Tour Snubs Rumsas: So What?
Raimondas Rumsas was “snubbed” by the Tour D France Organizers, (reported by Velonews), who commonly show pictures of the full podium, but left Raimondas out. And inasmuch as it has been reported that his name was on the bag that held EPO seized from his wife, and given the fact that his crit level went up during the tour, one must not be too harsh on the Tour folks for leaving him off…
But is that the real story, or simply another example of a slight by officials rather than something of substance that actually does something to combat the problem?
An off hand remark about the “tour not being at the mercy of the contents of the trunk of a car” did nothing to directly address the problem. And nobody has come forward to do anything more but speculate.
Guilty or not, this again gets us nowhere. Having Rumsas’ team doctor write off his increasing red cell count during the Tour to dehydration (I remember Pantani’s doctor saying the same thing) begs the question: how are these doctors not fired for allowing the top rider on a team to get dehydrated? And does anyone really believe that it would be the case several days in a row or allowed to get worse, or that top riders have a red cell count that hovers so close to the limit that, an extra water bottle would have been the difference?
In a PCN recent interview, Bradley McGee touched on a necessary solution of making not just the rider accountable, but also the team, when a rider is found positive. I don’t believe for one minute that, with the year-round testing that these athletes go through, team doctors don’t know exactly what is happening when a rider’s wattage at lactate threshold amount climbs dramatically, or their red cell count mysteriously has a 5 point variance in a week. And isn’t this a team sport? Should not a team be penalized on time, points, etc given the fact that whether it’s a star or a helper, there is a benefit for everyone if someone cheats?
Until there are tangible penalties for a team, teams and team doctors only have an incentive to keep riders testable rather than clean. It is a disgrace to see teams claim innocence and fire riders at the drop of a hat, when they of all people should be held accountable. It is more farcical when someone immediately hires a Dario Frigo, or Dicky V or VDB. And it was a slap in the face of cycling fans when Domo grabbed both Frank VDB and Richard, and raced VDB while he was suspended, taking advantage of the fact that his suspension wasn’t honored (curious word) by other regions…
Accountability and rider health seems to come second to the power struggle to govern the sport. Until we see teams held accountable across borders, we will see organizers and team management continue to abuse riders, or support those who abuse themselves, by speaking words but providing no real action.
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