The 2007 Tour de France, or Tattered Elegance

The world has heard of the decline of the Tour, and the many riders who have been sent home because they were caught taking drugs. What you won’t hear is what we truly know, and what we don’t know. The media feeding frenzy is in full swing, and truth and fairness are taking a beating. I wrote a small essay about it on Trust But Verify, and I reproduce it here.

If readers recall nothing else, remember this:

It does no good to fix a crooked problem with a crooked solution.

With the exception of one rider who has declined his B sample test, no one has been proven guilty in the 2007 tour. Media outlets and commenters on the Floyd-related boards frequently overlook this. It’s shocking to read otherwise well-informed commenters here and on Rant presume Rasmussen’s and Vino’s guilt. We don’t know yet, exactly as we didn’t know about Floyd a year ago. We still don’t know about Floyd, but we know a lot more than we did then.

It is stunning that illicit news leaks from within the ADA system, that supposed paragon of virtue, are now routine, and hearsay is ejecting riders and teams from a Tour in progress without any due process. This kind of zealotry, which has injured the sport in the past, should be punished and not publicized. Typical of the media’s crazy bias is the Swedish decision to report only results and doping news. Or the UK paper, cited above [Ed. note: cited in TBV], which has Landis already stripped of his title and serving a suspension.

Someone says he saw Rasmussen in Italy and not Mexico. Media outlets carry conflicting reports of confirmations and denials. What is known for sure? Only that Michael missed some random tests. If that was a problem, Tour organizers should have disqualified him before the race. Unless they can prove more than was known at the start, they have no ethical standing in getting him fired.

ADA spokespeople have capitalized on this year’s increased enforcement and the presumed guilt to support their raison d’etre. I vehemently disagree.

ADA groups must be above reproach, have high ethical standards, and stand behind solid science and laboratory practices. Ours destroy careers, races, teams and cyclists based on hearsay, trial by media, uncertain science and laboratory rigor (about which they brook no discussion), an internal code of silence, and loose-lipped spokespeople in their ranks.

In short, ADA in cycling is crooked, in the sense that it is broken, and not playing straight. It may be legally crooked, but that’s for a jury to decide.

It does no good to fix a crooked problem with a crooked solution.

If the 2006 “Grand Deboucle” wasn’t proof enough, 2007 is showing that ADA hysteria is increasing. Which is not to say cycling is a clean sport–only that this scattershot technique isn’t the way to fix it.

Often-quoted M. Pierre Bordry, head of the French ADA (AFLD), is also the President of LNDD, the lab at the center of these controversies. In his case, the prosecutor is also a paid foreman of the jury. Does this sound crooked?

Riders must now forcibly sign contracts sacrificing a year’s income of they are found to be doping. In today’s climate, that only takes one predictable news leak about preliminary test results, the scandal-hungry media, and about 24 hours. I want to see ADA officials similarly accountable: if you cost a rider a a year’s salary and cannot prove it in an open, fair system, you (individually or collectively) are liable.

I believe, as others have said, that cyclists need to unionize. One of the functions of that union, beholden to no one rider, is to retain impartial third-party representation to be present at all doping tests, and preserve a C sample, with all the chain of custody responsibilities that requires. When ill-trained, gagged techs at LNDD test both the A and B sample with the same uncontrolled methods, teams and riders will not be at the mercy of ADA officials for timely, accurate, and complete information. And there will be certifiable evidence from the best lab available, instead of the current system which deletes important computer files, and suppresses any exculpatory data it may have.

In such a secretive, biased, PR-driven ADA environment, I would not be surprised if this year’s aggressive anti-doping activity was in reaction to the Landis case, as if to say, “See? It’s like we said, everybody dopes! You need us on this wall, protecting the sport!” Whatever it is, I want the truth. In the meantime, all I know is this:

It does no good to fix a crooked problem with a crooked solution.

The opinions expressed in Steve’s Peeves are intended to entertain, perhaps educate, and, in some cases, uplift. They may not be appropriate for young readers or the satirically challenged. Parental supervision is advised.

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