Where’s the beef?

A picture of innocence

With the internet swirling with rumours about Contador being cleared, a quick post to state a few points.

  • On a point of order, it’s all rumours for now. That said when the Spanish media pack starts running in the same direction…
  • As I’ve said before, under the rules Contador needs supply proof to support his hypothesis. It actually shouldn’t be hard to find the bad meat. So whilst everyone is surprised that he has been cleared, it is possible that Contador and his defence team have presented reliable evidence to convince the RFEC. Perhaps it really was about food poisoning after all. After all, if the correct processes are being followed and UCI anti-doping rule 296, already cited by the Spanish press, is used to exonerate Contador then he will have had to establish the hypothesis.
  • But if that was the case, surely this get-out-jail ticket would hardly be a secret document presented only to the RFEC? If proof existed, wouldn’t Contador be touring every TV station to wave the evidence in everyone’s face?
  • The signs are not convincing. Early on RFEC President Juan Carlos Castaño struggled to grasp the basics and was making supportive noises; this got louder with even the Spanish Prime Minister and the country’s most senior judge making noises when I doubt they’d reviewed the evidence or read the UCI rulebook. It could well be that the rules are being ditched.
  • If Contador has been cleared because of notions like the dosage is small then the crumbling sound you can hear is the very legitimacy of the UCI and WADA in Spain. Such a the judgement would be in flagrant breach of their principles.
  • Again it raises the question over nationality. Just as many Italians got banned for involvement in Puerto, big name Spaniards appear to enjoy substantial political cover. WADA will probably push the IOC on this and we could even see the UCI being asked whether it can accept Spanish riders given their national governing body appears to reject the once-accepted rules.
  • Without evidence to back Contador’s meat hypothesis this is going to the Court of Arbitration faster than you can say “OJ Simpson, Innocent“.

18 thoughts on “Where’s the beef?”

  1. I’m not saying that Contador is innocent… but WADA and UCI rules may need to be updated to appreciate the efficacy and sensitivity of new testing equipment (especially fine German testing machinery). These things are so sensitive now, that it seems that if a person who ate a clen laced piece of beef belched within a hectare of a ProTEAM rider, it would result in a failed test. In all seriousness though, it seems this may be the appropriate case to begin addressing the fact that minimum thresholds need to be established to compensate for the incredible power of the equipment. Pro cyclists are already neurotic enough, do we really want to send them over the edge? I hope for the well-being of pro cycling, Contador does slide through, the hair profiling for testing purposes is further developed and a prolonged legal battle isn’t what drives the headlines in the coming year.

  2. Yen: a clever PR plan, eh?
    Jens: judging by Twitter many seem surprised with the result to say the least.
    Jon M: the point about the sensitivity is very valid, indeed it is being quoted by the Spanish media as a reason behind the verdict. But the rules are inflexible, it’ll be interesting to see just how far some will go to enforce them. As you say, there will have to be a review on sensitivity of the lab equipment but under the “strict liability” rules, that’s not necessarily for the RFEC to decide right now.

  3. Well said, as usual. I’m quite skeptical that Alberto’s side had any hard evidence that wasn’t provided to the press already, with all the time they’ve had to turn anything up. I’m prepared to eat clenbuterol-laced crow if they pull a rabbit out of their hat, though.

  4. I think one of the major problems here is that the national federations are involved. As much as I dislike the UCI, it seems to me that they should have responsibility over international governance issues, and the national federations should stick to domestic affairs. Pro Tour teams and riders should fall under their disciplinary jurisdiction, even if they are nationally registered. How often do we see the national federations decide one thing and WADA/UCI only end up appealing the decision to CAS,who then generally side with WADA/UCI? If the national federations don’t abide by the standards, what value do they add? There is a way to eliminate some of the steps, cost, and delay.

    I also think the media (even the specialized media) just plain suck in how they report on the Contador case. Even if the Spanish overturn the decision, as has been pointed out here, he likely will not get off free. It is a safe bet that WADA/UCI will appeal this (if they don’t what does that this say about them and their own strict liability policy), and that he will be sentenced again. If you are going to report the story, report the whole story. My rant over.

    If the case ends up before CAS, I wouldn’t be surprised if Contador gets handed a 2 year ban. He is dancing with the devil. Whether he truly believes he is innocent or not, he has an important business decision to make. My gut tells me that accepting the one year ban, as distasteful as it may be to him, will cost him less than if this matter continues. Just ask Floyd.

  5. How much of this is RFEC punting the ball to the UCI and WADA to escape the backlash for banning a hugely popular athlete. However, shame on the Spanish citizenry for not being more adult about this entire situation, and instead do nothing but hero-worship.

  6. TdF Lanterne Rouge: don’t get oven ready yet.

    Duncan: don’t go there! But actually the photo is from Spanish TV where live on air Contador was given a puppy. I don’t know if he’s kept it.

