Is Contador welcome at the Tour de France?

Friday, 27 May 2011

Christian Prudhomme

Tour de France organiser Christian Prudhomme has said he wants the matter of Alberto Contador’s Clenbuterol samples settled. “The only thing which we want is to have a response. It is the most important thing. Too often we are in a grey area” he told AFP in March.

But things are now set to stay grey for some time. Yesterday we heard that Court of Arbitration for Sport has postponed the double appeal from the UCI ad WADA at the request of Alberto Contador’s defence team. Fair enough, a hearing should always go ahead when both sides are ready. But at the same time, I can’t help noticing lawyers are paid by the hour and Contador is paid monthly and the incentives to play this one for as long as possible. The “contaminated beef” hypothesis was first presented in late August after all.

Fast forward to the present and Contador hadn’t reached cruising speed in the Giro’s opening team time trial before the Italian TV commentators mentioned the pending appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It wasn’t an auspicious start for the Giro. To mention the race favourite is linked to an appeal and allegations of doping is like a magician opening his act with the words “this isn’t real and don’t watch my left hand too close“.

Similarly, when France collectively switches on its television to watch the Tour de France in July, many will have to watch TV commentators Thierry Adam and Laurent Jalabert squirm as they try to explain how a year later the official result of last summer’s race isn’t settled before the first rider sets off. I wouldn’t like to write their script.

Thierry Adam

Thierry Adam, France's "voice of cycling"

I mean, just how do you explain it? Chronologically it’s A and B samples show up a banned substance but the quantity is small. A curious period of time passes until the story leaks. Fast forward to 2011 and Contador is cleared. Then both the UCI and WADA decide to appeal. And before you know it, it’s July and on the 14 July the race will return to Pau. Presumably Saxo Bank and Astana won’t be booked into the Novotel this time.

But from start to finish the story exposes the inadequacy of the sport. It’s got doping, officials behaving curiously, lawyers, appeals, codes, laws, politics, the Spanish food chain and more. Altogether it means two unconvincing French broadcasters have their work cut out to convince the French public to watch.

Maybe you’re thinking “I don’t care what two French TV commentators have to say” but hang on there. French TV is big, beaucoup big. Remember all the fuss over race radios this year? Well it was started thanks to TV executives in Paris demanding more exciting racing and Pat McQuaid said:

“I was convened to a meeting with the biggest producer of television images of cycling, France Television, and was told by senior executives clearly that if radios were retained in cycling and used as they were being used that the coverage of cycling on television would be reduced.”

Note McQuaid’s use of the passive voice, he “was convened“. Not “I popped over for lunch” or “I met” but he “gets convened”. As such the opinion of French TV matters. Let’s run through some scenarios TV execs might imagine:

  • Contador’s presence is great: if he isn’t finding much opposition in the Giro, he shouldn’t have it so easy when he swaps Michele Scarponi and Vincenzo Nibali for Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans in July. As such the spectacle will be exciting and audiences will lap up the battle. Especially if he’s not there then maybe some would ask just how good the race is if it lacks Contador.
  • Not so great: forget cycling fans, most of the TV audience for the Tour is made up of occasional viewers. They’re not going to have time for sophisticated arguments and procedural explanations. The “tous dopés” (all doped) idea is common, that every rider is at it and the presence of a banned substance doesn’t need much of an explanation. Contador’s presence will simply remind viewers of doping and dent the race’s credibility.
  • It’s better without him: if Contador is on another level, a more equal contest between Evans, the Schleck brothers, Robert Gesink and others could make a more compelling race.
  • Nightmare scenario: the CAS hearing is set for mid July and nobody knows if he gets to stay in the race or not. Rather than talking about racing, a significant proportion is spent agonising over whether he’ll finish the race.

What next?
ASO can exclude riders under investigation but strictly speaking Contador is cleared to race, the UCI and WADA are merely third parties wanting an appeal. Here’s UCI rule 2.2.010 bis:

The organiser may refuse permission to participate in – or exclude from – an event, a team or one of its members whose presence might be prejudicial to the image or reputation of the organiser or of the event. If the UCI and/or the team and/or one of its members does not agree with the decision taken in this way by the organizer, the dispute shall be placed before the Court of Arbitration for Sport which must hand down a ruling within an appropriate period. However, in the case of the Tour de France, the dispute shall be placed before the Chambre Arbitrale du Sport.

