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This diary is intended to provide some more detail and insight into today's terrible developments at the Tour de France. Please also read Jim in AZ's fine diary on the subject, posted this morning just after 10 am ET.

The 93rd Tour de France, scheduled to begin tomorrow with a 7.1 km time trial in Strasbourg, was rocked today by scandal. The biggest news is that the two biggest favorites for this year's Tour, Jan Ullrich, the only active rider in the world with a Tour victory under his belt, and his chief rival, Ivan Basso, who just won Italy's Grand Tour in May, are both out of the race, along with an as yet undetermined number of other riders.

The scandal began in late May ...

The scandal began in late May with the arrest of Manolo Saiz, then director of the Liberty-Seguros team. The  involvement of Saiz has resulted in a campaign by the organizers of the Tour de France to exclude Saiz's team, now named Würth, from this year's Tour, despite the fact that Saiz was fired back in May.

Operacion Puerto, as the investigation is now called, also implicated a former team doctor, by the name of Eufamiano Fuentes. All of the riders either already excluded or in the process of being excluded from this year's Tour have been linked in some fashion with Fuentes, most commonly in written documents with sometimes cryptic entries,.

It's important to note that no smoking gun evidence has yet been revealed about any of these riders. Their teams, pending further developments, have suspended them. Thus, at least to this point, none of the riders were excluded by the Tour itself. One of the difficulties, however, is that the standard in cycling is not innocent until proven guilty. It is rather the reverse, and the burden of proof is almost always on the rider to prove innocence, rather than on the prosecution to prove guilt. Here is a quotation from Basso's director, Bjarne Riis (winner of the 1996 Tour de France): "I trust Ivan Basso, but now it is up to him and his lawyers to show he has nothing to do with this affair."

Reasonable doubt, from what I have seen in previous doping cases, does not apply. That is a US standard, not an international one. No cyclist wins an appeal based on reasonable doubt. It has to be scientifically established doubt, all but irrefutable.

This is the greatest scandal to hit cycling since the infamous Festina affair, which stunned the 1998 Tour and resulted in the exclusion of two teams during the race. Police raids on he teams during the race resulted in the riders staging protest strikes on Stage 12 and Stage 17 of that year's race. With race attrition, only 96 riders of the 189 starters finished the event.

This year's race was scheduled to begin with an identical number, but some estimates suggest that as many as 22 riders will be excluded before tomorrow's prologue. None of those riders may be replaced by their teams. so the Tour may begin with fewer than 170 riders.

Also implicated in Operacion Puerto is Tyler Hamilton, the American 2004 Olympic time trial gold medalist. Hamilton has been under suspension since 2004 for a blood doping violation in the 2004 Tour of Spain. He suspension will expire in time for the 2006 World Championships. It is unknown at this time if he will ride that race. Will USA Cycling select him to represent the US at World's? And following that race, will any team hire him? Since he is serving a two-year suspension, it is unlikely that any additional sanctions will be made against him, but it unquestionably causes further damage to his reputation. It was only on Tuesday that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (the highest court in the world for sporting issues) ruled that Hamilton could keep his Athens gold medal. Disputed results of blood tests at the Athens games suggested that Hamilton had blood-doped there, as well, but a mix up with the sample resulted in its being frozen, which made it impossible to test the backup sample to confirm the violation. Sadly, Hamilton's is perhaps the least valuable Olympic Gold Medal in the world today.

Lance Armstrong fans have noted that no Discovery team riders have been implicated in Operacion Puerto. Given the vehemence with which Armstrong and his legacy are under attack, it is likely that no Discovery riders have any connection with the current investigation in Spain. Armstrong's enemies would like nothing more than to see him dragged into this investigation.

What response the riders will make remains to be seen. It is likely that police jurisdictions around France, as they did in 1998, will conduct their own "raids" during the course of this year's race. Those raids are what prompted the strikes in 1998, since they totally disrupt the riders' routines and focus during what many say is the world's most demanding sporting event.

