Two German TV networks decided not to air the Wednesday and Thursday stages of the Tour de France because a German cyclist, Patrik Sinkewitz of the T-Mobile cycling team, tested positive for testosterone.
This is remarkable. German TV networks are saying that because one rider tested positive in the race, German viewers should be denied the chance to watch the Tour de France.
Imagine if a New York Yankee baseball player tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and the YES network decide not to air a baseball game.
German cycling has been hit hard in recent months. A number of German cyclists have admitted they took performance-enhancing drugs in the '90s, as members of the Deutsche Telekom team, the predecessor of the T-Mobile team. Bjarne Riis, a Dane and member of the Deutsche Telekom team who won the Tour in 1996, admitted he took drugs during the race.
A spokesman for the German public channels, ARD and ZDF, which alternate showing the Tour every day, told cyclingnews.com that: "Our contract stated that we broadcast the Tour as a competition of clean riders, not of people using doping substances."
That means even one rider, one guesses. It is not known whether American TV networks have that kind of clause in their sports league contracts. Sinkewitz is the only racer of the Tour de France who has tested positive so far.
This sounds a bit severe. If there were a perception that professional cyclists are doing drugs to win races, one would think those networks would let viewers decide -- or at least let them have a chance to see the other 180 or so cyclists.
But ARD and ZDF must feel viewers will vote by not watching -- and that's not something they are going to let happen.
One wonders how TV ratings are fairing for Barry Bonds' record home run chase -- both in his home market San Francisco and national TV networks. Allegedly Bonds took performance-enhancing drugs to help him get to this level. Is this hurting his TV viewership? Maybe.
At least in this country viewers can decide for themselves.