Tuesday, February 7, 2012

World News

You know that when cycling makes the front page of the Dem Gaz sports section, complete with photo, it's seldom good news. By now, of course, everyone with even the slightest interest in cycling or who keeps up with general sporting news has heard the word on Alberto Contador. After a year and a half of maneuvering and delays by all parties, the three time Tour de France winner was handed a two-year suspension and was stripped of his results since and including the 2010 Tour d France. With the retroactive punishment, he can race again on August 5. Congratulations to Andy Schleck, the now winner of the 2010 Tour de France. For Andy, that's a plate served very cold, as he saw the same race that we did; and he came in second. That's really too bad, because he'll have his name* in the record books, but he missed out on the glory and the joy and the asterisk will be there. What I think is a damned shame is that in cases of this type, there are really no grey areas, and yet it took a year and a half to resolve. If the rider has a substance in his body, he's responsible for it and will be banned. That cold, hard action ultimately was taken, but in the meantime, Contador raced, and now will be able to resume racing in time for the Vuelta. He officially hasn't existed, but he was still able to saddle up and maintain his brand awareness, being very much in the public eye. In that regard, Contador got an easy ride on the punishment. The folks who got screwed in the deal are the rest of the peloton. The record books can be rewritten, but that has little to do with the reality of the race season. The ban always seemed inevitable, so they should have just done it.
All of the debate over tainted meat (not a credible story in Spain, a real possibility if he had been training in China or Mexico), the incredibly small amount of clenbuterol and allegations of plasticizers from blood bags indicating an illegal transfusion (no accepted testing; couldn't really be considered) are moot in the face of hard and fast rules currently governing doping in cycling. Perhaps the rules should be changed to allow for accidental ingestion, tainted meats, and mislabeled supplements, but it was too late for that when Contador's results came back in 2010. The rules were in place and the clenbuterol was in Contador. It should have been "game over" eighteen months ago.

How is AC's case different from Lance Armstrong? Completely. The feds had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Lance or the team defrauded the government. They apparently couldn't do that. Armstrong never tested positive, unless one believes the claims of failed tests and payoffs. Other than a distant brush with Operacion Puerto before his US Postal days, Contador has generally been considered, if not beyond suspicion, a clean rider. Armstrong was hounded, accused, investigated, tested, harassed and vilified for years, and yet has never been busted. That really pisses a lot of people off, for some reason. After all of the leaks from the "secret" federal Grand Jury and the very public statements of Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, Lance's image is bent but not broken. That could yet change if the WADA can gain access to the grand jury testimony and other evidence gathered at the expense of us taxpayers. I guess if they find truly damning evidence then they can decide that Armstrong didn't win 7 Tours and they could suspend him from .....retirement? And so the hunt goes on.
I could be convinced that Lance was the smartest doper ever or that Contador was completely clean. I could also be convinced that some of the rules need changing and that there should be some point in time at which the witch hunts should cease. The WADA statute of limitations is 8 years, but WADA president John Fahey says, "Circumstances may exist that allow the rule to be set aside."
As a bike racing fan, I'm ready to move on.

I know I'm not really adding anything fresh to this topic, but I just had to say something!

No comments: