It’s a very difficult job and the only way to get through it is we all work together as a team.
And that means you do everything I say.
‘Charlie Croker’ (Michael Caine)
The Italian Job (1969)
The news came through early this morning (4th June): Mauro Santambrogio of Vini Fantini Selle-Italia had returned a positive sample for EPO on the first day of the 2013 Giro d’Italia. The former BMC-teammate of Cadel Evans was the second rider on the Italian squad to be busted for doping, with Danilo Di Luca caught for an out-of-competition test returned during the race. Santambrogio is reportedly in ‘disbelief’ about his positive result, and wants a B sample analysed. Yeh. Denial is a river in Africa.
I’m not surprised; I don’t think anyone is ‘surprised’ that Santambrogio returned a positive sample. I was surprised on stage 14 of the Giro, when the glowworm emerged from the gloom to take line honours ahead of the maglia rosa, Vincenzo Nibali. ‘Where were these legs when he worked for Cadel!?!’, I tweeted. The win, & 20-second time bonus took Santambrogio to fourth overall, just one second from the podium. That was dashed three days’ later, with the Italian cracking on the road to Ivrea, eventually finishing ninth on general classification.
I’m not surprised, but I am angry. That Santambrogio was close to a podium place is one thing. That Nibali gifted him a Grand Tour stage win is another. It’s not uncommon – the magnanimous race leader handing out a sweet to a compatriot – but in the context of these tweets, it’s sick:
I feel more let down by those who say they are in the know and do nothing than the dills who dope. Don’t get me wrong: I think Santambrogio and Di Luca are scumbags from the planets Ignorant and Stupid. Ignorant for daring to piss on their home country’s Grand Tour and stupid for … everything? EPO? Hello? 1993 called and it wants its latest advance in doping back. The Tweetfosi rumour mill is whirling about Nibali himself. For me, the problem is beyond doping. It’s culture. If Vini Fantini were the talk of the peloton, and no one in the peloton called the WADA/UCI hotline to report their suspicions (as Alex Oates says, that’s why it exists), then nothing has changed. ‘The past is the past’ … ‘truth & reconciliation’ … ‘we’re needle-free’ … ‘WHAT? SOMEONE I JUST RODE A GRAND TOUR WITH HAS BEEN BUSTED? SHOCKED I TELL YOU I AM SHOCKED!’ Bullshit. You are bullshit artists and oxygen thieves. The omertà remains strong, so strong that the athlete wearing the leader’s jersey will deliver you his imprimatur, boost your palmares, your profile and offer you a possible place next to him on the podium. All of science could be focused on developing newer, better tests, but unless the brothers of the chemically enhanced members of the pro peloton avail themselves of the whistleblower mechanism afforded them, they defile the sport, and dishonour good people like these …