The World from Berlin Mud Wrestling, Monster Trucks and the Tour de France

German public television on Wednesday cut coverage of this year's Tour de France. The discovery that yet another T-Mobile rider had doped was the last straw. But German commentators are unsure whether the TV stations did the right thing.

The move was unprecedented. On Wednesday, German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF cut their television coverage of the Tour de France following revelations that T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz may be guilty of doping. A blood sample taken in early June at a pre-Tour training ride revealed elevated levels of testosterone. Should the back-up sample confirm the result, Sinkewitz would be immediately fired from the team, T-Mobile officials say.

The most recent doping scandal comes following a spring of high-profile doping confessions from previous Telekom (now T-Mobile) riders.

The Tour itself is likewise on its back foot this year after last year's winner, Floyd Landis, tested positive for elevated testosterone levels soon after he was crowned champion. Former Tour winner and Telekom racer Jan Ullrich is likewise under suspicion of doping and 1996 Tour champion Bjarne Riis admitted to having taken the blood-booster EPO in the 1990s.

On Wednesday, the two television channels, which cooperate closely on Tour coverage, had had enough. German commentators take a look at the decision to pull the plug.

The business daily Handelsblatt writes:

"Business sponsors, first and foremost Deutsche Telekom, should now distance themselves from the scandal sport immediately."

"To stay involved in the sport of cycling with the T-Mobile team represents an uncontrollable risk. It is disastrous for a company to be constantly implicated in doping, which is sordid, unfair and a health risk. It destroys the company's social capital: its standing in society and its value-creating credibility."

"The T-Mobile team may have had the best of intentions to stay clean and be a role model for the sport. But the failure of this mission can only have one consequence for Deutsche Telekom: to get out!"

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"The only surprise in the latest doping scandal is that it is happening in the midst of the backlash. Patrik Sinkewitz rides for Team T-Mobile, which has tried to create a new image of cycling as a clean sport but has instead failed to implement its own new corporate ethics. First, the team's own doping doctors were assigned with the task of implementing internal controls. When team director Rolf Aldag was revealed to have doped himself (during his racing career), the team let him stay. And now Sinkewitz. Germany's public broadcasters, ARD and ZDF, are now paying the price its chronic Tour de France naivite.

"They have stopped live broadcasts of the Tour. Cycling fans may still be comforted by the fact that niche broadcasters are still carrying footage, but in reality the race has finally wound up where it belongs: in the television line-up next to mud wrestling and monster trucks."

Gap-toothed commentator Franz Josef Wagner from mass-circulation tabloid Bild writes:

"There is an old joke: I will only believe the world has ended when I see it on TV. That is the power of moving images. A tour that I can't see is like baking without flour or swimming without water. Only television can deliver heroes. And if television turns the heroes off, then they are ghosts. I ask myself how television can want to broadcast the Olympic Games in China, or a soccer World Cup or a long jump. Every top achievement in sport is suspected of doping."

"I think television has a duty to report on our lives: our habit of drinking and popping pills in the hope of being better. Bild is not boycotting the Tour de France. Bild will continue to report on the depths to which people sink."

Left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung writes on Thursday:

"It was a nice try. Nothing more. With a huge PR offensive, the German racing team T-Mobile tried to present itself as the first anti-doping team in professional cycling. Everything was to be different in this strange sport where it seems nothing can be accomplished any more without doping. The tears of those who (this spring) admitted their doping pasts was supposed to have been the turning point. With T-Mobile, it was proudly announced, cycling would become clean. What a joke!"

"Cheating and lying are still rampant. All starters at this year's Tour de France signed pledges that they were free from doping. Patrik Sinkewitz … also promised that he was clean. His team believed him…. One can only call that naive."

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"The decision (of German public television to back out of the Tour de France) is their right, but it is also cheap. Anyone who believed, after all the scandals, that all bike racers suddenly became doping-free athletes over night has to be incredibly naive. It would have made more sense for the public television stations never to have travelled to France this year. It would have been better to allow viewers to make their own decision. Nobody is forced to watch the Tour on television. If viewers are annoyed that the riders are fuelled by pharmaceuticals instead of talent and training, then they can simply push the red buttons on their remotes."

-- Charles Hawley, 12:30 p.m. CET

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