Sports Outside the Beltway

Basso, Ullrich out of Tour de France

Anyone who knows anything about bicycle racing other than Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France knows that Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso are main favorites to win the famous race now that Armstrong is no longer racing. Well, they WERE the favorites:

Pre-race favourites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso are out of the Tour de France after both were named in an anti-doping investigation in Spain.
Ullrich, team-mate Oscar Sevilla and team manager Rudy Pevenage have all been suspended by the T-Mobile team.

Basso, who rides for the CSC team, was excluded by organisers of the Tour, which starts in Strasbourg on Saturday.

This dramatically changes the race, which starts tomorrow. I don’t think we really have any solid idea who is going to win, since the common wisdom held that “either Basso or Ullrich” would win. Not only has Armstrong been dominating, but Basso and Ullrich have also consistently been in second and third place throughout Armstrong’s run.

In related news, Armstrong wins a preliminary injunction for libel.

I find it incredibly ironic that they have been unable to prove Armstrong’s guilt for years, but have now found all his rivals were doping. However, as long as they can’t put solid proof behind it, I’m inclined to beliee Armstrong.

ESPN is reporting that another big name, Francisco Mancebo, was also dropped from the race. This means that three of the top four finishers from last year’s tour are out on allegations of doping. Since Armstrong is retired, this means that the ENTIRE TOP FOUR from 2005 is not in this race. Whether they are guilty or not remains to be seen, but this is a truly significant development in either case. This year’s winner will probably be someone who few people have even heard of.


Via ESPN: Alexander Vinokourov, who finished fifth last year, wasn’t implicated, but lost his ride when the rest of his team was.

Ironically, this may pave the way for an all American sweep of the top three in the race.

And the repercussions are mighty. With Vinokourov, Mancebo, Ullrich, and Basso out of the Tour and possibly completely out of the sport, the biggest favorites, or the best doped athletes as the case may be, have unceremoniously exited stage left and the yellow jersey is again up for grabs. This leaves the race wide open for the handful of pre-race favorites remaining in the race not caught up in the scandal — Americans George Hincapie (Discovery), Floyd Landis (Phonak), and Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner).

Having an American finish at the top of the Tour de France again would probaby drive the some in the world absolutely beserk. There are many out there who were looking forward to Lance leaving so that they could take back the event they saw as “theirs”. This scandal diminishes the chances that will happen. Looks like they will just have to take solace that we still aren’t anywhere near the World Cup.

Another tidbit from the Fox Sports article: they mention the fact that unlike American sports, the Europeans take steroids seriously. They were unafraid to take out the top four (based on last year’s Tour de France finish) athletes in order to clean out their sport, something that few, if any, organized sports would do (the NCAA might do something on this scale, but none of the professional leagues have the guts to pull the trigger). Not only that, but they did it the night before the race.

Of course, there is a chance that this is a witchhunt, and that these racers are innocent and were taken out too early, before anything was proven. Time will tell us whether the cycling authority should be praised for its proactive anti-drug stance, or if they should be scorned for jumping to conclusions. Lance Armstrong would seem to benefit from these actions, though. If the authorities are so willing to jump on racers when they have proof, it would seem to follow that they never had this proof with Armstrong.

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