Several big names in recent cycling lore probably won't be competing in 2008 because of continued appeals of doping allegations or retirement after facing suspensions. There is, however, a surprise return engagement. Let me wrap up some highlights:
Floyd Landis, who was banned from pro cycling until January 2009, is appealing that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The Switzerland-based panel is the last stop for the American bicycle racer, whose troubles started in August 2006, soon after the conclusion of the Tour de France.
A hearing lasting up to five days with CAS is tentatively scheduled for March 19 in New York City. The arbitration panel will be composed of David Williams from Auckland, New Zealand; Jan Paulsson from Paris; and David Rivkin from New York. Unlike his USADA appeal, it will not be open to the public.
Compete in 2008?
So, if Landis is vindicated by the CAS, would he be able to compete in 2008? Most of the teams have been formed by now, and it's uncertain how long it will take the arbitors to reach a decision. Even if he's cleared this year, I'd say it's unlikely could race on a team. I wonder about the Beijing Olympics this summer; would the US team allow him to compete if he's cleared?
Taking a second attempt at a return is Tyler Hamilton, who signed with the Rock Racing team at the end of last year. Hamilton served a two-year suspension for homologous blood-doping after the 2004 Vuelta.
The American signed with Tinkoff Credit Systems in 2007, but was suspended by the team in May after allegations of his involvement in Operacion Puerto.
VeloNews reports the Rock Racing team also has signed three-time national champion Freddie Rodriguez, 2002 world time trial champion Santiago Botero and former U.S. Postal Service rider Victor Hugo Pena. (Frankie Andreau has resigned as director of the team; VeloNews reports that he was out of the loop on some of the recent hirings.)
Three-time Vuelta a Espana winner Roberto Heras said, at age 33, he's retiring from professional cycling. His 2-year ban ended in October, but he still can't join a ProTour team for two more years.
The cyclist who electrified crowds at the 2007 Tour de France until he was fingered for blood doping, Alexander Vinokourov announced his retirement shortly after receiving a one-year suspension from the Kazakh cycling federation.
CyclingNews reports that the one-year sentence was comparatively lenient, prompting the UCI to appeal for a longer sentence to the CAS. Then Vino said he'd retire, but fight on to protect his honor.
Vino's removal from the Tour de France led to one of the most memorable Tour quotes:
“I heard that I made a transfusion with my father's blood. That's absurd. I can tell you that with his blood, I would have tested positive for vodka.”