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Unbalanced and Unfair
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Friday, July 31: Lemme outa here!! Surprising no one, the French sports newspaper L'Equipe reports that 2009 Tour winner Alberto Contador has turned down a 16-million Euro (22.4 million US Dollars) 4-year offer to continue riding for Astana as the sole team leader.
In an earlier posting I had erroneously written that Contador's current contract with the Kazakh outfit expired this year. In fact, he is signed to ride with Astana through 2010 but he wants out of that final year very badly.
Astana has given Contador a bit of a wild ride. Because of doping scandals in 2007, Astana (and hence Contador, although uninvolved in the 2007 Astana trouble) was not allowed to ride in the 2008 Tour. Therefore, Contador could not defend his 2007 Tour title. In May of 2009 the team almost lost its Pro Tour license because the Kazakh sponsors stopped funding the team. And during the lead-up to the Tour and during the Tour Contador was put in a very uncomfortable position as Lance Armstrong asserted himself as a potential leader of the team. Contador found the tension within the squad difficult to bear. I am sure team director Bruyneel's and Armstrong's constant public sniping at Contador did not improve things for the Spanish racer. Contador said the most difficult part of the 2009 Tour was returning to the team hotel after the day's racing.
Now Alexandre Vinokourov, who left the 2007 Tour in disgrace after being caught blood doping, will return to the team. I am sure Contador is thinking that Vinokourov's presence on the team could endanger the team's invitation to the 2010 Tour.
Contador is looking for an unambiguous position as the leader of a powerful Grand Tour team that doesn't have trouble written all over it. He must have some attractive offers on the table if he could so confidently turn down Astana's very generous contract renewal. Rumors have it that Caisse d'Epargne and Garmin-Slipstream are wooing him. The only place we know Contador is not going is Armstrong's new Radio Shack outfit. I think that approaches absolute certainty.
Wait, there's more..
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel), winner of stage 16 in this year's Tour de France has tested postive for EPO.
Here's the text of the notice from the UCI:
Description: Earlier today, the UCI advised Spanish rider Mikel Astarloza that he has been provisionally suspended. The decision to provisionally suspend Mr Astarloza was made in response to a report from the WADA accredited laboratory in Madrid indicating an Adverse Analytical Finding of Recombinant EPO in a urine sample collected from him at an out-of-competition test on 26 June 2009. The report from the laboratory was received by the UCI yesterday (July 30).
The provisional suspension remains in force until a hearing panel convened by the Spanish Cycling Federation determines whether Mr Astarloza has committed an anti-doping rule violation under Article 21 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules. The hearing panel will make a decision on an applicable sanction for Mr Astarloza including his disqualification from any events, in which he competed following the collection of the sample on 26 June.
Mr Astarloza has the right to request and attend the analyses of his B sample.
Under the World Anti-Doping Code and the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, the UCI is unable to provide any additional information at this time."
I say give Mr. Astarloza a fair trial, find him guilty and suspend him for the maximum, which is 2 years.
Thursday, July 23: Some news. Lance Armstrong announced the name of the sponsor of his long-rumored new team. Radio Shack will finance a team with Armstrong that will have Tour de France ambitions. At this time we know nothing about any other racers or management coming to fill the squad's ranks. Everyone is assuming that Johan Bruyneel, currently director of Astana, will come over, but there is no announcement to that affect. Bruyneel has said that this is his last season with Astana. Alberto Contador refused to comment on the new team and whether he would join it, claiming to be preoccupied with some race in France. Contador's Astana contract expires this year. I'm sure hiring him wil cost a boddle of dinero.
Wednesday, July 22: Some news. Danilo Di Luca, winner of the 2007 Giro and second in the 2009 edition has triggered 2 postives for EPO-CERA, both after stages in the 2009 Giro. He was found to have the newest blood booster in his system after the fourth and tenth Giro stages.
Di Luca said that he would have to have been stupid to take the substance after Ricco, Sella and Rebellin had been caught. He further said that if the test of his "B" sample is also positive, he will stop racing.
Di Luca has been in hot water over doping allegations for some time. He was suspended for 3 months for working with the notorious Doctor Carlo Santuccione, and CONI (Italian Olympic Committee) had asked that Di Luca get a 2-year suspension for abnormal hormone levels in 2007. Di Luca was aquitted of the second charge.
The UCI has suspended Di Luca while the Italian Cycling Federation decides it's next course of action.