With the start of the Tour de France this weekend, it seems like a good time to revisit this story from last year. Was it just a case of being ahead of our time, or will we find out that truth really is stranger than fiction?
Rider Stripped of Title After Having Failed to Fail Drug Test
PARIS, France - Norwegian rider Pers Häavsrud was stripped of his Tour de France title today after having failed to fail a routine test for performance-enhancing drugs, Tour officials announced.
“Häavsrud has brought shame and disgrace to professional cycling through his actions,” Tour director Jean-Marie Frommage said in an emotional press conference announcing the decision. “By refusing to join other elite cyclists who have used blood doping, testosterone, and other performance-enhancing drugs to great advantage, he has not only cast confusion and suspicion on the rest of the Tour, he has shown how selfish he really is.”
Häavsrud's GlaxcoSmithKline team expressed disappointment in the test results. “If true, Pers will be dismissed from the team immediately,” team manager Raoul Dunleavy said. “Rampant individualism and self-centeredness are threatening to destroy professional sports at all levels. He has let not only his teammates but his sponsor down as well. When athletes put themselves ahead of their sport everyone loses. They must remember there is no ‘I’ in ‘team.’ Or in testosterone, for that matter."
Häavsrud was not immediately available for comment, but said through a spokesman that he planned to bring in Barry Bonds’ former personal trainer to assist him in fighting the charges. “I will not take this lying down,” Haavsrud was quoted as saying. “My involvement in blood doping has been well known amongst my teammates. I am tired of always having to be the, how you say, needle of suspicion.”
Whatever. Piss on him.
- Tour de France cyclist Hans Hans
Häavsrud also expressed surprise at the negative testing result.
"My body must process these illegal substances differently," he said with a shrug. "What am I to do?"
Thirteen riders were banned from the start of this year's tour for failing to fail their tests, but this was the first time a winner had actually been accused of testing clean since the introduction of stringent new drug confirmation tests. Austrian Hans Hans spoke for many riders in his blistering criticism of Häavsrud. “It’s not easy timing our injections just right to make sure they match up with the unscheduled tests. We have to work hard at it. And now this Swede comes along and passes his test. What’s he accomplished, besides besmirching the hard-earned reputations of so many who dedicate their lives to the Tour?” When reminded that Häavsrud was actually Norwegian, he replied, “Whatever. Piss on him.”
Other cyclists were quick to join the discussion. Elco Advarian, who was suspended from the Tour two years ago for a similar violation but has since completed a Tour-sponsored counseling session and subsequently failed seven consecutive tests, was more sympathetic and suggested that Häavsrud might have been naïve. “When you get into something as big as the Tour, sometimes you’re overwhelmed. You don’t know what you’re doing, you listen to the wrong people, you make mistakes. Failing to fail that test was a mistake I’ll never make again,” the Team BALCO rider added. “Hopefully Pers will learn from his as well.”
Former two-time Tour champion Renaldo Maria Jiminez attempted to explain why the charges against Haavsrud were so damaging. “Sports is about winning, true, but it’s about much more. The world of professional cycling is more like a fellowship. You know, the camaraderie that is built up when riders travel through the circuit together, all of us struggling against the elements, carrying out our secret steroid use, working together to reach the finish line. A great element of trust is required in this sport, and it’s threatened when a rider thinks only of himself.”
Frommage was more blunt in his comments. “We’re trying to run an honest sport here, but when athletes persist in trying to play by the rules they only succeed in making others look bad,” he said. “We’re trying to do something here to rehabilitate the image of this sport, and Häavsrud won’t cooperate. There is no room on the Tour for his ilk."
Norwegian fan and cycling enthusiast Lars Bersvich spoke for many in the tiny country when he asked for his opinion. “I’m not angry,” he insisted. “Just disappointed. But we must look to the future, to the next generation of young Norwegian cyclists who will enthusiastically join in the use of illegal, even toxic substances, and will put the sport of cycling back on its normal course."