Ivan has a stain on his jersey
My favorite of the 3 grand tours, the Giro d’Italia starts this Sunday. Last year’s winner, Ivan Basso won’t be at the starting line. Like so many pretenders to the throne before him, Basso copped a plea in the doping scandal known as “Operacion Puerto”.
In short, a couple of dozen bags of top pro cyclist’s blood were found in the possession of a doctor who was caught in a blood doping ring. Basso, along with other Tour de France favorites Jan Ulrich and Alexander Vinokorov was not allowed to start last year’s tour and was eventually let go from the powerhouse CSC team (Which is headed up by former Tour winner Bjarne “mister 60” Riis. The “60” referring to his hematocrit level. The legal level is up to 50, and then they suspend you because it takes some pharmaceutical assistance to get it up that high. Lucky for Bjarne, he got out of the sport before they instituted this rule.). Last fall, Basso signed on with Lance Armstrong’s former team, Discovery, and it looked as though he was on his way back to the top.
Basso had been a favorite of mine because he embodied what I loved about the sport. He was tough as nails, gracious, self-sacrificing for his teammates, and could climb like an angel. He was the only rider who could rise to the challenge of riding shoulder to shoulder with Lance Armstrong in Lance’s last two Tours. Armstrong and Basso became close friends in 2004 when, during the Tour, Basso learned that his mother was diagnosed with cancer. When he won last year’s Giro, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Basso would win the Tour in July.
And now he’s all done. Caught red handed, so to speak, he’s copped a plea, been fired, or resigned from Discovery, and admitted only to “attempted” doping in preparation for last year’s tour.
If it all sounds hard to follow, it is. It used to take weeks to hear about European race results. After Al Gore invented the internet, you could get results within days, and now you can keep up live, with video and everything. But now, the drug scandals have overtaken the racing and it’s all sort of a drag.
It all has me wondering, is there a sport that isn’t infected with doping of some sort? I’m starting to have my doubts (As I look at my 2nd Starbucks venti bold of the morning)