The Giro was not delighted to welcome Contador but race organiser Angelo Zomegnan shrugged saying he was legally entitled to participate. So for all the talk of Contador being persona non gratis in July, every other race has welcomed him. But the Tour is different and there might be greater pressure to exclude him, after all the whole story has cast a shadow over last year’s race. But if, say, Saxo Bank don’t like this it goes to the CAS for, this time, a speedy review.

Contador and Prudhomme

Happier days

Summary
The saga goes on. It’s now technically possible for Contador to win in July and then get a ban via the CAS which then strips him of both the 2010 and 2011 victories. If the matter is unsettled, I suspect ASO and French TV would rather Contador stayed away, the race could still be good without him and it avoids an awkward reminder of doping and suspicion.

But if he’s not welcome with open arms, Contador is fully entitled to ride. We’ll see what happens over the coming days and I suspect ASO and French TV will discover the limits to their prodigious power.

Dennis May 27, 2011 at 9:50 am

There’s a UCI rule: “The organiser may refuse permission to participate in – or exclude from – an event, a team or one of its members whose presence might be prejudicial to the image or reputation of the organiser or of the event.”

And I believe ASO has a better case than RCS if they want to keep Contador out of the race.

The Inner Ring May 27, 2011 at 10:02 am

Thanks Dennis. I’ve looked up the relevant rule and added it to the piece above.

GreaseMonster May 27, 2011 at 10:09 am

Although this is a very serious issue “and Cadel Evans in July.” just cracked me up.

I am hoping he chooses the sensible option and chooses not to race himself, out of respect for sport and his other racers. Any chance he will think this way? No of course not, he doesn’t give a monkey about anything beyond himself.

Raouligan May 27, 2011 at 10:13 am

I can’t see how they could apply teh rule to Contador, they couldn’t exclude Boonen a few years a go when he tested positive for cocaine for recreational purposes.

Unless of course ASO can just decide that failing an in competiotion test is enough to bar him from entering their race, certainly RCS didn’t think it was enough…

I can’t see Bjarne Riss not having him ride, this is just a complete mess now, I’d fight to the death for due and fair legal process for anyone, however this whole sorry debacle has the capacity to taint the results of three grand tours now, it’s just not good enough.

Unless of course ASO play a blind and tell him he’s not welcome too late in teh day of CAS to let him in?

John S May 27, 2011 at 10:13 am

What about the French public? We’ve seen a small number of spectators boo Contador at the Giro, are the French simply let Contador roll around their roads without venting their feelings? I doubt it. If I were Contador I don’t think I’d feel to comfortable racing at Le Tour with a doping case still hanging.

Pedro May 27, 2011 at 10:25 am

Yesterday his entourage was hinting that the double Giro-Tour might be too much and that he would probably focus on the Vuelta. That’s what Cadena COPE (a spanish radio) said, at least.

Flashing Pedals May 27, 2011 at 10:25 am

some amazingly hypocritical decisions have been taken by various race organisations,
regarding who gets ‘uninvited’ or not.

Do i regard Alberto Contador’s sample tainted with Clenbuterol as a definitive? proof of doping ?
Possibly. Not particularly.

The point being, there is enough ‘grey’ area and inconsistency, that on the basic principle of ‘probability’ it is suspicious, but is it enough ?
No.

Keep digging for evidence elsewhere.
I think Alberto Contador is the distraction – it is far easier for the cycling world (ASO/UCI/anyone from the USA) to discredit (justified or not) Contador, and remove his Tour win, than contemplate the bigger picture of the removal of Armstrong’s 7 wins……

Throw a few token ASO scapegoats – Boonen – personal cocaine use/ Astana – Vinokourov blood doping / Renshaw – headbutting at stage finish ….Landis . . . .

something smells of ‘efficient deflective PR’ and its not stale vetinary grade Clenbuterol

Alex Murray May 27, 2011 at 10:34 am

Re: Dennis’ point, the parallel is the Saunier Duval/Fuji-Servetto who ASO successfully excluded from Le Tour 2009 on basis of Piepoli and Ricco’s positives in 2008 but who RCS couldn’t exclude from the Giro because they hadn’t tested positive there.

The Inner Ring May 27, 2011 at 10:42 am

Some replies:

Greasemonster: ironically his best bet would have been to admit guilt and cop a six month ban. Everyone could have lived with that I suspect.

Raoligan: see Alex’s comment below, that’s an interesting point.

