We never liked the endless drug jams of the Grateful Dead but every time we read another story about Alberto Contador’s doping case, we think of the lyric from their hit song Truckin’ — “Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
The trip ended for singer and guitarist Jerry Garcia in 1995 at a drug rehabilitation facility where he died of a heart attack after battling a heroin addiction and diabetes. Who knows how it will end for Alberto Contador and his steak au clenbuterol.
We do have some verdict dates now set in stone — although if you know how much the Court for Arbitration loves postponements — that may be the softest stone known to man.
According to the court’s Secretary General Matthieu Reeb, the decision is expected to be announced “between January 15 and 20.” That’s likely to become a red letter day in cycling history.
That’s after the new RadioShack-Nissan Trek team presentation on January 6th in Luxembourg. So Andy Schleck won’t have the distraction of perhaps explaining once again that he doesn’t want to be named the new winner of the 2010 Tour de France. (Nobody likes an asterix but we say take the damn thing.)
In any case, we’re less than a month from learning the surprise ending to the saga that began when Contador failed a doping test in Pau on the second rest day. Twisted Spoke notes that was the day we went to the famous church in Lourdes — miracle capital of France — and prayed Andy would win the Tour. God went into action almost immediately. It’s clear to us that the Almighty was pulling for the Andy.
In short order, we’ll know if Contador’s personal closing appeal to the three judges had any effect. We’ll discover who had the best legal team and if Contador’s 3,500 pages of legal submissions simply short-circuited the three judges’ brains. (They’ll need a long vacation after this debacle.)
The fascination with the biggest doping case in modern cycling is that nobody — legal experts, doping specialists, cycling journalists, fans and pro riders — knows how the verdict will go. The Spaniard’s career is a roll of the dice and the implications for the sport and its battle against doping are massive. Stakes are sky high for everyone yet the outcome is still a total mystery. That’s hors categorie drama.
Of all the outcomes and scenarios, RadioShack-Nissan’s Chris Horner had an interesting take. During the course of a three hour conversation yesterday in San Diego, we asked Horner what he thought this would play out.
The experienced Horner is known for his keen understanding of race tactics so we place a high value on his assessment. He thinks that Contador will not be suspended but will be stripped of his 2010 Tour title. What’s more, he sees the strip as a face-saving move by the UCI in response to whatever criticism comes their way.
The final verdict arrives sometime between January 15 & 20th. That’s about when the race season kicks off with the Tour Down Under. We’ll know if Alberto is kicking his season off or taking a long enforced vacation. It occurs to us that if Contador were suspended for a year or two, his life would go into free fall. Perhaps his sky-diving experience in Israel prepared him for the possibility.
Which brings us back to the Dead and the lyrics to Casey Jones: “Drivin’ that train high on cocaine, Casey Jones you better watch your speed. Trouble ahead, trouble behind. And you know that notion just crossed my mind.”