Dopey Contador banned for two years

Tim Renowden Columnist

By Tim Renowden, Tim Renowden is a Roar Expert


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    Alberto Contador leading out Cadel Evans. AP Photo/Christophe Ena

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    Alberto Contador has had his doping ban upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and will be stripped of his 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d’Italia titles.

    The back-dated ban will expire on the 6th of August.

    Contador tested positive to a small amount of the steroid clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour, which he blamed on contaminated meat.

    The Spanish Cycling Federation exonerated him, in a decision which now looks highly suspect, and he raced throughout 2011, winning the Giro d’Italia in the process.

    WADA and the UCI appealed the Spanish Federation’s decision to CAS, and after several delays and contradictory statements, a final decision found that Contador was indeed guilty of doping.

    It’s a devastating blow for cycling fans who hoped, perhaps naively, that the sport had been substantially cleaned up by an improved testing regime and biological passports.

    It’s also a huge knock on the credibility of the sport’s administrators: a decision should have been finalised before the 2011 Tour de France, which Contador rode looking like a shell of his former self.

    Whether this was due to fatigue following his (now-withdrawn) victory in the Giro d’Italia, or simply being brought back to the pack by being forced to ride clean, we will never know.

    Regardless, the constant delays and apparent shenanigans from the Spanish Federation will do nothing to enhance the reputation of the sport’s governing bodies. Spanish cycling has done a lot of damage to the sport since Operacion Puerto blew the doors off the biggest doping scandal since the Festina affair in 1998.

    The UCI and the Spanish government must act to restore the credibility of the sport, perhaps by demanding the resignation of the heads of the Spanish federation. The decision not to ban Contador now looks like blatant self-interest from his national federation, with his ability to pull in the crowds and the euros counting for more than the integrity of cycling.

    The federation will say there is reasonable doubt that he is guilty.

    In hindsight there will be plenty of knockers claiming that Contador always looked dodgy, simply because he looked so damn good. He dances up the mountains like few have since Pantani, and can time trial well enough to hold his own.

    This shouldn’t be enough to convict him in the court of public opinion, but it’s been a long time since someone has looked that strong without a conviction, post-retirement revelations or at least strongly-worded rumours and the odd leaked lab report. The muttering will be louder now.

    The tiny amount of steroid in Contador’s blood samples will give his defenders enough to argue that his punishment is unjust, that he was in fact a victim of circumstance, or carelessness at worst. The more jaded will argue that the sport must not just be clean, but seen to be clean.

    The casual fans will see the headlines about another top rider busted, and turn away with their stereotypes about professional cycling nailed down even tighter.
    Sponsors will reconsider whether it’s worth the risk of brand damage by having their logo plastered over the chest of a cheat. It will become even harder to believe that it’s possible to win clean.

    And Contador will be back in six months, looking for redemption like so many others before him.

    Tim Renowden
    Tim Renowden

    Tim Renowden has been following professional cycling closely since Indurain won his first Tour. An ex-runner, now a club grade bike racer, Tim tweets about sport at @megabicicleta.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • Roar Guru

      February 7th 2012 @ 7:11am
      Redb said | February 7th 2012 @ 7:11am | ! Report

      The shame is all of this is that it just taints everyone associated with cycling, it smears the TDF and its past winners.

      • Columnist

        February 7th 2012 @ 7:44am
        Tim Renowden said | February 7th 2012 @ 7:44am | ! Report

        Yeah, it’s just another big slap in the face to everyone trying to prove that cycling is clean. It’s a real shame, because just when it seems like progress has been made with new testing regimes and biological passports, something like this happens and all the credibility goes out the window.

        • February 7th 2012 @ 7:58am
          Punter said | February 7th 2012 @ 7:58am | ! Report

          I do not see that way. I do not understand why people look at catching drug cheats as being a bad thing. We all know sportsmen of most highly paid sports will be tempted to take drugs to gain that advantage, the fact that they are getting caught & irrespective of their status means the next young superstar may think twice before resorting to cheating is a good thing.

          • Columnist

            February 7th 2012 @ 8:24am
            Tim Renowden said | February 7th 2012 @ 8:24am | ! Report

            Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing to catch drug cheats. As I said in the article, the sport MUST be seen to be clean, and testing must be seen as an effective deterrent. There’s no alternative.
            But it does damage the sport when stars test positive, and most of us have fatigue from watching our favourite riders testing positive one after another. It’s always in the back of your mind when you’re watching a great performance, that nagging feeling that “this is too good to be true”.
            And that sucks.

