Astana: about to be sacked. http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/02/news/uci-requests-withdrawal-astana-pro-team-license_361773
It's just sad, really.
Sadder, though, is the hard truth about the effects of that kind of shit in a sport like cycling which, predicated on drafting and teamwork, can be spoiled by one bad apple.
This, from the diary of Ben King at the tour last year:
"Stage 18: 145 km
After yesterday's breakaway attempt I'm determined. I follow six moves in a row, twice believing we've established the gap. Then the road tilts uphill, and riders swarm around me like I'm going backwards. It feels like Astana brought in five fresh riders. The speed they hold for the first sixty km blows my mind. The first of two climbs on the menu is the legendary 17 km Touramalet. I pick my way into good position, find my rhythm and feel good for ten km until there are forty guys left. All of the sudden I'm bad. Really bad. I don't even notice the thousands of fans screaming in my face. I back off, collect myself and continue at my own pace. At the top a group passes and I latch on. We bomb the downhill, and collect a big group of riders. Ahead, atop the Hautacam, the final 14 km climb, Nibali cements his overall victory.
At night, I'm too tired to sleep."
Those despicable fuckers.
People who don't understand cycling can't grasp how simply throwing Astana out, results and all, doesn't actually fix the problem. When someone dopes - even just one person or team - the entire race is altered, and you can never go back to make it right. There is no instant replay, no red flag the coach can throw to say "hey ref, you got that one wrong." The call stands and Ben's big break didn't get away. It's a difficult concept to translate into the immediate-gratification sense of fair sport that most modern American fans use when they, say, watch a replay on the jumbotron. The ship is immediately and permanently overturned, but it's subtle at first, until suddenly you notice that good guys with huge talent like Ben aren't household names.
It's maddening, enough to make you do some crazy shit if you ever, say, saw Vinokourav in the airport, or had a chance to hit him with your car. And that's just me as a fan. For Ben - and all the guys like Ben - the impact is so much greater. I wonder how guys that are racing clean can even stand to train, knowing what they are up against.
And still, there he is. Smiling, giving interviews, riding as hard as he can. Outside of his God-given talents and lactate threshold, maybe it's the ability to just put adversity in its place and pin it anyway that makes a legit pro a pro.
Thank you, Ben.
I hope you can someday find a level playing field on your way to the top.
Up, up, up.