John S: hard to generalise but I fear the biggest consequence would be indifference, many would think “what’s the point in watching” rather than anger.

Pedro: one to watch, thanks.

Flashing Pedals: yes and that’s why I wanted to explore the media/public perceptions and the image side rather than the legal/rule side.

Alex Murray: thanks, that’s a very useful point.

Pedro May 27, 2011 at 11:12 am
JB May 27, 2011 at 11:28 am

As usual : great post !

Just a thought, but maybe Contador’s money and lawyers’ fees are not the only ones at stake… I’ve read somewhere that Team SAXO Bank’s license was to be renewed next year…
If Contador doesn’t race the Tour, could Saxo’s Pro Tour license be in danger ?

daniel alpin May 27, 2011 at 11:49 am

“this isn’t real and don’t watch my left hand too close“………brilliant

asb May 27, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I know I am being naive, however, my question about all this is quite simple: As Contador has already had his case examined, and been acquitted, by the Spanish then surely he must have a pretty water-tight defense, right? If so why is more time needed? All it seems to do is undermine the sport and raise further questions about the ability of national governing bodies to act impartially.

Touriste-Routier May 27, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Please keep in mind this is an appeal of a ruling, not an initial defense. Contador’s legal team should already be fairly well prepared.

I do not know how the rules of evidence/argument work in a CAS hearing. But in most courts that I am familiar with, appeals do not revolve around “issues of facts”, but around, “issues of law”. If this is the case here, the fact that he tested positive for Clem has been established. I believe the appeal from the UCI/WADA is about his lack of punishment by his federation, which is a deviation from the rules of WADA. It shouldn’t take very long to come up with one’s defense here. Also at stake could be whether the rule of “Strict Liability” is legal/enforceable may be what is at question.

Oliver May 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm

When the Chinese rider for Radio Shack (Fiu Lu? sp.) tested positive for clenbuterol he was sacked immediately by his team. No special treatment from the UCI there either.
Does anyone seriously believe Contador’s ludicrous excuse? I say to those: your myopia is laughable! At this stage haven’t you figured it out? Grand Tour winners dope. No “dog ate my homework” style excuse should get past anyone with an IQ above 2. The guy has effectively gotten away with it (so far) because of his clout; the corruption or utter incompetence of the U.C.I.; and the press’s failure to ask the hard questions, or (god forbid) investigate!
Contador (aka Clentador) should be persona non grata (not gratis, btw) at the Tour lest what’s left of the credibility of the Tour disappear. If he’s in it, I know won’t watch it.

Guadzilla May 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm

F0r all the people carping on about the Rat Shack rider who was banned and that is a precedent for Contador, there are other sportspeople – including a Dutch MTBer this year – who were also acquitted.

If you are going to try to play lawyer on the Internet, do some basic research first.

Rob H May 27, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I believe that all the other acquittals for Clenuterol have been on the basis of eating contaminated meat in areas where there is much more likelihood of cattle being dosed with Clen (Mexico for the Dutch MTBer, China for the table tennis player Ovtcharov). AFAIK there is still no good evidence for Clenbuterol contamination in European meat.

Velonista May 27, 2011 at 2:55 pm

This feels a little like Valverde all over again: Guilty, but stalling in order to take advantage of the system. If I had a crystal ball, I’d say Contador rides the Tour and if he wins, there will be another delay and he’ll ride the Vuelta. He and Riis have talked about going for all three grand tours in the same year; if a ban is imminent, this might have to be the year.

And I don’t mean to single out Contador (but how can you not at the moment?); with the new Armstrong revelations, I’m still not convinced that we’ve got a handle on doping (this isn’t news—and not controversial).

MarcL May 27, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Contador’s legal team is using every angle at its disposal to extend the process. They may yet succeed in creating a situation where the various stakeholders would actually prefer Contador be acquitted at CAS. In a sense Contador could become Too-Big-to-Fail by the time the next Tour is over.

GreaseMonster May 27, 2011 at 5:52 pm

He just needs to set up some charitable foundation to syphon off money for personal use and he’ll be living the American Dream.

Champs May 27, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Contador seems to be going unnecessarily deep this week for someone who’s got a large lead and a Giro-Tour double on his mind.

But for a few hundred thousand euros every month—or mere hundreds—I’d stall, too.

