Okay, so while I'm generally not into sports, some years back I got sucked into coverage of the Tour de France by some rabid cycling fans. I am officially hooked, which is why Alexander Vinokourov's (and Floyd Landis') failed doping tests are so crushing. As a friend says every time a cyclist gets busted (and it seems to be a weekly event): they're killing the sport.
True that, but cycling hardly stands alone, does it? As Barry Bonds approaches another sport's hallowed record and Michael Vick exposes the brutal excesses of an exalted life, I think it's important to look at one element of the Tour de France's handling of its doping problems.
"According to the ethical code of the Astana Cycling Team Alexandre Vinokourov has been suspended from the team with immediate effect. The rider has asked nevertheless for a B-sample analysis.
"Informed by the Astana management, the organisers of the Tour de France invited the team to withdraw, which was immediately accepted."
Imagine, if you will, a professional sport that penalizes the entire team when a player engages in disgraceful conduct. Imagine if the Atlanta Falcons organization was simply not allowed to play next season.I know, I know. There's too much money involved and it's never going to happen. But think about the impact it would have on the entire archipelago that is professional sports today. Scouts would instinctively avoid 'problem' players, seeking well-rounded and cool tempered athletes. Coaches at the junior high and high school level would have to push conduct and ethics and real achievement, instead of winning at all costs, on their players.
So Vino and Landis and so many more are killing the sport of cycling, but the Tour's response to their misdeeds suggests a path to save sports in general.