Alejandro Valverde and Movistar morals.

Eusebio Unzué

The problem with Spanish cycling is expressed in many ways. One of them is a lack of propriety. The definition being, “the state or quality of conforming to conventionally accepted standards of behavior or morals.”

The word came immediately to mind reading today’s comments by team manager Eusebio Unzué about his desire to sign Alejandro Valverde when his two year doping suspension ends.

“Valverde is one of the greatest, and will be on the agenda of many teams,” the Movistar boss told the Diario de Navarra. “Riders of a certain level are on the minds of many teams. We will try to help Alejandro not to lose his brilliance in this year and a half during his ban, and then agree to his return.”

Nothing wrong with the return of Valverde, dues paid, suspension over. It’s the lack of propriety on the part of both Unzue and Valverde. There’s not even the superficial mention of his transgressions, his guilt, any sense of contrition. The basic moral standard is to acknowledge the fault and promise to do better — whether that’s genuine or not — the form is a requirement, an accepted manner of behavior.

Instead we hear only praise of Valverde from Unzue. The message is that the past never happened, it didn’t matter, it is of no consequence. And that is a huge part of the doping problem in Spain. A refusal to acknowledge it. The famous line about those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them certainly rings true in the land of tapas and sangria.

The Spanish Cycling Federations stuns the sport by absolving Alberto Contador of doping charges when nearly all critics and journalists and scientists, the UCI and WADA thought otherwise. Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero tweets his support for Contador based on no understanding of the case other than the nationality of the rider in question.

In Spain doping is accepted enough that there’s not even the veneer of apology, the pretense that this time things will be different. In Italy, even Danilo di Luca plays the game, accepts the necessity of the tearful admission in front of priest and schoolchildren.

Is anyone in Spanish cycling howling with rage that Operacion Puerto criminal number 1, former Liberty Seguros manager Manolo Saiz is making noise about returning to the sport? This is like inviting Hannibal Lecter back for a summer barbecue.

“I want to return and I think that I am going to. I’m not afraid of what people say about me. That’s never bothered me,” he told Spanish newspaper ABC.  And I won’t be looking back at the past.” That’s just the problem in a nutshell. You can’t change a culture of doping if you refuse to admit its existence. Saiz still tells anyone who will listen that he is innocent despite a mountain of evidence.

Meanwhile Alejandro Valverde trains with his former Caisse d’Epargne buddies at the new Movistar set-up and everybody is thrilled. “We are going to fight for Valverde to return with us,” said Unzue. Sadly, that’s the kind of fight that happens in Spanish cycling, not the fight against doping. And there’s no pretense about this at all.

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  • Henkio

    Sheesh, you're just having lunch with with a gynecologist/blood bag enthusiast with 25000 euro in cash on you and you get all these accusations.

    FREE SAIZ!

    • Hey, the man is crazy funny, I’ll say that. Plenty of bizarre things fly out of his mouth without his brain bothering to check things out first. He’s entertaining. He won’t go away and so far nobody in Spain is trying to stop him too much. P.S. who’s your call for Flanders? Matt

  • Henkio

    Canc is the outright favorite. His win in E3 was baffling, even for him.
    Still I'm going to go with Gilbert in sprint-a-deux with the Swiss God. Never bet on the favorite. 😉
    For good odds bet Nuyens, he's in terrific shape.

    It's the best weekend of the year, so cool you can finally watch the whole thing.
    TV coverage here will start at 0900 hours and finish around 1730, it's crazy.
    Also picked up some Belgian newspapers today. Each one has over 25 pages dedicated solely to 'de Ronde'(!).

    I'm so excited, I feel like a kid the day before his birthday.

    • Henkio, I'm excited that you're excited. I think the Nuyens call is not a bad one at all. For some reason it feels right but maybe that's because I happen to like Bjarne Riis. Really think Chavanel can shake this race up and I'd love to see Pozzato get angry and kick somebody's ass just because it would be fun to watch his critics retract a few things. Enjoy the showy, baby. Matt

  • kris

    this is crazy.

  • IdeaStormer Jorge

    The Valverde case/fiasco is proof to me the Omera is still going strong. Valverde said nothing, continued with his "I did nothing, I did not test positive, I am innocent" manta and look how well it will pay off for him! A team is already asking for him and most likely will sign him if he's not already virtually signed and getting paid to not sign for another team. I call it a two year vacation for Valverde, it might even make him better as he won't be as run down as the other riders, but it might take him some time to get back up to speed so to speak.

    I must say he is an exciting rider to watch on race day and does race more than one race and race type. Not many other riders who do ride respectably in the one day and tours.

    • Omerta would be a fantastic name for a Spanish CYclign team. He is an exciting rider to watch like Ricco and Di Luca, he just attacks and attacks. Hmmm, wait a minute…

  • IdeaStormer Jorge

    Forgot, in case you have missed it some in Spain are after the OP king-pins: (might need the translator for this one) http://www.elpais.com/articulo/deportes/fiscal/pi

    • Thanks Jorge, I'll see if I can decipher that in the morning. 10 pm here, time to sleep and dream abotu Roubaix. Matt