RaphBxl May 27, 2011 at 6:41 pm

@Pedro: That would be an elegant way out. But if I’m not mistaken, B.Riis has to find a new title sponsor for next year. Not doing the Tour is going to make things difficult for him.

@Touriste-Routier: In appeals, cases are heard again, both on issues of fact and law (appeals are different than supreme court/”cour de cassation” types of procedures). And in any event, I understand this to be more a form of action for annulement against the decision of the Spanish federation (which is not a judicial body, contrary to the CAS), not an appeal stricto sensu.

Concerning the time this case is taking, this is actually going quite fast by normal European/continental standards. And it is not about “coming up with a defense”. A the process leading up to the hearing is a dynamic process, where the parties exchange arguments and evidence. As stated on the website of the CAS, the hearing was postponed ” in order to give to all parties concerned reasonable time to prepare for such hearing and to guarantee the participation in person of witnesses and experts”.

wom May 27, 2011 at 7:26 pm

were those Italian tifosi booing Contador, or actually mooing – it might really be the steak …

ColoradoGoat May 27, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Kind of too bad that AC both decided to and allowed to race the Giro. While the focus on this post is all about the Tour, let us not forget that the Giro is the most dramatic of the 3 Grand Tours, and this amazing race set up for 2011 has been basically laid to waste by a doper who, for all intents and purposes has ruined this event (both because his result will be overturned and because no one else can even stay near his wheel on a climb).

Oliver May 27, 2011 at 8:34 pm

@Colorado goat: agreed “Clentabore” has basically ruined the Giro. Let’s hope ASO does not let him do that to the Tour de France as Lance did for 7 long, long years….
No surprise in retrospect that 2008 was such an interesting Tour…. No Lance, no Landis, no Contador…

Robbo May 27, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Are Nibali, Scarponi, et al., sandbagging – I mean, racing for second place – under the expectation that Contador will be suspended? If Bert starts the TdF would others take the same approach? I understand that the only way to guarantee a win is to actually win, rather than count on a disqualification, but his presence on the roster would have to raise tactical questions when he’s hammering it. Maybe not..?

Have there been any Cadel Evans sightings lately?

Twisted Spoke May 27, 2011 at 10:00 pm

We all know Prudhomme would rather not have Contador at his Tour de France. And he has the right to take back the invitation but I just don’t see it happening. It’s ridiculous that nobody knows who actually will be declared the 2010 winner and terrifying to think Contador might win this year but be stripped of both titles. Still, I just don’t think Prudhomme has the courage to exclude him.

Mark May 27, 2011 at 10:14 pm

I’d prefer Contador to ride , I want to see if anybody can get close to him

Look at the winners of the Tour de France , please tell me which winner didn’t dope ?

Go back as far as you like

Beth May 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Watching this story unfold over the last year, along with all the related stories, has been like watching a trainwreck in super slow-motion. And what is being destroyed is the sport we all love. All the online commentary, all the news stories, all the legal analyses-they all just point up how incredibly fucked-up the sport has become. I have had to just quit watching the Giro, because it really has been ruined, whether you “believe in” Contador or not. I was counting on being able to watch and enjoy the Tour at least, and now this also is going to be, essentially, taken away from us.
The worst of it is how unfair this long-drawn out legal process is: unfair to us as fans, unfair to the other riders who have to ride against, and strategize against a rider who may or may not “really” be the winner. It’s unfair to RAI and to ASO, who probably feel they HAVE to invite Contador. It’s even unfair to Contador, innocent or guilty. We all of us deserved to have this decided by now.
,

July May 28, 2011 at 1:53 am

@Greasemonster, ‘Evans in July’ is a real possibility, he has given himself every chance this year, and with a bit of luck is a good chance. At the very least no one has ever had reason to suggest he is anything but a clean rider.

barbara May 28, 2011 at 3:57 am

The only real solution will be that Andy Schleck just wins TdF over AC.

Mickey McMook May 28, 2011 at 9:48 am

Besides the UCI rule, ASO has a morals clause in their race rules AND a legal team that already has the back-up under French civil law to exclude Contador if they want to. If so, he will go to the CAS for a quick
ruling and if he wins he will make even bigger monkeys out of the system than he is already doing.

ASO is driven by TV ratings, though. ASO general director Yann Le Moenner used to run their TV department and with Contador they are guaranteed better ratings than without. In the end the frogs
will likely cave in to the cash…higher ratings, more money. The days of JM LeBlanc (and integrity)
are over at ASO.

