday and I’m gonna watch it until the proverbial fat lady sings, even if I have to do a little doping myself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Wolverton spent two seasons as the play-by-play broadcaster for the Atlantic City Surf and has also had stints as an official scorer, public address announcer and two years as a hockey broadcaster. This year he is play-by-play announcer and official scorer of his newborn son. In between, he will be writing about sports for Phawker.