    T-R: yes, good point about the nationalities. I also think this the moment for the UCI to shine, that the sport needs the governing body to lead. As you say, taunting WADA/UCI is risking plenty. Unless there is evidence, a two year ban and big legal bill are due.

    ColoradoGoat: interesting point, but if these organisations aren’t able to do their job, WADA and the IOC are going to have some harsh words. Plus if it escalates we could have a real diplomatic incident here. They might pass the ball here, only to find they get a lot of heat for that.

  7. This is a perfect example of why doping infractions and the subsequent discipline needs to be handled by a body independent of any national federation. Clearly the RFEC and Spain in general are not keen on disciplining their athletes who test positive, while a country like Germany or even the USA can’t wait long enough to put the suspension down. And in Italy one might even go to jail. I have always maintained that WADA needs to be more than a rule maker, they need to be a rule enforcer.

    Colorado Goat, you make an interesting point on the Spanish backlash. Still, it seems like a fix when we have a guy like Zapatero making public comments about a sporting star’s situation. I don’t recall George Bush Jr speaking up on Landis’ behalf!

  8. When official results and certification come into question, I always look at accreditation- I’m in academia and this comes into play regularly. Do you have any insight into how national federations are organized and accredited? Could an international body (the UCI, IOC, or somebody else) take over cycling administration in Spain and force the RFEC out?

  9. Andrew: the RFEC is the Royal federation and so accredited by the Spanish state. But it is a member of the International Olympic Committee and the UCI, as well as a signatory of the WADA Code. It’s these three bodies who could create a massive headache for the UCI. We’ll see what happens next…

  10. Hamncheeze:

    I agree this could result in an international incident, and as I stated in a comment on another post, the other major national federations need to come together on this, and fix the system so to speak. Can you imagine how angry the Chinese are currently? And this is a nation which does not blink an eye throwing under-age gymnasts into the Olympics in order to win. Yet they agreed to the 2-year ban for their best cyclist.

    If I am the Chinese right now, I am contacting WADA and the UCI to either take away Li’s ban, and pay reparations, or stick it to Contador.

    Another problem is everyone is punting the ball. When the UCI now comes out saying that a 1-year ban is acceptable, that is nothing more than the UCI winking at Spain and saying: “Okay RFEC – we fold – we will now accept the 1-year ban…oh please just do it so we do not have to the bad guys”.

    In fact – this entire situation feels like two divorced parent afraid to punish their child for fear of being the hated parent, all the while, the child is slowly turning into a future delinquent destined for prison time. Only in this case, the damage is not to Contador, who has everything to benefit from the lack of a ban (face it – public opinion is set regardless of the outcome), while the sport of cycling will lose its credibility. Prior to the Contador situation, at least the cycling and national sport governing bodies had some semblance of wanting to run a clean sport. After Contador – it throws the entire situation into something of a farce – not quite WWF, but not exactly a true sport anymore.

    Another angle from the Spanish situation is that the Sport of cycling in Spain is struggling. There have been talks of charging spectators to sit on the side of the road, teams have folded, the Eusketel was potentially going to drop to Pro-Continental status. Additionally, with the economy tanking, future sponsors do not exactly seem to be waiting in the wings. RFEC and the Spanish government in general may be getting calls from all sorts of constituents who have an economic interest in this sport, and see Contador as one of the few bright spots in the last few years to sell this to business men looking to stroke their egos through a cycling sponsorship. I can understand these competing influences, and it is why the national federations in cases of international athletes should be sanctioned by an independent body.

    All of this could be taken care of very quickly if the IOC were to finally step in, and threaten the UCI and the Spanish about the implications for letting Contador off the hook. However, we all know the IOC is not going to get its bribes from countries and governing bodies it angers, and so is happy to sit on the sideline and let everyone else get dragged through the mud.

  11. I believe a few Nation’s could have acted this same way, I think the United States might have. I think Germany and probably France would have sanctioned the rider, in this case Contador.

  12. Ned,
    I disagree about the United States. Essentially baseball players have been publicly called before congress to testify about steroids, some of them hall of famers and considered legends of the game. Barry Bonds may be indicted for perjury, and the current US DA is going after Armstrong.

    We have our share of sycophants, but I think because we also have such a large prevalence of athletes arrested for rape, drug use, assault, shootings etc…, we tend to have a more jaded view of athletes in general.

    Sir Lance has his fans, but they are not political enough to stop the investigation into US Postal.

  13. Colorado Goat: That’s your prerogative, I thought I had one post here and it seems to be missing or in another thread how in fact, in the era of Carl Lewis, drug test results were covered up, American Cyclists did blood dope at the LA ’84 Olympics, I’m American so I know of what I’m talking about too. Yeh, baseball players are paraded in front of congress and there fore, steroid use has gone down in baseball and football (Goat Snicker).

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