ElBeeJay May 28, 2011 at 10:50 am

The Danish newspaper B.T. has the rights to publish a Tour de France Magazine along with television rightholders TV2.

However, ASO has put the foot down because of the frontpage picturing Contador alongside Andy Schleck. ASO apparerently “did not want Contador pictured”.

I don’t know how – or if – it should be interpreted. But peculiar it is…

The Inner Ring May 28, 2011 at 11:12 am

Thanks for all the comments, so much to read and enjoy.

Mickey McMook: I’m not sure if Contador is the ratings hit. Many – but not all – in France won’t watch if they don’t believe the race they see and some of these won’t have time for the nuances of clenbuterol; they’ve seen the headlines of him being positive. It’ll be hard for some to watch the race without wondering if it’s real or not.

El BeeJay: at the Tour presentation last October there were video images from last July… with a lot of Andy Schleck. Contador did not attend the event either.

xyz May 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Hi inrng
I frequently read your blog and often find it interesting, but I have this to say:
If any one is ruining the the viewing pleasure of the sport for the general public it is you and the rest of the media with the constant focus on Contador “the doper” instead of Contador “the rider”.
All of you could have chosen another view on the Clenbuterol case, namely the fairness of the rules without limits for a substance that could accidentally get into the body, and the fairness of the rule about strict liability. You could have written long stories about that, but instead you all chose to write about doping and you all continued to do so, even when the person in this case was cleared in the legal hearing.
And about that hearing all of you in the media talked a lot about unduly pressure from outside forces, and how wrong that was, now all of you are exerting the same kind of unduly pressure with all your articles about how “damming”, destroying” and other words to that extent it is and will be when Contador “the doper” is racing.
Have you ever stopped to think “what if the story about the beef is true” what if this is truly an accidentally case of Clenbuterol contamination. Is it really OK to ruin a persons reputation and the joy of watching him race for so many people. Is the number of site viewing and newspapers sold really more important than the sport, and could you not have obtained the same with another view on the story.
For all of you who love this sport I have only one recommendation; stop reading about this Clenbuterol case, watch the races, enjoy the magnificent effort of all the riders and wait for the legal stuff to be done with, it will take a long time and why ruin your time with useless speculation in the meantime, use your own eyes and your own hearts to decide what is right and what is wrong until then, because unfortunately your will never get any real information or help from the media.

ElBeeJay May 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm

@xyz

You’re an ostrich. Go find a bush. stick your head in it. And dream on

ColoradoGoat May 28, 2011 at 8:07 pm

@xyz:

Please tell me how enjoyable this is going to be when he is stripped of both the 2010 TdF and 2011 Giro titles. You may want to take a “hear-no-evil, see-no-evil” approach, but when the results of races are no longer reliable, and you are not sure whether the winner will actually remain the winner, it turns these events into farces.

bikecellar May 28, 2011 at 9:45 pm

XYZ
My eyes and my heart are telling me what I am watching is an illusion. Anyone who has ever raced at a elite/pro level will know this to be the case. How long will this farce continue? I am a lifelong (63 yr old) cycling fan, cheating takes place in all walks of life and in all sports but this last week or so after witnessing Contadors performance’s in the Giro and the Radioshack deja vu (us postal/discovery) Horner/Leipheimer double act in California I am left with a bad taste in my mouth. I lost all interest in both events. It’s embarrasing being /having been a racing cyclist. Criminality is the way forward, never mind tests and profile’s get the police involved on a multinational scale and put people in prison.

Mickey McMook May 28, 2011 at 10:03 pm

ASO has to deliver a TV package worldwide to over 100 countries. Point is, with Contador the
TDF will be more interesting as all struggle in his wake. Without Contador, the TV ratings in
will be lower because the race will be less interesting. Plus doping never negatively affected
TDF TV ratings in the past. This only happened in Germany post Jan Ullrich.

Chuck May 29, 2011 at 5:09 am

Flashing Pedals makes it even clearer which angle/perspective the Inner Ring might want to explore further. After all, you seem to be more skilled than most journalists.

The Inner Ring May 29, 2011 at 9:54 am

xyz: if the beef story is true then that’s great. But how come a case of some bad meat can leave a question hanging over, arguably, the best rider in the sport and for a whole year? Here it’s not about Contador, it’s the way the sport works and much more, how it takes so long for us to get a ruling on this.

