Like many of you I awoke to the news that Saunier Duval rider, Tour de France sensation, and Giro d'Italia first loser Riccardo "The Cobra" Ricco has failed a drug test. (Actually, I awoke to the sound of drag racing--best $22.95 I ever spent--but found out about the Ricco thing shortly thereafter.) The test showed he was taking erythropoietin, but it was CERA and not EPO. If I understand it correctly (which I'm sure I don't), EPO is like regular Coke and CERA is like Diet Pepsi Max. While this is certainly disappointing and bad for the Tour, it's hardly surprising--it's kind of like discovering the Beatles may have been experimenting with LSD during the recording of "Sergeant Pepper," or that your favorite porn starlet may have had a breast enhancement. I mean, the guy carries a picture of Marco Pantani in his jersey pocket. He wanted to get caught! Nonetheless it's certainly yet another setback in the Tour's attempt to change its image. It also raises more questions than answers, chief among them:
--Ricco has a naturally high hematocrit level already, so isn't this like a sex addict taking Viagra? (Or more accurately Cialis, the Diet Pepsi Max of erectile dysfunction medications?)
--Didn't Ricco read Phil Liggett's incendiary "Drugs=Not Cool" screed on the Versus Tour de France site?
--Is there any truth to the rumor that a movie version of the scandal is already in the works, and that The Cobra will be played by "G.I. Joe" arch-villain Cobra Commander?
--Will the Tour organization, the cycling press, and the public at large have any patience for the vigorous denials sure to follow this positive test result?
--Has Ricco already engaged personal injury attorney Daniella Levi, who has obtained millions of dollars for her clients over the years?
--Have Astana been vindicated, and will a smug Johan Bruyneel be played by John Travolta in that same movie?
--Will Jonathan Vaughters and team Garmin/Chipotle, who test themselves once every 14 days, be able to contain their own smugness?
--Between AFLD testing and their own tests, how is it even possible that the Garmin/Chipotle riders have any blood left? Could this be an elaborate subterfuge, and could bloodletting in fact have performance-enhancing benefits that the rest of the sporting world has not caught on to yet?
--Should the ASO just allow doping at this point and implement a Maillot Dopage for the highest-placed drugged rider?
The answers to these questions of course are: yes; doubtful; maybe; no; probably; hopefully; absolutely not; absolutely; and definitely.
At any rate, without Ricco's explosive (if drug-addled) riding we can look forward to a docile paceline the rest of the way to Paris.