Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Vino loses his sparkle at Le Tour

The clouds hanging over my favourite annual sporting event, the Tour de France, just got a whole lot darker today. Alexandre Vinokourov, our pre-race favourite, suffered a major setback early in the race thanks to a bad crash, but incredibly recovered in the last few days, winning two stages. We always love a comeback story in Le Tour, and this was a cracker.

Until today, when it was announced that the Kazakhstan cyclist, leader of the Astana team, had tested positive for blood doping after his time trial win on Saturday. Following this announcement, Vinokourov and his team withdrew from the race immediately.

It's just another in a series of setbacks and scandals for the sport of cycling. Already in this year's Tour, one German rider failed a drug test (which prompted German channels ARD/ZDF to pull the plug) and then the announcement that race leader Michael Rasmussen had failed to appear for drug tests in Denmark, which resulted in his national federation suspending him.

With only 5 days left of this year's race, we can't help thinking that the organisers can't wait for it to end.

In spite of all that, I still love the Tour de France: it's just a pity that some (how many?) of its competitors can't treat it with the same reverence.

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