Whether you like him, hate him or are anywhere in between on the fan/hater spectrum, you probably just want to see a ruling and some explanation. Otherwise we don’t know if the CAS will rule and ban him, stripping the Giro results and more away, or not. So for me, it’s a problem of the system.

As for the media, I suspect it’s hard for journalists to write great exciting pieces praising his riding if there’s a big question mark and they could see their pieces rewritten by the CAS.

ElBeeJay May 29, 2011 at 10:39 am

@InnerRing

So true. I think what got most journos into the business was a mixture of enthusiasm and fascination. But it becomes very tricky and sometimes upright stupid to praise even the most adulated rider for his strength, courage and skills and sacrifices when truth is revealed and it is just another story of lurid connections to witchdoctors and where “preparation” is just another word for excessive use of the syringe.

xyz May 29, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Quote: “ it’s hard for journalists to write great exciting pieces praising his riding if there’s a big question mark and they could see their pieces rewritten by the CAS”
But it is not hard for the media to write great condemning pieces where they portrait him as a doper and then see their pieces rewritten by the CAS when they clear him of any fault?????

I don’t know, you don’t know, nobody knows if he is guilty or innocent, what we all do know is that he is cleared by a legal hearing and is free to ride and participate in races.
Regarding the results he obtain while free to race, again: I don’t know, you don’t know, nobody knows if they will be rewritten. If he is cleared they absolutely will stand, and if he is not cleared nobody knows how CAS will rule as they can do more or less as it pleases them, previous rulings in different cases speak both for and against stripping him of the results, and still you give the impression that his results will be stripped.

I understand and share your concern about the system, what I do not like is that in dealing with the problem you (and most of the media) are doing your very best to ruin the reputation of the rider in question, not only in this blog but also in your twittering.
You have become a rather big opinion maker and in my view that comes with a big responsibility. Take a look at the number of comments you get to your posts, my guess is that when you put doping and condemning of a rider into your posts you get more comments than if you write about the system without that, and some of the comments are just like the CN clinic.
Quote: “So for me, it’s a problem of the system.” You are so good a writer that I am quite sure you could write about that problem without throwing any not yet guilty rider under the bus.

I am happy to say that I have lived long enough to have followed this sport in more than 25 years, and I got the interest rather late in my life, so I am quite old :)
A very long time ago, when I vent to school, some of my favourite lessons were the ones in “source critics” (don’t know if that is the correct term in English), sadly I find that this is not something media today are very concerned about.

A final note, I understand from the few clues you have given about your identity that you are a former pro rider, so I ask you, how would you feel, if you at that time had eaten a contaminated beef and the whole world called you a doper, in their quest to question a faulty system.

And very last comment from me: I am very strongly against doping, and I do not like to see former dopers back in the peloton, if a rider is banned for doping (blood doping, EPO and things like that) I think that he/she should be banned for life. In today’s environment there are just no excuse for turning to that kind of cheating.

Rider Council May 29, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Not a whole lot of negative press in Italy about Contador. Praises all round from RAI commentators for his dominant performance and intelligent riding. I think we all know by now what is really going on in cycling and we are no where close to changing the situation just yet. If we didn’t tune out for the last decade why start now? Contador’s case will not matter so much when LA’s finally hits the news big time. Could the bomb possibly drop during the Tour? It’s going to get ugly. My concern is if this does not change things then what will?

