Bloggers look for the straight dope on the Tour de France.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
July 26 2007 4:51 PM

Forget Paris

Bloggers are looking for the straight dope on the Tour de France scandals and dancing down memory lane with 1,500 inmates in a Philippines prison.

Forget Paris: Michael Rasmussen, winner of Wednesday's stage and the overall Tour de France leader for nine straight days, was removed from the race and then bounced from Team Rabobank Thursday for lying about his whereabouts during training earlier this year, raising suspicions that he had intentionally avoided drug tests.

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Expulsions and withdrawals from the Tour have become a daily occurrence—Cristian Moreni was sent home Wednesday after testing positive for testosterone, one day after favorite Alexander Vinokourov was tossed out for blood doping. Their teams have both withdrawn from competition. Last year, American Floyd Landis failed drug tests after winning the race. Cycling has been the source of so much bad PR that the International Organizing Committee is reportedly considering booting the sport from the Summer Olympics. Bloggers wonder: Can this race—and the sport itself—be saved?

"Time for the sport of cycling to take a time out," says CriticalFanatic at FanIQ."Push the reset button and call this Tour de France over. When you can't survive two consecutive days without doping and cheating news, you shouldn't be allowed to continue." Minter Dial, an American writing from Paris, is not opposed to the idea. "[I]f there were a serious action such as canceling a season, cycling could become the clarion call for all sports which have allowed, if not blindly encouraged, performance-enhancing doping. …. The magnificent riders of the past who, normally, rode via pure brute force and belong in the Tour de Fame, should not be dragged through the mud."

"Some commentators have suggested that the Tour should stop; that continuing on to Paris this year would be a travesty. I agree; as sad as it would be, finishing the race would be even worse," says Kirk McElhearn, writing from France at Kirkville. "They would do much more good by stopping the race today and confronting the problem head-on than by limping on to Paris, only to start the whole cycle again next year.  … It would be a shame for cycling to turn into a mockery of itself; think professional wrestling on wheels."

"[I]n the Tour, it's not just individuals players who are taking the fall," Dan Brekke points out on Infospigot: The Chronicles. "To date, two full teams have pulled out of the race. ... Imagine the New York Yankees folding their entire season because it was discovered Jason Giambi and friends had been juicing, and you come close to the enormity of what's happening. … [W]hatever happens between now and Sunday, this Tour is a race without a champion, and a race like that is hardly a contest at all."

But die-hard cycling enthusiast C-Dogg at Riding With the Window Down begs to differ: "This is cyclings FINEST HOUR! What other sport would dethrone their #1 athlete to clean up their sport? The NFL wouldn't do it. The NBA wouldn't do it. Baseball wouldn't do it. … Amid all the controversy, this has been the most competitive tour in years and if you have to 'break a few eggs to make an omelet,' busting these bad eggs doesn't at all tarnish the image of cycling in my eyes." Shifting food metaphors, Tomdog at LAist chimes into defend the sport: "[A]theletes are tested throughout the year, if they are caught using performance enhancing drugs, they are punished. The truth is that cycling contains the most tested group of individuals on the planet … What we're seeing now is the effort to find the bad apples and throw them in the compost heap."

Why bother with all the lab work? wonders Stephen J. Dubner at Freakonomics Blog. "Is it time, perhaps, to come up with a pre-approved list of performance-enhancing agents and procedures, require the riders to accept full responsibility for whatever long-term physical and emotional damage these agents and procedures may produce, and let everyone ride on a relatively even keel without having to ban the leader every third day?"

Readmore about the Tour de France doping scandals.

Not just another remake: Inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines have become the summer's unlikeliest Internet stars. This footage of 1,500 prisoners in orange jumpsuits enthusiastically re-enacting Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video has been downloaded almost 1.5 million times, and it's easy to see why. (Human rights activists please note: According to the prison official who posted the video, the dance session was "definitely not a punishment!")

At Rational Security, "choff" applauds this novel approach to rehabilitation. "It allows for both freedom of expression and entertainment whilst repaying the monarchy in a tribute to the King Of Pop."  Nate, commenting on the post, takes a global economic view and wonders, "Does this mean we can start outsourcing our music video production to Phillipine prisoners?"

Perhaps American penal institutions will take a cue from their Filipino counterparts and institute mass dance sessions. JJ Daddy-O, commenting at Daddytypes.com, hopes so: "I'm thinking mandatory ballroom dancing lessons for the Aryan Nation and the Crips might go a long way in helping them resolve their differences."

Tayster's World has a suggestion that clearly qualifies as cruel and unusual: "[I]f I ran a prison, I'd make them choreograph the entire Britney Spears video collection."

Read more about the prison-dance video. See the original Michael Jackson "Thriller" video here.

Susan Daniels is a former Slate staffer. She lives in Amsterdam.

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