“One of these days … pow, right in the kisser! One of these days, Alice, straight to the moon!”
—Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden in “The Honeymooners”
It must be something, being Riccardo Riccò, lying there in that hospital bed and realizing that you are about as popular with your colleagues as a snot rocket launched from the front of a paceline.
At the Tour of Qatar, Fabian Cancellara proposed that the Cobra’s apparent lunacy warranted a suitably extraterrestrial vacation from the sport.
“I think we should send him to the moon,” he told cyclingnews.com. “Once an idiot, always an idiot.”
Mark Cavendish was less extravagant, contemplating another sort of moon shot altogether.
“Obviously I hope he does recover well, but I really do hope he becomes someone’s bitch in prison,” said Cavendish.
Three-time world champ Óscar Freire was merely hoping for a lifetime ban.
“I try to do things in the right way, but more and more I realize that there are more crazies in this sport,” he told the Spanish daily El Correo. “Cases like this discourage you because the public thinks all of us are the same.”
I’m guessing they’re not sending Riccò any flowers or get-well-soon cards.
Riccò’s team boss doesn’t have his back the way Saxo’s Bjarne Riis has Alberto Contador’s. On Tuesday, Vacansoleil released a terse statement noting that it has a “zero-tolerance policy” where doping is concerned and has begun its own investigation. Today, the squad announced that it had suspended Riccò “with immediate effect,” saying “the violation of internal regulations of the team and other indications justify this measure.”
The Italian prime minister isn’t going to bat for him the way Spain’s Jose Luis Rodriguez is for El Pistolero. Of course, Silvio Berlusconi has his own problems.
And the press is not hovering over Riccò’s hospital bed, breathlessly reporting his every word, the way it does Contador’s twice-daily protestations of innocence. We haven’t even gotten a condition report since his initial hospitalization.
Instead, what we get are tweets from The New York Times’ Juliet Macur (“Enough already. Is anyone else sick of this?”) and Men’s Journal’s Bill Gifford (“If cycling is ever going to be accepted, it’s going to need more texted-cock-pic scandals. And not this creepy blood-bag stuff.”)
“Sick” and “creepy” are the operative words here. When we think of doping in professional sport, the image that arises is one of pills and potions administered illegally but efficiently by a white-coated team physician — a hit of this, a shot of that, and zoom, you’re The Flash. The idea of a 20-something assclown transfusing month-old blood stored questionably in the family ’fridge gives us the willies.
I mean, have you ever looked inside a 20-something’s ’fridge? Ancient pizza crusts growing a fine, thick coat of green hair, half-eaten 7-Eleven burritos, expired tins of Fritos bean dip — hell, Riccó could have hooked himself up to an old jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce by mistake: “Hey, it was red, chunky, what can I tell you? Anyone coulda done it.”
Anybody who’s a few psi shy in the old airhead, to be sure.
Still, I wonder how much of the anger directed at Riccò stems from his methods rather than his madness. In an era of micro-doses and monitoring that gives the careful doper an out — tainted food! most tested ever! witch hunt! — this putz pulls the doping equivalent of filling his gas tank with diesel fuel. Hel-lo, Captain Obvious! Did you not get the memo?
And I guess that’s what worries me. This bozo — fresh off a suspension for CERA —was signed up to race the Tour Mediterranéen this week, if he hadn’t blown a gasket with his do-it-yourself corpuscle upgrade. And I didn’t hear the Dope-O-Meter® hoot even once.
Shouldn’t the dope cops be able to catch a repeat offender this brazen, and this boneheaded, before he puts himself in the hospital and our sport in the ditch?
I mean, if we can put a man on the moon .…