Experts speak about the difficulty in obtaining reliable information in times of war, using terms like "the fog of war." The Tour de France is completely enveloped in just such a fog today, and no one can predict what will emerge on the far side. Will this year's Tour be cancelled? Will the riders strike? Will riders withdraw in protest? What will happen with the sponsors? No sponsor signs a contract with a team these days without provisions allowing for their withdrawal in the event of a major doping scandal within the team. What sponsor, in the witch-hunt environment prevailing in the world of cycling, would choose to sponsor a professional cycling team?

What will become of those of us, who felt that, in the sport of cycling, we had found the world's most beautiful, most miraculous sport?

A complete (up-to-the-moment) list of links on Operacion Puerto may be found at the bottom of this cyclingnews.com story.However that list is updated with each new story which comes out, which, today, I am deeply disappointed to note, occurs almost hourly.

Update 3:22 pm ET: Astana-Würth, the team of Vinokourov, has left the Tour de France and will not compete in 2006. More updates every minute, it seems, in this terrible scandal.

Originally posted to BeninSC on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 09:29 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  not the end of the Tour (8+ / 0-)

    but perhaps the end of all the ragging on Armstrong, assuming he's not pulled in. Every accusation against him is from before he started winning.  Ulrich, Basso, etc. are big names now at the heights of their careers.  

    •  True (3+ / 0-)

      It's just disappointing. Finally the time comes for Ullrich and Basso... and then this happens. For the next couple of weeks now, the story is not the Tour but the doping scandal. And I don't know if I have the patience to listen to that on a daily basis.

    •  It actually casts more doubt on Armstrong. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grayscale

      It's frankly a little hard to believe that Armstrong climbed better than the best climbers and time trialed better than the most powerful riders when they were taking performance enhancing drugs and he wasn't.

      •  I disagree (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dannyinla, BeninSC, anotherdemocrat

        He was already an explosively powerful rider when he first went pro and quickly won the world championship.  Cancer was in some senses his savior as it made him loose all that upper body muscle mass from his time-trialing days.  After recovery, tests showed he maintained the same power output but now weighed a bunch less.  That's exactly what is needed to be a good climber.  Also, read into some of the training program differences between Armstrong and Ulrich, for example.  As recently as 2000 Ulrich's trainers were having him do such things as the all banana diet.  I'm not kidding.  American professional cycling really has dragged the rest of them into the 21st century.

        •  I agree with your assessment of the influence ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... of American training methods, which are science and medicine based.

          Read into that you will.  The Euro's kept guessing (Ullrich apparently trained in an altitude room!) while the Americans figured it out.  I suspect Lance's investment in physiologists and hematologists paid off well.

          But you missed a couple facts:
          Lance was never, ever, "an explosively powerful rider".  He just wasn't.  He has exceptional endurance, and is powerful, but was never explosive.

          His upper body mass was from his days as a triathlete, mostly from swimming, but also part of his natural build.

          Lance's gain in power/wt. ratio is not explainable solely by the loss of upper body muscle.  

          Here is a picture of the Spanish climber Iban Mayo:

          http://tinyurl.com/...

          Lance never had the body of a climber.

          They don't govern -- they steal. Conservatism is THEFT by another name. Today, Republicanism = Conservatism = Theft. Their governance is theft.

          by Yellow Canary on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:51:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  There were allegations against Armstrong ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... when he became the second youngest World Champion ever.  That was pre-cancer.

      Cycling has never been clean.  There have been allegations against all cyclists.

      Ullrich won the TdF in 1997.  He is not at the height of his career -- in fact there has been much press this year about his coming retirement.

      They don't govern -- they steal. Conservatism is THEFT by another name. Today, Republicanism = Conservatism = Theft. Their governance is theft.

      by Yellow Canary on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:39:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  wow (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BeninSC, anotherdemocrat

    What a story!  Thanks Ben.

  •  Bummer (4+ / 0-)

    but I'm still watching the Tour this year.  

    And yeah, I hope this is, once and for all, the end of all the speculation around Lance Armstrong; the most tested athlete out there.  

