The Sword of Damocles is an ancient Greek fable that tells of a sword suspended by a horse’s hair above the head of Damocles, a courtier in Athens. At any moment the hair could break and the sword will plunge towards poor Damocles. It’s a tale that says the threat of something looming over us can be as disturbing as the act itself, that we would be unable to live normally with this threat to our life literally hanging over us.
That’s exactly where Alberto Contador is today. With the positive tests for last July still unresolved, there is a giant question mark over him and it could land on his head sometime soon. Faced with this the UCI has issued a communiqué asking that everyone treats him normally… but the very fact that Contador is the sole subject of a press release proves things are not normal.
Indeed the UCI itself quotes Jacques Rogge’s uncertainty, “I agree that it will cast a question mark on the validity of the result until the verdict is rendered“. When the head of the IOC questions the validity and lack of resolution, how can the media treat Contador like a normal rider?
The media can’t treat Contador “like every other rider” because he’s involved in a story that concerns him and nobody else. The tale relates to the result of the 2010 race and embraces a range of other topics, from WADA’s principles to contamination in the Spanish food chain, not to mention the old subject of doping and pro cycling.
Also there are a couple of extra points to note.
“The UCI Management Committee asks that every sportsman and woman set aside their personal opinions”
This is a polite of saying “Bradley Wiggins, shut your mouth“, a call to riders to stop questioning what is going on, presumably because it causes maximum embarrassment when athletes themselves point out the system is a farce. As I’ve said before, a large part of this is because of the UCI’s own delays. Not that you’d know this:
“the UCI also perfectly understands why the timetable set by the Court of Arbitration for Sport has caused some disappointment, even incomprehension, among many observers within the cycling community as well as the general public”
This is a frustrating turn of phrase. Yes the CAS has its timetable and Contador’s side have requested a delay. But it took about eight months before the CAS timetable started. There are some questions over the UCI’s delays, for example the story only broke after German TV was going to leak it but at the same time the UCI has had to tread very carefully in front of Contador’s lawyers too, it cannot rush things. Still, observers within the cycling community will note the majority of the delay is down to the UCI and the Spanish federation.
A special press release only highlights just how Alberto Contador is in a unique and uncertain situation. The presumption of innocence is one thing yet the UCI goes on to quote the head of the IOC pointing to the question marks hanging around Alberto Contador. Worse the UCI has hardly expedited the matter, its own delays have led us to this strange situation.
The legal right to participate is one thing but the Tour de France is sports contest full of human stories, a daily soap opera. It’s impossible to view the race in stark terms of legal rights. The media can’t just set aside the appeal and questions regarding what happened last summer.