July 26, 2007

The Tour de Farce

Cycling's most prestigious event is becoming more and more of a joke with each passing day. Yesterday, the overall leader was kicked out of the race - by his own team - and another cyclist tested positive for doping. Just another day in the Tour de France.

It's amazing what this once proud race has been reduced to. Everyday some sort of scandal drops and casts a cloud over the race, and for that matter, the entire sport. After the allegations against Lance Armstrong, and the Floyd Landis fiasco last year, the Tour de France is just about out of credibility. Any credibility it has left is quickly leaving the building.

Yesterday, Danish rider Michael Rasmussen was booted out of the race by his own team. He had led the race for nine days and won Stage 17 yesterday, but was dismissed for lying about his whereabouts during training, possibly misleading anti-doping officials.

Boy, those anti-doping officials for the Tour de France must put in some serious hours. They're busting guys left, right and centre. Rasmussen told his team he was training in Mexico while he was actually in Italy. All riders are required to report their whereabouts to anti-doping officials, and Italy and Mexico aren't exactly a wrong turn away from each other.

The Toronto Star also reported that Rasmussen received an official warning from cycling officials after he missed multiple anti-doping tests earlier this year. I don't know about you, but these anti-doping officials are really starting to sound intimidating.

But I digress.

Really, this race is just getting more and more ridiculous by the hour. Who cares anymore? It's clear that so many of the participants are cheating, and anyone involved now has to be questioned. These guys are all guilty until proven innocent.

Another rider, Cristian Moreni, of the French Cofidis team, was arrested by police yesterday after he tested positive for a manufactured testosterone. Another one bites the dust. Hours after Moreni's arrest, the entire Cofidis team withdrew from the race.

All this came only a day after Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov was kicked out of the race after it was learned that he tested positive for a banned blood transfusion. Now I'm not even sure what a banned blood transfusion is, but in the world of cycling, it's a big deal. Vinokourov's Astana team also pulled out of the race and police raided their hotel. Vinokourov was one of the favourite's to win the event.

That's it, right? Nope. In addition to all the doping scandals, two small explosions were set off along the course in Spain yesterday. Luckily, no one was injured by the blasts, which followed a warning from the Basque separatist group ETA.

Now that leader Rasmussen has been shown the door, 24-year-old Alberto Contador is the official race leader. For the sake of the Tour de France, I hope he doesn't get booked.

I think it's time for officials to seriously contemplate cancelling the Tour de France. The clouds cast over the race by doping have brought so much shame and embarrassment to the sport that the race, and the sport, can no longer be taken seriously anymore.

Cycling needs to be cleaned up. Until then, the Tour de France will remain the Tour de Farce.