The entire sporting world appears to be falling apart piece by piece. Each day brings new sporting scandals in North America. Not only is that busy scene difficult to cover, but add in the hot world of doped cycling in Europe. Floyd Landis' ship slowly sinks off the coast of France, as new evidence points to his Tour de France derailment. Each day implicates more cyclists doping on the continent.
Former Tour winners Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso remain hounded by charges of doping. Ullrich retired, however last week doping charges continued around Europe involving the German superstar. Unlike the USA, where authorities appear to believe that attacking the drug sources is key, Europe prosecutes athletes too, under sports fraud laws.
Basso too peddles into infamy as Operation Puerto rides on. Puerto is Europe's BALCO, only with more EPO (don't forget Barry Bonds, and Marion Jones stand accused of EPO doping too). From France24.com:
Another 49 cyclists are implicated in the Operation Puerto doping affair which is threatening to cast an even darker cloud over the sport ahead of the first two major stage races of the season.
According to Monday's Gazzetta dello Sport, a new 6000-page dossier from the Spanish doping affair, which has already ensnared Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, contains evidence which implicates a new crop of suspected cheats.
'Operation Puerto' erupted in May 2006 when police uncovered an alleged blood doping and doping network when they raided the premises of a Madrid sports doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
Police hundreds of small bags of blood, banned substances such as EPO (erythropoietin), growth hormones and anabolic steroids, and incriminating documents with alleged codenames and numbers for Fuentes' 'clients'.
Does this sound familiar? Massive drug-cheating. Physician involvement. Conspiracy. Read on:
Both Ullrich and Basso and many other riders implicated have protested their innocence. So far, only Ullrich appears as guilty following a recent DNA comparison test with blood found during the raid.
Ullrich has since retired while Basso, who was initially cleared by Italian authorities in the autumn, is to appear at a new hearing scheduled by the Italian Olympic Committee's (CONI) disciplinary commission this week. More (as if this isn't enough):
Everyone is innocent, right? No mystery in the cynical reaction to Floyd Landis' defense; every athlete claims innocence. In a sport so dirty that massive numbers of athletes at the pinnacle of achievement cheat, one more excuse can be dismissed as par for the Tour course.
"This new dossier is supposedly 6000 pages long. It is said to mention 49 riders, among whom are some of the biggest names in the sport, adding to the 58 already implicated.">
If would mean 107 cyclists have now been implicated in Operation Puerto, leaving the sport's world ruling body, the International Cycling Union (UCI), and major race organisers with a major headache.
The UCI is battling to get to the bottom of the affair which dragged on for most of last season, while the organisers of the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France are keen to prevent further scandal on their races.
A recent DNA sample from Ullrich reportedly linked the 1997 Tour de France winner to blood found in Fuentes' laboratory.
It led Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme to declare last week: "The sport just cannot allow cyclists who are still implicated in this affair to start the Tour de France if suspicion still hangs over them."
Basso will be asked to provide a DNA sample, which could prove his innocence, when he appears at the CONI hearing on May 2.
After being suspended by his team, Discovery Channel, last week, it appears his chances of defending his Giro d'Italia crown in the May 12-June 3 race are hanging by a thread.
Giro director Angelo Zomegnan said last week: "As it stands his (Basso's) participation in the Giro d'Italia will be difficult."