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.