Friday, June 30, 2006

Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso pulled from Le Tour!

The Tour de France's two favorites, Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, were ejected from the Tour in the wake of a Spanish doping scandal. The two riders, expected by many to finish in first and second (I have my own opinions of this as well), were suspended by their teams in the face of evidence brought to them by investigators for OperaciĆ³n Puerto in Spain.

This is big news. According to Velonews, the Tour has been "thrown into its biggest crisis since the 1998 Festina scandal." 51 other riders were named on the list, including other notables Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile), Joseba Beloki (Astana-Wurth), Marcos Serrano (Astana-Wurth), Roberto Heras (Liberty Siguros-suspended), Tyler Hamilton (Phonak-suspended) and Francisco Mancebo (AG2R). CSC's team manager Bjarne Riis says this:
I think it's a huge blow for everybody. I'd rather be here because Ivan has won the tour. Right now it's not the case. It's a hard situation for all of us, but this is life. But you have to stand up and face it. It's easy to sit down and cry, but you have to be responsible for your own life. The only thing I want to do is be responsible for my team.

I have no other choice.
The timing of this investigation is just uncanny. With just one day before the start of what could have been (and still could be) the most exciting Tour yet, this is a huge blow. The Tour organizers take these allegations very seriously, and so do the teams. Here's what a "friend" had to say about it:
But I hate this, and regardless of what comes out of this, Jan definitely had contact with that sleazy doctor, and Jan definitely lied about it. Innocent until proven guilty, but if you're T-Mobile, and staring at a very likely Tour de France victory, everything you've dumped hundreds of millions of dollars into for the last five years, you don't pull Jan out of the Tour unless you've seen some pretty hard evidence. And then for CSC to pull Basso AFTER Jan is already gone? Ivan Basso was nearly guaranteed a free ride to the Yellow Jersey with Jan gone, so don't tell me CSC didn't see something scary.
This Tour was shaping up to be very exciting now that Lance has retired. There was a feeling that it was wide open, that it was anyone's race to win. Now that some of the biggest players are now out, that feeling is stronger than ever.

Update: Francisco Mancebo has now retired!

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