Bundle May 29, 2011 at 11:32 pm

I think Inner Ring’s basic complaint about the unexpeditiousness of the sanctions-appeal system is right. I don’t know whose lawyers are to blame, and although UCI and WADA waited till the very last minute to present their appeal, I don’t care much. But I would have liked the season to start with a final decision on the table.
Will Contador be cleared or not? I don’t know, both options would be acceptable to me. It’s like a soccer referee deciding to award a very dubious penalty or not. If Schleck gets the 2010 Tour, good for him (but Scarponi should never get the 2011 Giro unless Contador is tested positive again). I disagree with those who say Contador ruined the Giro because he was much better than the others. It was a great race anyway, and there is no reason to believe he was less clean during this race than the others.
Should Contador take part in the 2011 Tour? From a legal point of view, yes. From an image/reputation point of view, not a big deal. It will be an interesting race at any rate, although there should be more two more TT (one long and flat, and another one up a good climb), the mountain stages should be much longer, and the cobbles should always be there. Very open race if Contador isn’t there, and very tense “all against one” if he is.
The reputation of the sport is what it is, we can’t do much about it, and the French press and public opinion should begin to take it easy. Anquetil, Hinault, Bobet, Fignon, Thévenet, all of them great champions. And none cleaner than Contador. If Contador is not invited this year, like he wasn’t in 2008, he will come back the following one, just like Merckx was stripped of his first Giro for doping and went on to win another five, and he still remains the best rider ever (in spite of being caught doping two times more).
Do I think Contador was doping in 2010? Yes, I think he was taking as many substances as possible, while trying to make sure he wouldn’t get caught. Do I think Schleck, Menchov, Gesink, Van Den Broeck and all the others were doing exactly the same? Not a doubt!
Do I feel less inclined to follow cycling because of this certainty? Not the least!
The first race I went to the road to watch, I was 9, almost 30 years ago. Lovely uphill challenge, great atmosphere, majestic mountain panorama. The first 4 guys in the race went on to be disqualified subsequently (Ritalin was the name of the stuff, the same substance in all four bodies). Did this make me turn away from cycling? Well, not really.
And I will continue to watch, Contador or no Contador, regardless.

Rider Council May 30, 2011 at 12:08 am

I really dont think the French are as biased as a couple of Texans would have you believe. I really dont think this is a necessary or great debate. If LA can ride through a tunnel of French fans so can Contador. JaJa will have no problem in the commentary box, after all he was the one jabbing the neo pro’s in the arse at his shindig. The French know what’s up, we know what’s up, no doubt Andy knew what was up when Frank was texting Fuentes, so eh what can we be sure of? Do we not know what’s up yet? Can we stop with the nonsense all ready and put the energy elsewhere? Lets debate where the problem really begins not where it ends. Yeah there is a piece of imported spanish meat holding the Tour hostage right now but it will be well cooked by the time July comes. If there is going to be a protest, it’s the French farmers we have to look out for.

regsf May 30, 2011 at 8:22 am

@mcmook Jean-Marie Leblanc’s years (89-05) were the most credible? Festina? Riis? Armstrong? Etc? Patrice Clerc was the only ASO patron that tried to take on the UCI’s corrupt ways and we know where that got him. There’s only one way to change the status quo, strip the UCI of doping control!

grolby May 30, 2011 at 6:04 pm

I don’t know, you don’t know, nobody knows if he is guilty or innocent

Well, nonsense; of course we do. The key phrase is “strict liability.” It doesn’t matter how the substance in question got there; the rules are that if an illegal substance is detected, the rider gets some kind of punishment. And it does not matter whether or not the amount of the banned substance is “enough” to have a performance benefit; there are no legal lower limits, and that’s as it should be. Contador tested positive, and his national federation violated the rules of WADA by clearing him.

As to whether or not Contador is guilty in some deeper, moral sense, I do not know and don’t care. But it’s difficult to have sympathy for the guy; he’s received the kind of treatment that most people caught with banned substances in their blood dream of. The major concern really is that the results of a number of races are indeed likely to be rewritten when the CAS almost certainly overturns the finding of the Spanish Federation (again, due to the strict liability clause of WADA rules). Contador’s life is pretty friggin good; he’s still racing, he’s won the Tour de France three times, he’s a millionaire, he’s absolutely adored in his native country, he is, whether doped or clean, the dominant grand tour cyclist of the era. Why should I be concerned about the damage cycling blogs might be doing to his character? He can take it, I think.

Bundle May 30, 2011 at 9:59 pm

@grolby

Is Contador guilty according to the “strict liability” rule? For sure. So if he is sanctioned and deprived of his Tour victory, it is fair enough. “There are no legal lower limits”, and rules are rules.

But as for “that’s the way it should be”, I am not sure why. The possibility of random contamination with minuscule amounts of banned substance is real (I don’t think it’s Contador’s case but anyway). It’s not that hormones are present everywhere, but for example testosterone and other hormones levels can be found in some rivers, and sometimes in the water supply, as the environment doesn’t always degrade them, and they are able to migrate. If we get legalistic (and I think it’s the only approach that can get us somewhere), we have to have more solid rules.

Not that I buy the contaminated steak hypothesis (far from it), but it is as likely that Contador was beefing himself up with amounts of clenbuterol tiny enough to pass through the net of antidoping controls (most of us think he was) as that some farmer was doping his cattle with amounts so tiny as to pass through the net of fitosanitary controls.

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