Today sees Alberto Contador’s pre race press conference and he has some explaining to do. Now maybe you know what’s been happening during the last year, you are aware of the series of events beginning with his positive tests, the delays, the rulings, the appeals and more. But millions of French citizens aren’t aware of these intricacies
So like or not, the positive tests from last summer have left many scratching their heads. This isn’t about doping, it’s more giving the French public an explanation and the chance to put his side of the story. Only nobody’s seen him in France.
With his case heading for the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the inherent uncertainty this creates over both last summer’s result and his ongoing presence in the bunch you’d think he’d be working hard to convince the French that he deserves a cheer this July, he could even do it with humour by saying he should have eaten some delicious French meat instead. But no, we’ve hardly heard from him. In the vacuum the UCI’s had to issue a request that people treat Contador fairly.
In an opinion poll conducted in France by IFOP 63% of those asked said they were against Contador’s presence in the race. That said the question was loaded:
Alberto Contador, suspected of doping in the 2010 Tour de France, is getting ready to start the upcoming edition on 2 July. Are you in favour or against his presence in the 2011 Tour de France?
Now when you start a question with the mention of dopage then it’s bound to lead to skewed results. But let’s not dwell too long on polling methodology. After all, the media are going to bring up the subject of last summer’s unresolved business quite frequently too.
Indeed if newspapers like L’Equipe are predictable cheerleaders for the race – Tour race organiser ASO owns the newspaper – other newspapers are arch cynics. The establishment newspaper Le Monde has in the past refused to print the results, claiming they were meaningless and determined by pharmaceuticals. Clearly commercial rivalry means some sections of the media are only too happy to talk down the Tour de France.
Given the skepticism ahead, you’d think Contador’s entourage would have planned a few set piece media appearances to help him reach out to sports fans, to get his side of the argument across. He’s been spending time in France for training and met with the Belgian media for an interview… but next to nothing with the host country.
Maybe that’s just his style. After all he’s used to feeling beseiged, he’s had to fend off criticism from his own team mates in 2009 when he confounded Lance Armstrong. You could say he’s got better things to do than look innocent in front of the cameras and maybe no matter how many appeals he makes on French TV he could still struggle to convince those who say “non” in opinion polls.
Up to 15 million people could be standing by the roads this summer. Many don’t understand the details but they do wonder if Contador cheated to a win last year. Given all that has happened, it’s curious to see he’s so quiet when it comes to putting his story. I’m surprised he’s not tried to reach out to the French public with a few pre race interviews and set piece appearances on TV shows.
If he finds fans running along side him dangling steaks, if the roads contain bovine graffiti and if the media keep asking him what’s going on then this will partly be thanks to his silence on the matter. Meanwhile Andy Schleck speaks fluent French.