The Three that Keep Riding

Well, they may not have been invited to the Amgen Tour of California, but that has not stopped Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Sevilla, and Santiago Botero from showing up at the stage starts each day and riding.

These three riders have been banned from this years Tour of California due to their names being mentioned in association with Operation Puerto. The race organizers are sighting that all participants must be clear of doping investigations. The catch with this, though, is these three riders implicated in Operation Puerto, which has just been reopened, but they are licensed to ride by the UCI and have no open investigations on any of them. Also, the investigation into Operation Puerto was just reopened, but not the investigation to any riders implicated by it.

This begs to question if it is right to ban the three riders from riding in the race. By what grounds are the race organizers arguing that doping investigations are open on these three, and who is investigating them?

Either way, these riders as well as their team is demonstrating their protest to the ban. Originally, the team owner was planning to pull the entire team from the race if not all of their riders would be allowed to participate. The team and team management changed their mind at the last minute and decided to put the team in with only 5 riders instead of 8. What they did instead was do a rush order on new jerseys that had barb wire bands printed on them in protest of the ban. Also, the three riders banned, along with teammate Kayle Leogrande who was not included on the roster for this race, are making appearances at the starts, finishes, and along the courses, making themselves as visible as possible.

Most of the riders in the race have kept their comments to themselves about this. The exceptions are the other members of Rock Racing as well as Fabian Cancellara, one of the riders from CSC. Where the Rock Racing riders are supporting their team mates, Cancellara is speaking out against them saying they are just hurting the sport by appearing at the races on their bikes.

While I agree that all parties involved need to fight doping, I also support these riders’ right to speak out against actions taken against them. There is nothing that says they are unable to appear at the race, just not participate in it. I am beginning to find it a shame that an investigation that came out almost 2 years ago is still having an effect on riders without actual accusations. I begin to wonder where this will go. The first punishment for riders who have been caught doping is a 2 year suspension from the sport. What I want to know is what about the riders that are being kept out of races for 2 years already? Will they have 2 years added on top of that, or will that be worked into their punishment. What happens if they are found to be innocent in the matter?

I am willing to agree that riders being investigated should step out of a race, but at the same time I would expect two other things to hold true. First, there needs to be a standard as to what it means for the rider to be investigated. As in this case, these three were implicated in Operation Puerto, but they do not have any investigations open on them by any of the doping agencies. The current investigation into Operation Puerto is focused on other individuals involved. Second, these riders need to be allowed to speak their side if they want to, be it by a press conference or appearing along side their teams at races.

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