Sunday, February 17, 2008

The ToC Start

We don't know when it happened, or exactly what it was, only the result.

Sometime between about 3:00pm and 8:00pm, the "Rock Three", Hamilton, Botero and Sevilla went from being pretty sure they were starting today, to being non-persons leaving town quietly.

UPDATE: we're corrected that The Boys (a) weren't quiet, and (b) haven't snuck out of town. There was a press gathering before the start with all in special "red barbed wire" Rock kit, and Oscar at least has been seen around on Monday.

It is suggested that the UCI delivered some kind of confirmation that the three have "open files" for a doping investigation, thereby justifying AEG's position they should not start. We have no idea what form this confirmation took -- and we don't know that the principles, Michael Ball, Hamilton, Botero and Sevilla were given copies of anything. As far as we, the public know, it may have been an story made up in the afternoon to justify a decision that was about to get called into sharp question. And the story was delivered too late to be challenged. The alphabets ran out the clock on Rock, and then ran a trick play.

What is to keep an "open file" rule from being imposed at all races? Probably nothing. Is there anything in the UCI rulebook allowing discussion of open investigations? Not that we know of.

Are AEG and Amgen desperate to avoid a scandal at the race, and is doping a problem for the sport? You bet.

But does that make it acceptable to deny rightfully licensed riders their livelihoods through last minute shenanigans?

It looks like there is never a bad time to bend rules and circumstances if the riders take the punishment.

This may turn into the next play for race strategy. If you can get DQs merely by having an "open file", then planting a rumor in the right place will open a file and take care of someone you don't like, or a competitor you fear. There may be nothing to prevent the UCI from having "open files" on every elite rider, since performing at the elite level is clearly suspicious by itself.

Rant addresses all this and more with lots of comments from both sides.

Bicycle.NET has another story, with the relevant parts of the contract, and the full contract visible for inspection.


strbuk said...

It seems to me that at this time we are smack dab in the middle of a mosaic, and it's tough to see the picture that is forming. It's present iteration commenced with Floyd Landis' positive doping control after the 2006 TdF, and it's forming still. It may be this year or next, but the "picture" of what pro cycling will be is starting to become clear, and a pretty portrait it is not. The riders are at the center of the piece, but they have no control of how they will be depicted. At this point with their lives and livelihoods seemingly hanging on the whims of sponsors and bureaucrats, pro cyclists are at the crossroads of their collective futures. Can they allow disingenuous and arbitrary decisions, such as those concerning AEG's choice of riders at the ToC, to jeopardize careers and reputations? Should they form a "union" to protect or even determine their rights? Or should they boycott races in protest? They are ALL pawns, and if one or another of the riders feels smugly in control of his future, he should look over his shoulder because someone out there may not have his best interest at heart, and his destruction may be only a rumor away. It is Big Brother, it IS McCarthyism at its most frightening. It will get darker still before the proverbial dawn.