    End the US occupation of Iraq now!

    by smugbug on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 09:34:47 AM PDT

  •  Festina didn't do it in... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BeninSC

    I doubt this will...

    "How is it pro-family to prevent people from getting married?" -Me

    by tamman2000 on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 09:43:03 AM PDT

  •  the Tour is bigger than this (9+ / 0-)

    The Tour has been around for over 100 years and has endured scandals involving the abuse of all sorts of stuff throughout its history. The main reason the Tour is getting all this bad press is because cyclists are probably tested more than any other athletes in any other sport. Test other sports equally and you would get as bad or worse of a problem. This just shows they are trying.

    1998 was a big disaster because all the ejections occurred during the Tour. I think a wide-open Tour will distract people from this pre-Tour bombshell, which is really what the ASO wants. In hindsight there were all sorts of problems in previous Tours that took years to come to light. Delgado's 1988 win was almost assuredly drug-related but he got no asterisk. He got off on a technicality, and a lot of people thought he threw the 1989 Tour intentionally because he would've failed a drug test during the first week. The PDM team not long after that all abandoned on the same day due to a "stomach virus", which evidence suggests was really a doping job gone wrong one day. There are plenty more examples.

    People have been DQed while wearing yellow for positive tests, whole teams kicked out, etc. before and the Tour goes on. The tradition goes on and this probably shows more than anything that the system is trying to work, whereas other sports (e.g. baseball) simply don't give a crap. Given all the banned substances on the testing list, a whole lot of us average people would fail one of those tests.

    This Tour will be wide open. If any top riders withdrawn from this Tour are exonerated, maybe there will be asterisks next to the winner's name, but plenty of top riders have gone missing before for the same reasons and the record books go on without them. If they are found guilty, there are no footnotes. A (hopefully) clean winner trumps a tainted one.

    Armstrong was the most drug tested athlete on earth. I have a hard time believing he figured out a way to get away with it during his seven wins.

    The standard of evidence for disqualification from the Tour is low per the Tour's own code of conduct. I never wanted to believe Tyler Hamilton was guilty, but it's hard now to think otherwise. I figured Jan Ullrich would have learned from his previous suspension for ecstasy use. Basso to me is a shock. There have been lots of this type of evidence in the past and most of it has turned out to be true. I can completely understand the Tour's reasoning for kicking them out. If they didn't, say Basso won, and then he's found guilty it would be a disaster (far worse than Heras being DQed at the Vuelta and then Menchov getting the "win" months later).

    The Tour would be nearest to death if Armstrong were somehow found guilty now after the fact. Cycling's credibility would go in the toilet then. Pretty much ditto if whoever wins this year later tests positive for something. This is why they have to rule with an iron fist on this.

    I've been a cycling fan forever and have studied the Tour as a hobby since I was a kid. If my opinion counts for anything, the Tour will live on. 1998 turned out a lot of positives in the long run, so will this.

    Vive le Tour!

    "I am a patriot, and I love my country because my country is all I know."

    by Aragorn for America on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 09:54:57 AM PDT

  •  It looks like Armstrong picked (4+ / 0-)

    a good time to retire.  

  •  re (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anotherdemocrat

    Where to watch?

    I did not subscribe to OLN this year.

    Anyone know where I can see it on TV?

    (espn?

    "Take me to your Kingpin." - Steve Holt

    by cookiesandmilk on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:05:27 AM PDT

    •  I don't know about watching... (3+ / 0-)

      But the velonews.com live update thing is pretty good...

      "How is it pro-family to prevent people from getting married?" -Me

      by tamman2000 on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:08:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  cycling.tv? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cookiesandmilk, anotherdemocrat

      cycling.tv often broadcasts international races. I think it is a premium site (which means they charge for content). I have never really used it. I do not know what Tour coverage may be available there, but it might be an option if you aren't watching OLN. Couldn't hurt to check it out, anyway.

