So far it’s all rumours, and to add some perspective here – our sources are conversations and 3rd, 4th hand info being lobbed about the press room like spent water bottles, so we’re not sure that by ‘reporting’ the rumours, we’re actually adding fuel to ‘em… but anyway, here’s what we’ve heard in so far…
(Get out your score card as you’ll want to make some notes for later reference…)
Ed Hood Reporting from Strasbourg
Any hopes I had of a quietly picking-up my Tour accreditation then slipping away for a bath and a good sleep to recover from my non-stop 900 mile drive
across Europe were dashed when I met veteran American cycling journo, Chet
Kyle as I entered the press room.
“The rumours going round this place are so bad” he explained, “drug stories
and more drug stories.”
In addition to the continuing, “are they in or out?” saga with the Alexandre
Vinokourov (Kazakhstan) lead Astana/Wurth*** [Ed note: see latest news at bottom] team; which morphed out of the disbanded and disgraced Liberty Seguros team, more fall-out has settled from the same Spanish anti-drugs swoop, “Operacion Puerto” which lead to the demise of the Liberty Seguros team sponsorship.
The raid revealed a well-organized operation which is alleged to have charged riders large sums of money for EPO, illegal blood-transfusions and advice on how to achieve the best results with the products and avoid detection.
The Spanish Government is reported to have released the content of the files seized in the raid, naming 58 riders, including Tour favourite Jan Ulrich
(Germany & T-Mobile) who strenuously denies any involvement and has stated
he will be taking legal action against the Spanish newspapers who leaked the
allegations. Other names circulating are among the most well-known in the sport.
A press conference will be held here, in the Tour press room in Strasbourg
tonight at which the organisers will attempt to quell the speculation. In a week which has seen more mud thrown at Lance Armstrong and cast strong doubts on currently-suspended Tyler Hamilton’s pleas of innocence – the Tour once again starts in a fog of rumour and suspicion.
There is also an under-current among race-followers that the UCI is not
providing proper leadership through the quagmire, perhaps more interested in
navigating the Pro Tour through calm waters and leaving the nasty decisions
to the organisers of the Tour.
Le Tour Sticks It to The Press
In other news, (no less encouraging) the Tour organizers have outdone themselves with their charges for journalists to connect to their wi-fi internet network in the press room – 40 euros per day, but it’s only 760 if you sign-up for the whole race, a “bargain” that gave poor old Chet (and us!) even more to shake his head about. It seems the French really are out to prevent this whole “internet” thing from sweeping the nation…
As I write this, an RTL radio reporter is filing a report behind me and the names of recent Grand Tour winners and favourites are being broadcast across the airwaves of Europe as being implicated in the biggest scandal since the
“Festina Affair‚” in 1998.
It will take more than a press conference to put these stories to bed, Pez will be there; we’ll do our best to weed-out the speculation and keep you abreast of the facts € however distasteful they may.
ASO says NO to Astana-Wurth
– Posted 12:25 PM PST – Just in – the ASO has ruled Astana-Wurth OUT of Le Tour! Whoa – snubbing the CAS – that takes some major cajones if you ask us… but in true ASO tradition, no one is going to tell ‘em who’s on the guest list for this party. Sorry, but details on the why’s for this one are still in translation, but tune in later for more.
CAS Says YES to Astana-Wurth
– Posted 11:30AM PST – Finally: as we go to press, the news arriaved that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has ruled the Alexandre Vinokourov’s Astana-Wurth team can not be kept out of Le Tour. Of course, whether the ASO chooses to honour this decision remains to be seen… so keep it dialed to PEZ.