Top Pharma

Congratulations to Carlos Sastre, who yesterday won the 95th Tour de France, but let’s also issue a shout-out to his doctors, who managed the difficult feat of doping him up over a grueling 23-day tour well enough so that he could win the thing, but not too well, so that anything untoward would show up on any test (but was any sort of sample ever taken from Sastre? – the article does not say) and/or any particular day’s achievement would appear so out-of-the-ordinary as to raise the usual suspicions.

Still, if you look at that article (it’s the coverage from the NYT, which I am wont to link to when it’s just a matter of giving you a source for the simple facts, ma’am, about some event that has happened; it seems like English is the best language to go with in that situation), there is mention of a “surprisingly strong ride in the final time trial.” Hmm – “surprisingly strong,” and the article also notes that Sastre knew very well that it was specifically the time trials that he would have to do better in during the Tour, in order to finally win the thing after coming up short so many times before. Floyd Landis, you might recall, also had a “surprisingly strong” stage two years ago when it looked like he was falling behind and would lose his overall Tour lead; that was when he flunked the doping test he was administered immediately after. I ask again: was Sastre tested after that “surprisingly strong” time trial stage?

Edward Wyatt’s NYT article also speaks of “[t]wo people” who “did [still] believe in Sastre” even after all his past runner-up performances. How inspiring! One was Sastre himself; the other was Bjarne Riis, the “poker-faced manager of the CSC Saxo Bank team,” Sastre’s team. Why, pray tell, was Riis “poker-faced”? Mainly because he is a former winner of the Tour de France himself, in 1996, but the whole time was hoping no one would ever bring that up or ask him about it, since last year he was forced to admit that he was doped when he won it! Now there’s a shining endorsement for Sastre’s victory! What are the odds, do you think, that some later disclosure will also tarnish this achievement?

But the Tour’s General Director, Christian Prudhomme, together with the head of the French anti-doping agency, Pierre Bordry, are happy with the way this year’s Tour went, reports the Danish newspaper Politiken (Tour Chief Content with Clean Tour) – this despite the fact, as the article’s author notes (actually, it comes from the Danish news agency Ritzau), this year’s Tour had a whole team withdraw after its leading rider was caught doping (Saunier Duval and Riccardo Ricco, respectively), while three other cyclists were also ejected for that reason. Prudhomme’s rather puzzling remark: “When we can catch three or four cheaters from 180, we have to be satisfied. We can’t get rid of such people completely. But we would be ashamed if we found no one at all.” Recall the assertion I brought up in my previous entry on this year’s Tour that all that it would take to find more than those “three or four” would be a more aggressive – nay, even comprehensive – rider testing program; is the reason that still does not happen that these officials who run the Tour are afraid of what would be found?

Meanwhile, Denmark’s Jyllandsposten (as well as that country’s financial newspaper, Børsen, you’ll be glad to know) reports that the Danish Sports Union has announced that one athlete out of the 84-strong Danish delegation to be send shortly to the Beijing Olympic Games has forfeited his/her ticket by testing positive for doping. No word released yet on precisely who that is; that’s to be the subject of a news conference to take place at 14.00 CET today.

Who knows? Maybe the path of the rest of the Danish Olympic team and that of Carlos Sastre’s champion-caliber doctors will cross on the way to Beijing. Those top pharma-guys are just off of a long 23-day campaign to showcase their expertise; I’m positive (pun?) that their skills will be in further demand there.

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