In the early hours tomorrow morning, the final Grand Tour of the cycling season begins with the 76th Vuelta a España and the battle for the maillot rojo (red jersey).
Daryl Impey’s positive doping test for the masking agent probenecid was followed by the usual denials.
The Orica-GreenEDGErider was quick to claim his innocence, stating that he hadn’t even heard of the drug that was supposedly found in his blood stream.
Orica-GreenEDGE’s response was also predictable. They suspended Impey pending an investigation, but have refused to completely condemn or support the besieged rider.
Team manager Shayne Bannan was quoted as saying that Impey was “an honest guy”, but also went on to say that there was no question that this was “disappointing for the sport”. There’s an each-way bet if I ever saw one!
The good thing though, according to Bannan, is that cycling now only deals with isolated cases, not the systematic team doping programs of the 1990s.
Isolated cases such as Impey’s? But hang on, isn’t he supposed to be an honest guy?
“Certainly in the time Daryl has been with us, he has had a clean record,” waxed Bannan.
Except for that time at the South African championships in February, apparently, if the adverse results from both his A and B samples are to be believed.
Of course, Impey may very well be innocent, mistakes do happen in testing. Impey himself points out that his positive test on the 6th of February was followed by clear results on the 8th and 9th of the same month. There seems little doubt that this fact will be used as part of his defence, whether to prove that the test results from the 6th were anomalous or due to inadvertent ingestion.
Inadvertent ingestion. How we love that one! Alberto Contador tried it on but failed. Michael Rogers, aided by Chinese agricultural practices, also gave it a crack, and succeeded. Their troublesome substance was Clenbuterol and their defence was at least feasible, but how one can inadvertently ingest probenecid, unless having it prescribed for medical purposes, is yet to be established.
But the wording of Impey’s statement after his failed test went public clearly shows what route will be followed.
“I had no knowledge of probenecid nor have I ever taken the substance knowingly in any manner,” said Impey.
The key word of course is ‘knowingly’.
It is a word that crops up in an increasing number of statements made by riders desperate to preserve what is left of their tattered reputations. And you can’t blame them. Their livelihoods are at stake, maybe their family’s future, and if they have been falsely charged, then it must be a living hell.
But geez, just as a prison is full of criminals who ‘didn’t do it’, so to is our pro peloton. There are an awfully high number of ‘innocent’ riders out their. It is funny though, that almost to a man, they eventually crumble. The lies come crashing down and the truth eventually comes out.
From big boys like Lance Armstrong, to smaller fish like Stuart O’Grady, they all admit it in the end.
This is not to say that Impey is guilty. He deserves the right to present his case. I hope that the popular South African can prove his innocence and finish his career with his head held high, but it will be a long, hard road whichever way the verdict goes.
And it will be a long, drawn out, tiresome procedure, one that cycling unfortunately sees way to often.
Of course it won’t detract from the Tour de France, due to start this weekend. Fans in their millions will still line the roadsides, and the truly devoted will set up camp on the mountain passes days in advance. For every disillusioned fan who is lost to the sport, two new fans seem to materialise, just as crazed and passionate as the ones who came before them.
It speaks volumes about the power of cycling. It has the ability to draw people in and fascinate them for a lifetime.
It’s such a shame that it isn’t shown the respect it deserves from so many of its competitors, the same ones that take us for fools and expect that we will believe every feeble excuse they proffer.