Contador guilty. Sad good news.

 

Contador found guilty.

 

For once in his life, UCI president Pat McQuaid sounded the correct note. Reacting to Alberto Contador’s guilty verdict from the Court for Arbitration in Sport, he delivered something almost stately: “This is a sad day for our sport. Some may think of it as a victory, but that is not at all the case. There are no winners when it comes to the issue of doping.”

Whether you were rooting for or against Contador, today is no cause for celebration.  It’s sad to see the sport dragged through yet another contentious and long delayed trial in public. Ever since his positive test for clenbuterol on the second rest day in Pau during the 2010 Tour de France, the doping issue has once again been center stage. The damage to the image of cycling — especially in terms of attracting new sponsors — is beyond calculation.

It’s a sad day for Contador who loses his 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d’Italia titles, two grand tour victories wiped off the books. While we find the two year ban that’s really a six month ban hard to follow, he essentially loses the 2012 season. For what could possibly be inadvertent contamination, those are harsh penalties.

It’s a sad day for Saxo Bank’s Bjarne Riis who finds himself running a team without a leader and no plan B. Riis did everything he could to help Contador with CAS — including the brilliant Israeli training camp gambit — but failed to adequately plan for the distinct possibility Contador would be convicted. The silver lining is that given the strange chronology behind the suspension dates, Contador can ride this year’s Vuelta a Espana. Perhaps just as troubling for Riis, the UCI plans to review the Saxo Bank ProTeam license given that Contador won the majority of the teams’ UCI points (68%) and those points are now erased.

It’s a sad day for Tour and Giro runner-ups Andy Schleck and Michele Scarpone because no competitive athlete likes a booby prize victory handed to them by three guys in suits in Lausanne, Switzerland. It means nothing and asterisks are a pain in the ass. For them, there’s no triumph, vindication or satisfaction in this ruling. Even Frenchman John Gadret, who moves from fourth to third on the Giro podium, could care less.

It’s certainly a sad day for cycling fans around the world. Sure, we can be pleased that the letter of the law — zero tolerance for a banned substance — was upheld and a superstar was not given preference treatment. However, it’s still a loss when the best stage racer of his generation is side-lined for what might be accidental contamination.

It’s a sad day for the Spanish Cycling Federation. Their decision to absolve Contador of any wrongdoing has been categorically over-ruled. A verdict that gives   us fresh evidence that national federations so a poor job at sanctioning their heroes. The Valverde and Contador cases were both embarrassing indictments of the Spanish federation.

There’s no question that had Alberto Contador won his case in Switzerland, most people outside Spain would have been even sadder. The UCI and WADA can  rightfully clam that all violators are prosecuted and rules are enforced — no matter how big the star — or how long it takes. (Lance Armstrong being his own special case.)

We at Twisted Spoke took the position that from the beginning Contador and his legal team had never proven their steak contamination theory. So right or wrong, inadvertent or intentional, no matter how minute the trace, he was guilty. That’s just how the law was written and the threshold set.

So when we woke up this morning, our immediate reaction was the court made the correct decision. That doesn’t mean we’re happy about it. It’s still a sad day all around.

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  • STS

    This decision maybe complies to the WADA rules. So from that point of view it might be considered just. But it does not serve the fight against doping and it also does not comply with one of the fundamental laws, the benefit of the doubt. Which is kind of an undisputed axiom in any jurisdictional system worth its name.

    • Guest

      The delay in the decision definitely hurt rather than helped the fight against doping. But there should be no 'benefit of doubt' for a zero tolerance substance. If there's doubt to give, a tolerance level should be defined. If that happens, great for the future steak-eaters, but it does not change the 2010 rules, which were broken. Intentional or not, he failed.

  • Winternet_

    They made the correct decision by the wrong rules.

    A set of rules that give a 24-month ban to Alberto Contador and a 20-month ban to Riccardo Ricco is not something that I'm happy about. A set of rules that do not differentiate the guy that has been proven to knowingly cheat the sport by improving his performance with illegal substances from the guy that was not proven to cheat knowingly and that did not illegally improved his performance is not a set of rules that I'm proud of.

    • Guest

      Isn't breaking the rules cheating, by definition? A failed test for a zero tolerance substance, intentional or not, is breaking the rules. Cycling needs to be even more strict and as immediate as possible (with accuracy and due process) in order to recover. They have had many opportunities, and this is their latest failing.

      Oh, and his failing to report the positive test to his new team until after the contract was signed will definitely hurt the sport more than an immediate ban of a blatent doping offense would have.

  • If Contador was a habitual doper, and had been caught transfusing blood or injecting igf's, I wouldn't be conflicted. but taking him down for a micropicogram or whatever of clen, which wouldn't have been used during the race and might not even appear in an early season slimming program seems like a rather hollow victory.

    • Guest

      You could say the same thing about Landis' synthetic testosterone, but then you would sound crazy.

  • Ettore Bombino

    Time will tell if I am right or wrong but there has to be limits set by WADA or else this is bound to happen again. Do I think that 50 Pcgr of clenbuterol was the difference between winning or losing the Tour? one would have to be delusional or plain stupid to use that line of reasoning. As to the plasticizer found in Contador’s blood sample, the fact is that we all have some levels of DHE in our systems and all it takes is some Lab with hypersensitive equipment to find it. Anyone can Google a study done in Germany a few years back where they found extremely high levels of DHE in kindergarten age children. The culprit was the Milk bottles used at the Nursery so the point I am making is all of this hearsay about blood transfusions or using Clem to enhance his performance is nothing but pure speculations. Unless there is a limit set and some form of sanity is brought into this problem, it will not go away.To quote Mercks, “I think people are trying to kill cycling” says it all

  • Guest

    The rules also say the athlete is responsible for any substance that is ingested, accidentally or intentionally. Why the mystery meat was even allowed to be a question is beyond me. It was listed at the time as a zero tolerance substance: the levels do not matter. If that rule needs a tweak for the future tests, so be it, but the sport needs to follow its own rules. It should have taken a few days to hand down the sentencing, not years.

  • Lee

    Very well-said, Matt. Sadly, this reinforces the 'focus on the past' attitude surrounding the sport's efforts to clean up.
    Moving forward requires swift action in future cases.

  • I’m with Oscar Pereiro on this one….

  • Sam

    The thing that bugs me about the current state of doping in cycling (or any sport, really) is that the athlete is the one taking all the sanctions. There may have been a doctor or two that have been sanctioned, but I have a hard time swallowing the fact that it is always "only the athlete". There are many more pieces to that puzzle that have contributed/gotten away with their role in an athlete testing positive. Yes…athletes are primarly responsible for anything that gets into their bodies…but I think there are many more influencing those actions/decisions an athlete makes.

    • Sam, you're right. I think Vuahgters — among others — has recommended penalties for teams that have doped riders. A good idea. Matt