If you haven't been under a rock or reading HP7 full time and follow the Le Tour at all you know what I'm talking about. Once considered a top contender for the GC leadership, Alexander Vinokouov of Kazakhstan, rider for the Astana team, won a time trial stage this past weekend. Now a few days later the blood test on his sample from that stage was determined to have blood cells that were not his own. This test will be performed on his second sample (called sample B), but the damage is done. His team fired him. His team dropped out of the tour. His team has said he is guilty until proven by Sample B to be questionable. Vino of course contends it must have been something that resulted from the treatment of his injuries.
Vino? Just how stupid are you? Vino has not had his most successful of rides this year. He crashed in the first week, losing minutes in the flat stages. Time that is often hard to make up then. He crashed again in a moderate climbing stage, losing enough time (almost 30 minutes) that he was thought to be out of contention this year. He then went and won the time trial regardless of his wounds (he required stitches on his knees, considered rather painful for a cyclist. It was the sample from that stage that Vino was tested for and found to have failed.
He'd later won a serious mountain stage, demonstrating he was capable in two areas of cycle racing. His win was overshadowed by a test of wills between two riders, one a rider of Discovery, Contador the new leader of that team and the current maliot jaune wearer Rasmussen. The Discovery rider could not drop the Dane, although there was some signs that he began his attacks too late and near the summit were the telltale signs of the Dane cracking. The idea was to get the Dane to crack, then make a jump to the next group where George Hincapie was riding as your lead out to open a real gap.
This is the third blow to the biggest event in bicycle racing. The first came when a German racer of little note was identified as failing a drug test while he rode for the T-Mobile squad. Following through on a commitment, some German television stations stopped broadcasting the tour. Germans were not always greatly interested in cycle racing until Jan Ullrich won the tour in the 90s. This surely isn't good for their interest. T-Mobile has announced they are reviewing their sponsorship of cycle racing. This generally has meant they intend to drop sponsoring teams as soon as possible to distance themselves. They aren't the first. The team Landis was on last year is no more. Others have dropped out. Even the one American team is again looking for a sponsor after first Motorola, then the USPS, and now the Discover Channel have announced the end of their sponsorship.
Soon after the first positive drug test was announced, it was leaked that the Danish national federation had dropped the current general classification (GC) leader, wearer of the yellow jersey, Michael Rasmussen from their team. The reason was that Rasmussen had not taken the required drug tests, nor advised officials of his wear abouts during the past year. This isn't a large infraction, but large enough that had the Tour officials known, he wouldn't have been riding in it. Some have been quoted as saying if he wins, it will be bad for the tour.
The French police are again raiding team vehicles. Three raids were conducted on Monday before the start of the stage. Riders conducted a protest on Monday suggesting the treatment is insulting.