First take: Spain went easy on the hometown boy from Pinto, Alberto Contador.
The Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) imposed a one-year ban on 2010 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador for his Clenbuterol positive, according to Spanish newspaper El Pais. The tainted steak defense did not go down well — too chewy.
Critics will argue that a 12 month suspension is either too much or not enough and they’d both be wrong because the actual suspension is essentially six months. Spanish authorities are using the “reverse manyana” time effect to speed up Alberto’s sentence.
Given the time Contador has already served during his provisional suspension and the investigation phase, Saxo Bank’s best hope will be free to race in late August, just in time for …. wait for it, the hometown tour, the Vuelta a Espana. Organizer Javier Guillén is already on record throwing out the welcome mat to El Pistolero.
So, for all intents, the Spanish Federation gave Alberto Contador a six month suspension. He and Saxo Bank manager Bjarne Riis should be thankful they got off easy. The Danish Eagles will still have a shot at winning a grand tour this season.
The real punishment was throwing Contador into the Floyd Landis Club — the only riders stripped of their Tour de France victories. Initiation rites: drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels. We’re sure Floyd is thrilled to have the company — nobody likes to be the only felon in France.
That strip job is painful and will leave a bitter taste in Contador’s mouth for the rest of his career. He’ll talk about it like Merckx still talks about the French fan who punched him in the ’75 Tour de France.
So the Spanish Federation appears to have wised up after four years of protection schemes for other son Alejandro Valverde. The Court of Arbitration in Sport and the Italian Olympic Committee finally nailed him while the UCI non-governing body watched helplessly from the sidelines.
A year ban sounds like they take things seriously and it’s just long enough to make the UCI and WADA question the value of a long legal battle — and the ugly embarrassment to the sport — just to tack on an extra year. No one really wants more muck to rake.
We’re guessing there’s going to be plenty of mock indignation from the Contador camp, a few helpings of fake outrage and lots of loud pronouncements about innocence and justice and honor. But secretly, a six month ban that gets him back on the bike in time for the Vuelta is probably as good as it gets.
Congrats to unwilling new winner of the 2010 Tour de France, Andy Schleck. Proof that ultimately meat-gate was more damaging than chain-gate. And besides, Andy still owes me money.