Oops! One day I am writing about how I like the Team Astana jerseys and how they look good at the front of the race, and the next day, the whole team has been tossed from the Tour in the wake of Alexandre Vinokourov testing positive for non-homologous blood doping after his win in the time trial in Albi. This is the same offense for which Tyler Hamilton tested positive in 2004; the fact that the doping lab was able to turn around the test in just two days, undoubtedly indicates that the Kazakh rider was being closely watched.
Based on the result of Vinokourov's test, Tour officials asked Team Astana to leave the Tour and they accepted.
The news of Vinoukorov comes on the heels of the morning's press conference where yellow jersey-wearer Michael Raasmussen clarified his situation with the Danish Cycling Federation. As a member of the Danish National Team, Rasmussen is required to be available for out-of-competition testing. This year, he has missed two such tests--which would normally mean that he is disqualified from racing. However, Rasmussen holds a Mexican racing license, an option he has because his wife is Mexican. Rasmussen admitted today that he has not had an out-of-competition test from the Mexican Cycling Federation in two years.
When the Tour organizers heard this new information, their response was quick. "Michael Rasmussen should not have started the Tour. We should have refused him entry into the Tour," noted Tour bosses Christian Prudhomme and Patrice Clerc. But, they were quick to add, "this sport deserves all we can do to save it."
Oh me, oh my! This news is too fresh to completely understand all the implications, but having arguably the two highest-profile riders at the Tour tainted by doping is a sad, sad day for the sport.
ps - after the Tour press conference, I talked with Christian Prudhomme one-on-one and he told me that next year the Tour de France would be run under the Tour's rules, indicating that they would not follow the rules of the Union Cycliste International(UCI) which currently governs the sport of professional cycling. This particular issue has been a bone of contention during the long-standing fued between the Tour organizers and the UCI.