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Sitting Here in Shock

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If you haven't scrolled down yet, I repeat the day's unbelievable news: Basso, Ullrich, two dozen others are out of the Tour. Scroll down or head straight over to CyclingNews.

It's 5:40am in Seattle now... I got up an hour ago for a moment, not an occasion for blogging, but since pollen allergies were bugging me I thought I'd kill a few minutes on the computer til I was ready to go back to sleep. I opened the Podium Cafe and saw shnabors' comment that the shit had hit the fan. And have been blogging and reeling, simultaneously, ever since.

on the flip...

This is incredibly ugly, and the involvement of the top names, on the eve of the Tour when even Americans are tuning in, threatens to engulf the sport in a wave of cynicism. It's an embarassment on such a grand scale that even the clean riders will suffer immensely from this. I would expect sponsorship to drop precipitously unless something happens over the next three weeks to change the subject. I also wouldn't be surprised if there were tension between the totally clean teams and the others for a while--though maybe guys like Basso and Ullrich call enough of their own shots that the teams are not to blame.

That's the ugly side of things. If you take the longer view, things look much more promising. This is the latest, largest spasm in the sport's effort to face up to doping. The Festina Affair forced France to start the process in 1998; Italy got serious when Pantani turned up positive at the 2001 Giro. The US has been focusing on other sports but not ignoring cycling after the Hamilton scam. There's been an investigation ongoing in Belgium since last winter, nabbing Johan Museeuw (retired already) and some smaller names. The Heras exclusion last year brought to light how Spain wasn't taking the problem seriously, and with other countries on the beat Spain had become the doper's haven. No more.

I guess this is how progress works in society: in fits and starts, while people try to wish it away and apply little band aids, then when the tipping point is reached so that the problem can no longer be denied, it happens in a rush. Just as a few years from now we might see the world actually struggling to address global warming, so too may we look back ten years from now and see how cycling became clean.

The List of 31 (so far) obviously does not include everyone who is doping; just those who went through Fuentes. It's too early to tell, however, whether we can start to see some patterns, including patterns of innocence among the teams who don't have any riders named. Right now it looks good that the American contingent appear uninvolved, but we're not done, and it doesn't help that they mostly all live in Spain. Maybe the lack of French riders means that this great but dormant Cycling nation has been kept down only by the presence of effective enforcement, in the last few years anyway. Or maybe the 31 are the tip of the iceberg and we'll really have to start with a whole new generation of riders when the dust settles.

Maybe the U27 Project will save Cycling...