Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Turd France

I'm not too proud of that pun, on a par with the title of a rugby guide just published by my celebrated compatriot Ross Steele... whom I first met when he and I were members of the school debating teams, respectively, of Casino and Grafton. [French readers might be intrigued to hear of the existence of an Australian country town named Casino... which doesn't look like Monte Carlo.]

The expression "Turd France" sounds a little like "Tour de France" pronounced by Australians who don't speak French. But it's spot on for designating the shitty stuff we're seeing at the moment I write. This morning, at the start of the third grueling Pyrenées stage, Michael Rasmussen's yellow jersey evoked merde in the minds of spectators who booed him: an unbelievable incident in the annals [double-n] of the Tour. As for the positive test of the heroic Alexander Vinokourov [where the adjective "positive" really means the exact opposite], that's the last straw on the camel's back. As they might say in French, it's the drop of urine or blood that causes the test tube to overflow.

Yesterday, on TV, we saw a charming public-relations lady attached to the Astana team informing us with a smile that their coach [vehicle] had been halted and searched—to no avail—by customs authorities. This morning, the following photo of a hotel visit by gendarmes suggests that the search for incriminating evidence is still under way.

On the one hand, it's great to see that the police, customs and Tour authorities are vigilant in a severe and successful style, because they'll inevitably clean up this dirty sport. But, if the mythical image of the Tour is stupidly destroyed by its own would-be heroes, and the financial sponsors back off, will there still be any sport left to clean up?

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