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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tour de Tai-yawn: Drug Cheats Take Taiwan

Great Xiluo Bridge

The Tour de Taiwan (Tour de Tai-yawn) is over, the numbers are in the books and the prizes have been awarded. The teams chopped their way through some the seasonal drizzle and skimmed past the very best in concrete and rebar. This is a race local cyclists like myself often view as a simple matter of fact and not a tour de force. Normally there would be little to write about. It would be a whole ho-hum of results and stage winners. It would be...but....

I had been eyeing Stage 4, the KOM up the venerable slopes of Tataka on Alishan, as the only real section of UCI certified stage racing in Taiwan that was really worth a damn.

The winner of the KOM was suddenly poised to take it all. 

This wouldn't have been a big deal. It really wouldn't. The only issue is that Mirsamad Pourseyedigolakhour, the winner of the KOM and eventual winner of the Tour de Taiwan... is a drug cheat. 

The Iranian cyclist just returned from a two-year vacation for the use of EPO. Another Iranian cyclist to grab the second slot, Hossein Askari, recently served a one year ban for  methylhexaneamineThe third place on the GC was also snagged by a drug cheat. Rahim Emamai, who also took the 2013 Wuling KOM, previously served a two-year ban for clenbuterol, a drug known as the asthma medicine of choice than made its way into seasoning Alberto Contador's prime rib.

Only Patrick Bevin, the Kiwi of the Avanti Racing Team, made the podium without the dark clouds of a recent doping ban hovering over his head.

Another team that competed in the Tour de Taiwan that mounted the KOM with more than enough doping baggage, was the Vino4ever team that serves to honor Alexander Vinokourov, the disgraced Kazakh cyclist and notorious drug cheat.

If the less than exciting routes of the Tour de Taiwan weren't enough to dampen enthusiasm for the race, then the suspicion hanging over the winners might just kill it for Taiwan's cycling fans.

After some reflection, I am left to wonder if there is some sort of sick calculus at play in which the UCI and the race organisers are willing to leave Asia a regulatory black hole as part of an effort to boost the sport's popularity in an emerging market. 

Let us all hope the 2016 edition both takes advantage of Taiwan's superior topography, and lets the cheaters know they are not welcome. Pipe dreams!