      "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

      by BeninSC on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:12:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  bicycling magazine (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BeninSC

      says they will have their minute by minute descriptions again this year -- it isn't watching the Tour, but in previous years, I have read it while I was at work & found it to be a good description

      We have done the impossible and that makes us mighty - Firefly

      by anotherdemocrat on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 07:49:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I watch OLN, but ... (0+ / 0-)

        In years past I have had three separate and distinct text feeds up. Then I read analysis of the stages in about 6 rider diaries and on a dozen websites, including 2-3 German ones (since I was a German major). Definitely a Tour junkie, and the sad events of the day won't change that.

        I'll miss tomorrow morning's coverage though, since I'm doing a 100k ride with friends into the mountains. Priorities, priorities. :)

        Thanks for posting, ad, and I hope you enjoy this year's Tour!

        "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

        by BeninSC on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 08:47:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  If it turns out (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BeninSC, anotherdemocrat

    that Basso and Ullrich are clean, it'd be a terrible blow for them, especially for Ullrich who really only has a couple more Tours in his career, I imagine. This was his big chance (post 1997) and I couldn't wait to see him ride. If they're juiced, well, that's their problem then. No sympathy here.

    But on a personal note, it hardly seems fair that two of the best looking riders are gone. Who will I lust after this year? ;o)

    "Of course your need to consume is an exception due to your incredibly challenging circumstances."

    by Topaz7 on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 10:19:47 AM PDT

  •  Thanks, Ben (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BeninSC, anotherdemocrat

    It's a great, concise writeup of history of the scandals.  I agree with some of the posters here that this will just make the tour stronger.  I have followed the Tour forever and plan to attend one of these years...  When I am rich and can afford accomodations!

    And I think the Tyler Hamilton implication in the scandal is what hurts the most.  I have been reading Tyler's defense of himself in the previous doping charges and tended to believe him.  But with him being listed in this new scandal, I am finding myself doubting him.

    Another interesting read is Chris Horner's interview at the Daily Peloton.  That was conducted as the rumors were swirling, but names had not been named yet.  It's a great insight into what the riders were feeling before the news broke.

  •  Favorites now? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BeninSC, anotherdemocrat

    To distract ourselves from this disaster a little, anyone wanna put down guess for favorites?

    I think an all-American podium is possible, though still unlikely.

    Vino was one of my favorites, but his team is down to four people and word is no one ejected today can be replaced. I have a feeling Astana-Wurth is going to end up out entirely, though if eligible Vino would ride by himself if he had to.

    My list of favorites now are (in no order): Leipheimer, Landis, Hincapie, Cadel Evans, Vinokourov (assuming...), Denis Menchov, Valverde, Iban Mayo, Popovych, and Christophe Moreau (token French guy). Too bad the French talent pool is still poor. This would be their best chance to win in forever.

    Very dark horses are: Michael Rasmussen (who time trials like my grandmother), Damiano Cunego, Simoni (he hates the Tour really), Paolo Salvodelli (I think he will ride for either Hincapie or Popo), and Bobby Julich (who now is probably CSC's de facto leader, though teammates Schleck and Sastre are legitimate riders too).

    Given the over 100k of time trials this year, Landis has an advantage now if he's got climbing legs too. Leipheimer appears to be peaking after the Dauphine. Thing is, none of the top time trialers in the list are superior climbers and almost none of the top climbers are superior time trialists. There is no real complete package here. This will be a great Tour just based on this. It's so 1987 (where the yellow jersey changed hands more than money at dummy Enron companies).

    I guess I have to predict something, so assuming no one else is suspended:

    1. Levi Leipheimer
    1. Cadel Evans
    1. Alejandro Valverde
    1. Floyd Landis
    1. George Hincapie

    "I am a patriot, and I love my country because my country is all I know."

    by Aragorn for America on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 11:12:59 AM PDT

    •  my reactions... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BeninSC, anotherdemocrat

      Levi  - I thought he had a shot before the Ullrich and Basso got the boot.

      Vino - If he rides, even by himself, I would watch out...  He esentially rode by himself last year (after dropping back off the lead to help Jan a couple times) and still got 5th...

