Today being a rest day, I wasn't paying much attention to the Tour de France. Then an e-mail from VeloNews arrived with shocking news: Alexandre Vinokourov, the man favored to win this year's Tour de France before it began, has tested positive for a homologous blood transfusion (meaning a transfusion from a person with a compatible blood type). Consequently, he and his team -- which included the fifth and eighth-placed riders and led the teams classification -- have withdrawn from the race.
Vino, who won the Vuelta a Espana (another three-week tour) last fall, has always been a fighter, an attacker, the sort of guy who makes a race exciting and unpredictable. I have always admired his determination and panache. His victory in Stage 15 of the Tour yesterday was a prime example.
I suppose it all adds up. Vinokourov suffered injuries to both knees in Stage 5 of the Tour and lost a fair amount of blood. Then he came back to win the Stage 13 time trial as well as yesterday's mountain stage. One cannot win a time trial, which depends on a body running at its best, with a short supply of blood, particularly the red cells that transport oxygen to the muscles. I'm not a doctor, but perhaps Vino's body was unable to naturally replace all the red blood cells he lost in Stage 5 so quickly, particularly since his body was under the extreme stress of racing the Tour. So Vino got an extra boost, and he got caught.
Damn it, there's just no one to believe in anymore. I thought Tyler Hamilton was the kind of guy who just worked hard and would never dope. Then when he got busted, I latched onto Roberto Heras. When he got suspended, I turned to Floyd Landis, and we all know what happened to him. Now Vinokourov, the pride of Kazakhstan, the man who gave that country a chance to be known for something better than Borat, has let me down, too.