Contador – a three month ban?

Monday, 4 October 2010

I’d been led to believe that the UCI was working behind the scenes to clear Alberto Contador and wrote about in the piece below. The idea was simple, that the damage of seeing the reigning Tour de France champion being banned would be huge and therefore heaven and earth plus the WADA code was being moved aside in order to favour the Spaniard.

Now the Spanish media is running with a similar story. Daily El Pais wrote that the UCI was only days away from “shelving” the matter but the leak by the German media has suddenly shone a spotlight onto the UCI. The governing body finds itself caught between a desire to protect its favoured rider and the media glare which is beginning to understand the anti-doping rules and way that the onus is on Contador to prove his innocence after a both A and B samples show a positive.

Some thoughts on this
First the UCI is taking sides. Once again the relevant rules insist the UCI has to provide a fair hearing and this doesn’t look like the case. If they can take one side, maybe they can also bury a rider they don’t like. This sits very badly, especially because of the allegations regarding Armstrong, donations and more are fresh in the mind. You’d think that with these stories around the UCI would be scrupulously transparent but instead it appears big names are getting preferential treatment. If Thomas Voeckler eat a bad steak, would the UCI suspend the rules to suit him?

Next, the rules do allow for a ban to be shortened, although only after a rider had supplied evidence to the hearing to prove mitigating circumstances. But the rules insist that no matter what the circumstances a ban has to imposed. Above all, the rules state that a violation of the anti-doping rules from an in-competition test automatically leads to disqualification of the individual result. Put another way, Contador will be stripped of his Tour de France win and Andy Schleck will be awarded the win.

Finally there’s an irony in that if the UCI are trying to ignore their own rules, the unruly forces of public opinion could impose clarity. A three month ban is easy but Contador’s problem isn’t the ban, it’s the suspicion that will haunt him for a long time to come. He might not be able to escape the rumours and slurs, he’ll need to continue to hunt for the bad beef to clear his name. Especially since sections of Spanish agriculture are furious that he’s accused them of doping, lacing their beef with illegal hormones, an allegation that may well need to be backed up.

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{ 5 comments }

Matt Walsh October 4, 2010 at 9:27 pm

I'm thinking the plasticizer is the real story. That's the transfusion link and potentially a longer ban than having minute traces of clen.

TheInnerRing October 4, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Matt, it could be a big story but since the test is unvalidated, it could also be a dead end. Even massive quantities of the substance are surely only indicative, not proof.

It could be something for the future but I can already imagine teams using glass bottles to store blood!

Fran Reyes October 4, 2010 at 11:12 pm

UCI has a severe problem with German TV's leak. Now it has to ban its more representative rider because of a not-very-bad infraction which seems unconcious. UCI shouldn't skip its rules, but following them would mean turning the results of cycling's main race upside down and putting suspicions on Contador's shoulders… Not a good deal.
If the leak hadn't appeared, we'd probably never have known about this. Nobody would have told anything, UCI would have reached an agreement about the issue with Contador and end of the story… something which has already happened, by the way…

JMP October 6, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Going forward, there is a simple solution to this problem – for the riders to 1) refuse to dope and 2) to denounce those who continue to do so.

Wishful thinking, I know, since there is potentially such an up-side to doping for the elite rider who gets away with it and earns millions as a result. It's tough to argue against that logic, though it's in no way a morally or ethically-justifiable approach.

Given that doping has been with the sport since its earliest days, and in light of how severely skewed the incentives:disincentives to doping is, what's the answer?

Legalizing doping isn't it, that's for sure (sorry Torri). Tacit acceptance of doping isn't either – that cat's out of the bag and no one is going to be able to put it back in, no matter what we'd like. Is increasing the involvement of the State's criminal policing apparatus a potential solution? Start putting dopers and people like me, who both doped and helped others to dope, in jail as a deterrent? Then you get the response that government shouldn't be wasting money policing a bunch of careless athletes who want to risk their health to pedal a bike faster. Throw-out the UCI? But then what?

There isn't an easy answer to this. In fact, there isn't even consensus as to what a fiendishly-complicated answer might look like.

Ruminating on what Torri said, just for a second – if you legalize doping, you take away every last bit of hope that youngsters might otherwise have when considering whether or not to start cycling. If you know from the beginning that you have to risk your health in order to reach the highest level in your sport, or perhaps just to be an amateur you'd need to dope, what kind of incentive is that to begin cycling?

Unfortunately, the doping products work. EPO really, really works. I can't lie about that, like Allen Lim so disingenuously did. It's even true that, as a result of taking EPO, by the standard of measure I relied upon at the time, my life was great in 2005-6. But the fall-out has been equally spectacular and my life has been destroyed thanks to my involvement in doping.

I would implore any athlete considering whether or not to dope to realize that, no matter how effectively they think they'll manage the risk, there are catastrophic possibilities that they can't account for, which will destroy the value of their ill-gotten gains swiftly, and totally.

TheInnerRing October 6, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Let's remember anti-doping controls weren't introduced out of fairness and sporting considerations, they arrived after Tom Simpson died on Mont Ventoux. In other words, for the health of the riders. Legalise doping and you simply allow people to take insane doses of medicines designed for chemo patients, and soon riders will drop like Simpson.

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