      Landis - He was a great climber before he was a great time trialist...  If anything his weakness seems to be consistancy...  If he keeps it together, I expect him to be on the podium...

      Hincapie - What is he doing on your list?  he is a great one day rider, but I don't think he can race mountains for 3 weeks...

      Rassmusen - I think he has a shot...  He kicked enough ass on the climbs last year, he could take getting his ass handed to him in the TT

      "How is it pro-family to prevent people from getting married?" -Me

      by tamman2000 on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 11:44:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  hincapie and landis (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BeninSC, anotherdemocrat

        If there weren't so many kilometers of time trials this year, I wouldn't have Hincapie on the list probably. His climbing has vastly improved in the last couple of years, and his stage win last year showed he can climb at least some of the time. He's done well in various stage races including the recent Dauphine.

        The thing is I don't think anyone else is all that consistent in the mountains and no one else has showed they can put three weeks together in the Tour either. If someone does well day in and day out in the mountains, that's one thing but I doubt that will happen. If George can limit his losses to 3-4 total minutes in the mountains (which is certainly possible), he could do very well as he could make up those minutes in the time trials. I think he also realizes that this is his one and only chance and he's a rider who can rise to the big challenge.

        Landis is a great all around rider but his climbing hasn't been really consistent over time. He's prone to only one or two good days rather than one or two bad days. He looked like crap in the Dauphine, but maybe he was just phoning it in and using it for training. I think he can win if he has only one bad day and it isn't that bad (loses no more than 2-3 minutes).

        The last week is brutal and it will take as much intelligence and savvy as it will form to win. Whoever can hang around the top handful through the Pyrenees and save their energy for the brutal three mountain stages in the Alps (15-17) and the final time trial will win. Johan Bruyneel is the smartest coach alive so he'll single-handedly move George up a few spots.

        Flash: Oops. Astana-Wurth just left the Tour. Strike Vino from my list.

        My original top 3 were Basso, Ullrich, and then Levi. I agree he was a favorite regardless of who was in. I think now the entire top 5 from last year is not in this year's Tour. I don't even remember the last time that happened.

        "I am a patriot, and I love my country because my country is all I know."

        by Aragorn for America on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 12:08:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Fool's gold... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BeninSC

    Sadly, Hamilton's is perhaps the least valuable Olympic Gold Medal in the world today.

    I think the Russian 2002 ice skating pairs holds that prize, myself. At least Tyler's result wasn't the result of a corrupt judge.

    •  Point taken (0+ / 0-)

      I don't think it is a reflection on the Russians that the judge was corrupt, however. All they could do was skate, just like the Canadians.

      The 1972 Gold Medal basketball game may also qualify as being in the running for this award. I didn't really include that medal, though, because I don't think there is great commercial value in any Gold Medals from that era, whereas it may be considered a stairway to wealth and celebrity if it is a current gold medal.

      "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

      by BeninSC on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 11:32:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I just updated the diary to reflect Vino's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anotherdemocrat

    Departure from this year's Tour, along with the remainder of his Astana-Würth team. This is the first complete team to be out of the Tour 2006.

    Hopefully we're near the end of the surprises for this day. :(

    "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

    by BeninSC on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 12:25:33 PM PDT

  •  George Hincapie (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anotherdemocrat, Tailspinterry

    For anyone reading here, there was a discussion of George Hincapie's prospects in Jim in AZ's Tour diary. I mentioned there that George lives in the same town that I do.

    Here is what I said:

    Yes, George and I share a hometown. I've been on rides with him. But not serious ones. When he trains seriously, he trains alone!

    After every victory Lance gave all his teammates signed yellow jersies, as thanks for their role in helping him. Only one man in the world has 7 of those - George Hincapie. And they are all framed and on display. Email me if you would like a picture of those jersies.

    Anyway, I made the offer in Jim's diary, I thought I could at least make it in my own diary, as well, should anyone be interested.

    And thanks for reading my diary.

    "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

    by BeninSC on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 05:52:45 PM PDT

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