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)
I was really disappointed when Basso and Ullrich missed the Tour de France last year. I don't follow the Giro, but I am also an admirer of Basso's riding style. It looked as though his time at the top was due.
Cycling has REALLY taken its lumps recently from all of the scandals involved. I can't think of another sport that is a physically demanding and that requires as much strategy and finesse. It's a huge disappointment to see this happening. I don't see any sign of a solution or an end to these stories.
Dale I really like the style of this drawing and the red spatter. Nice work!
Hanoch PivenMay 9, 2007
Beautiful drawing Dale.please do more of the looser stuff dude.
The whole bycicling profession is in shambles. Your post explains how come Riis just said goodbye and left everybody behind in 1996...
It seems ever since it was only about not getting caught..or finding the loophole
Leo EspinosaMay 9, 2007
I used to have a pic of the guy with his daughter somewhere in the studio, thinking of what a great role model the guy is (was). Reading his statement last night made me ill. I think from all those liars, Millar has been the only one that has faced the consequences of his mistakes like a gentleman.
I still hope Landis comes clean and I have not idea why.
Thought of you during my ride today. Had that picture you have in your profile flashing through my brain as I climbed. What a day!
Please keep those pencil drawings coming!
Peter HermannMay 9, 2007
Love the drawing Dale. Now for the rant.
I would not thrust the statements from Jef D'Hont without questioning his motives. I am not saying Bjarne was clean in 1996, but I don't think have had a clean winner of the tour de france since Indurains final victory.
Lucky for Jef D'Hont that he is not active in cycling anymore, looks like he has shifted his focus to money making.
The doping in cycling is evident to everyone, and has been for years, maybe we should start talking about the use of painkillers in football, soccer and other high paid sports.
What do you call 22 guys playing with a ball? soccer
What do you call 22 guys playing with a ball and 2 doctors with enough painkillers to kill a whole zoo? Champions league.
But what the heck, it's not my body and I like to watch soccer, so who gives a F..k if people are dumb enough to destroy their bodies making a quick buck. There are certainly bigger problems in the world than overpaid sports stars doping up.
Christoph HitzMay 9, 2007
I miss Eddy Meckx.
Robert HuntMay 9, 2007
Quite sad. I liked Basso...I can't remember why now.
Zina SaundersMay 9, 2007
I don't even know what blood doping is, but this is a very cool drawing.
Dale StephanosMay 9, 2007
What a nice surprise to find fellow tifosi here!
Carl, Hanoch, Peter, Robert, Leo - It's a shame what's happened to a beautiful sport. Maybe in a few years all this will die down. I do think that it's good that the sport is trying to rid itself of dopers, unlike many of our mainstream sports here.
You might get a kick out of this: My neighbor is a freshly retired pro. Every couple of months he'd get a knock on the door at 6am. Totally random day, no schedule. It was WADA looking for a urine sample. He'd have to whip it out in front of the uh, collector, and go right there on the spot. Well, into a cup, but you know.
He says he never minded because he didn't want to race against cheaters. The worst they'd catch him for was donuts. So there is an effort being made.
Christoph - I love Eddie Merckx.
Leo, where'd you go today? Let's hook up for a ride! I hope Landis is found to be clean but I doubt it. I used to think Tyler Hamilton was innocent as well, but when it came out that his wife was being billed by the Operacion Puerto doctor, I threw my hands up.
Zina, thanks for the compliment. Blood doping is what I do every day at Starbucks.
Edel, thanks man. Glad you like it. : )
Graham McArthurMay 26, 2007
I didn't know that there were so many cycling fans in the illustration world. The whole doping thing is so sad. As someone who is very much involved in the sport the recent confessions just make me feel ill.