Hum along with us, will ya? “Euskaltel-Euskadi, out of the tour, so carelessly.”
News that Mikel Astarloza’s B sample tested positive for EPO was expected. What wasn’t expected was the reaction from the beleaguered Basque squad. Instead of a statement condemning the rider’s illegal doping, the team reiterated its full support and belief in Astarloza’s innocence. Not a wise idea.
They announced on their web site that they have “trust in the riders innocence. We have placed this affair in the hands of our lawyers to prove he is innocent.” That was the sound of next year’s Tour de France invite being torn up.
The Tour de France is famously protective of its image and prestige. Even Alberto Contador was not allowed to defend his first title, a victim of Alexander Vinokourov’s blood doping the previous tour. If the French think you’re dirty, they don’t require a note from the UCI or WADA. And they certainly don’t need to wait six months for the Court of Arbitration in Sport to render a decision. As far as tour officials are concerned, Astarloza, the supposed winner of stage 16 in Bourg Saint-Maurice, has insulted the honor of the tour.
Euskatel’s only hope of keeping their invite was to condemn Astar-Losers’ doping offense. Their statement should have read “we have ripped his heart out and chopped off his head, which we’re delivering to you in a diamond crusted box. We hope that’s enough, we’re really really sorry.” Harsh but a start in the right direction.
Instead, we have Director Sportif Gorka Gerrikagoitia standing firmly behind his rider’s syringe. (Now why did I write syringe when I meant story?) You have to appreciate the loyalty but question the intelligence. Hard medical science, a positive A & B sample versus “gosh, he said he’s innocent so we believe him.” An extra tough sell considering that in July one of their other riders, Inago Landaluze, admitted to using CERA EPO.
So how exactly does Euskatel plan on proving Asatrloza’s innocence since they won’t be using any facts? The rider himself admitted it won’t be easy: “Unfortunately, I can’t prove it, and I can’t explain what happened,” said the Basque rider. In other words, don’t look for those bright orange jerseys in the Tour de France next year. Euskaltel-Euskadi blew that opportunity big time.