Breaking news — there are drugs in cycling. Ahhhh! Abandon your televisions. Sell your bike. Burn your lycra pants. Write hate mail to Mike Tomalaris.
If that sounds like an over-reaction, it only mildly exaggerates the action taken this week by German state broadcasters ARD and ZDF, who abandoned coverage of this year’s Tour de France after discovering that – Ahhhh! – there are drugs in cycling.
So, who forgot to tell them? The rest of the world accepted long ago that professional cycling is all about blood science, testicular testosterone patches and shady Spanish doctors, with a bike race thrown in for narrative reasons.
Yet Germany didn’t know this and now they are mad. That or the organisers and broadcasters were being willfully naïve.
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Taken to its logical extreme, the move is potentially disastrous for cycling — pudgy middle aged blokes the world over might swap their handlebars for hand-mowers and return to the garden on Sunday mornings.
And it’s all Patrick Sinkewitz’s fault. He’s the German rider whose blood test allegedly returned an abnormal testosterone reading. Sinkewitz rides for T-Mobile, which spends tens of millions a year on its team but is now reportedly rethinking its links with the sport. If you subtract the TV coverage, which this year reaches 185 countries (including Azerbaijan), what affect does that have on the commitment of the deep-pocketed corporates who backroll the sport?
Further, will the move by German TV spark similar reprisals by other broadcasters? If so, is it the beginning of the comeuppance cycling has thus far managed to steer around? Or do the Germans know more than they are letting on? Is this is a payback for singling out their boy when it’s possible that riders from others nations are breaking doping rules?
Indeed, there is an obvious contradiction in the decision. German television has never baulked at showing the Olympics, an event with a long and proud history of drug suspicion. Someone should tell the Germans about those Chinese swimmers of a few years back, and the four Austrian cross-country skiers who were banned ahead of the 2006 Turin Olympics. Even the tweedy world of golf is staring at its own drug demons this week.
If those suspicions reach the Germans, there could be a few programming gaps this weekend. Best dust-off a few pre-loved episodes of Inspector Rex in readiness.