The Contador case: The American perspectives.
Admittedly, the sample is small and anecdotal. Still, the voices are influential, knowledgeable and worth a serious listen. Call it the American Perspective Lite.
In the last month, Bicycling Magazine senior writer Joe Lindsey, former US Postal rider Frankie Andreu and domestic rider Tom Zirbel have all issued their opinion on the case and the ramifications for the sport.
Lindsey, who writes the well-read Boulder Report, has consistently reminded everyone in this long and bizzare saga that in the end Contador still has to prove how he inadvertently ingested a steak with clenbuterol.
He put it this way in a recent column: “Contador’s defense has pushed the inadvertent positive claim successfully. But in its hearing before the Spanish cycling federation, they never presented evidence that meets the threshold for that claim.”
“To pursue a no-fault-or-negligence argument, an athlete must prove not only that inadvertent ingestion was possible but also how it came to be – that is, you have to show that it was the only plausible cause. Then, and only then, can you argue for a reduced ban or no ban.”
Taking that reasoning, it’s safe to say that right or wrong, guilty or not, based solely on the UCI law as written, Lindsey thinks Contador will be sanctioned. (Joe, correct me if I’m wrong.) As Lindsey wrote in his summation, “The clock on Contador’s eligibility may be running out. And whether he admits it publicly or not, I think he is very concerned.”
According the Frankie Andreu, the Contador case should never have even gone to the Court of Arbitration in Sport. “Both his A and B samples tested positive. This should have been an open-and-shut case,” wrote Andreu in a guest editorial in Bicycling Magazine. “To let the adjudication process take as long as it has absolutely harms the sport.”
Like Joe Lindsey, Andreu looks at the UCI law and doesn’t seem much wiggle room for the Spaniard. “It would not be fair if Contador got off when others get penalized. Whether it was by accident or on purpose, they suffered the consequences. Many proclaim their innocence, but we have seen that a claim of innocence doesn’t always equate to the truth. The tests provide boundaries and lines that cannot be crossed, even if it’s for a questionable three-time Tour de France winner.”
Tom Zirbel is in a unique position to comment on the Contador trial in Lausanne, Switzerland. He returned to bike racing this season after a suspension for a banned substance dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Like Contador, he claimed inadvertent ingestion but Zirbel was unable to prove his case.
His guess is the same one that Lindsey and Andreu made: Contador will receive a ban. “I think they’ll probably stick to the program [and issue a suspension]. If they set a precedent here, they’re opening a can of worms,” said Zirbel.
What worries Zirbel are the public ramifications for the sport if Contador should go free. “They’ll see it as hypocrisy and realize that money talks in situations like this. And with the recent allegations from Floyd Landis about UCI corruption, it’s hard not to think that,” said Zirbel. “You’ve got potentially the biggest star of the sport getting off with no real proof of what he saying.”
As we said up front, we’re not suggesting this is the definitive “American Position on Alberto Contador.” However, we’re prepared to say those are three strong voices and a good reflection of what fans in the States think of the Contador case.
From our Twisted Spoke vantage point in California, we don’t see how Alberto Contador will provide convincing proof for his tainted steak claim. While everything in this case has proven unpredictable, we still predict a one year ban and the loss of his Tour title.