22 July 2007

Tour de France - and drugs

We're half way through the Tour de France. All the usual spills and drama. But most worrying, the drugs issue, which won't go away. There are riders who do magnificently one day, then fade the next; riders who leap up Alpine or Pyreneean passes like mountain goats - then suddenly fade. You just can't help remembering the past: Anquetil, eyes out on stalks with amphetamines; Tommy Simpson who OD'd to dramatic effect; Theunisse and Rooks, who improbably trained for their climbing triumphs in the Netherlands; Pantani who looked wonderful at the time, but is now dead from an overdose; Richard Virenque, who was the French angel of the mountains, but then couldn't hack it when he got caught out; the totally improbable Bjarne Riis who later admitted his chemically assisted Tour win in 1996; and of course Lance Armstrong, who we suspect got away with it for years by clever doctoring.

Last year everyone, including me, got caught out with Floyd Landis - a classic case of up one minute, down the next. So who are the main suspects on this year's tour? Well, Rasmussen is already under suspicion because of his strangely 'forgotten' drug checks, and today I witnessed a rider surging up mountains (which he has never ridden before) in a manner which suggested he was off a different planet. The only problem was that he was drinking water at a rate that I have never seen since Miles Davis was interviewed in the middle of his drug-fueled mid-1980's drop-out period. And where was this mountain accelerator from? Colombia. Watch this space.

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