            • February 7th 2012 @ 11:31am
              Kasey said | February 7th 2012 @ 11:31am | ! Report

              More drug cheats get caught and exposed in cycling because the regime is harder. Compare and contrast with the AFLs 3 strikes rule. Also look at the statistics. Less and less cyclists are being caught these days despite better technology and more testing, surely that means that cycling is getting cleaner?
              I’m happy AC has been banned and stripped. I never liked him as an athlete to begin with. I think his TdF title in 2010 was tainted by his poor sportsmanship in attacking Andy Schleck when the yellow jersey contending Schleck had a mechanical fault. AC put at least a minute on AS and he ended up winning by about that margin. Another punk who cares nothing for the reputation of this great sport bites the dust. Good riddance!

              • Columnist

                February 7th 2012 @ 11:58am
                Geoff Lemon said | February 7th 2012 @ 11:58am | ! Report

                That’s not relevant Kasey – the AFL three strikes thing is for recreational drugs, not performance enhancers.

                Also, is it really considered poor etiquette to win over someone whose has mechanical problems? Pretty much all motor racing is decided on that basis. Part of winning is who has the best gear, the best support team, and the best maintenance of their bikes.

              • February 7th 2012 @ 12:07pm
                Kasey said | February 7th 2012 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

                It’s an extremely important part of the etiquette of cycling Geoff. Neither rider was actually in the yellow jersey, but it is one of hose traditions of cycling that make it the oddly compelling sport that it is. It sits squarely between the old school of sportsmen as gentlemen and the new win at all costs of the modern era. If the yellow jersey wearer had a mechanical(chain broke or puncture for example and rider A attacked, then rider A would be considered a poor sport and his victory would be considered tainted. If Rider A wants the respect of the peloton, he must wait for the leader to be brought back up to his previous position in the peloton and ‘then’ attack. To be the best you must beat the best.

              • February 7th 2012 @ 5:34pm
                MattyB said | February 7th 2012 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

                Totally poor etiquette. If someone falls, or has a flat or has something go wrong that isn’t their legs falling off, it’s considered a bad time to attack.
                Contador seemed to attack at just the moment that Schleck lost his chain (or was it the other way around?), Either way, Contador probably would have still won, but it was tainted. And now we know just how tainted it was.

            • February 7th 2012 @ 1:38pm
              Punter said | February 7th 2012 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

              I must admit my interest in the Tour de France is mainly due to Cadel’s rise from coming 2nd twice a few years back, but now I do love the scenic views & the theatre of the contest, not just on race day but on the whole 3 weeks race itself.
              However I do remember watching Floyd Landis till the wee hours a few years back & when it seem his bike was motorized, the commentators kept saying he has gone too early & he will come back to the field, but he never did. All this after he blew up the day before & lost a lot of time. He went on to win the Tour De France & later suspended for drug taking. Now did I feel cheated that I wasted my time, maybe, but it was awesome television at the. But I am more glad he got caught.
              There is now 2 winners of the Tour De France who has been stripped & while not fair on his fellow riders as it’s a very tactical race & different scenarios may have played out, I think it’s great, it shows you can’t cheat.

    • February 7th 2012 @ 7:30am
      Midfielder said | February 7th 2012 @ 7:30am | ! Report

      Does this mean Cadel gets the win…

      • Columnist

        February 7th 2012 @ 7:42am
        Tim Renowden said | February 7th 2012 @ 7:42am | ! Report

        No, Andy Schleck was second in 2010, so he gets the win.

        • Columnist

          February 7th 2012 @ 11:54am
          Geoff Lemon said | February 7th 2012 @ 11:54am | ! Report

          Jesus, what an anticlimax for Schleck. He’s come second so many times, like Evans. Now he finds out that he’s actually (technically) won a Tour. But finds out so long after the fact that he doesn’t get to experience the elation and the relief at actually being the winner.

          He’ll still feel like he hasn’t won one, because he’s yet to get his moment on the podium. Just another thing that drug cheats rob their competitors of.

          • February 7th 2012 @ 5:36pm
            MattyB said | February 7th 2012 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

            “I battled with Contador in that race and I lost. My goal is to win the Tour de France in a sporting way, being the best of all competitors, not in court. If I succeed this year, I will consider it as my first Tour victory.” -Andy Schleck. via

      • February 7th 2012 @ 9:22pm
        Axelv said | February 7th 2012 @ 9:22pm | ! Report

        Indeed, if Contador is being caught for drugs in 10/11, why wouldn’t he be taking drugs in 2007 when he won the Tour and Cadel Evans came 2nd :/

        Technically it should mean that Cadal Evans has won 2 TDF’s.

    • February 7th 2012 @ 9:03am
      nordster said | February 7th 2012 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      so the level he had in his system … it is even enough to mask something else? The story has always seemed short on this detail.

      if its not then perhaps he has some claims of innocence. Or is it possible it was a small trace of a previously large amount of the masking agent? But then you’d think it would have been picked up previously given how often they are tested.

      i guess all this would or should have been part of the CAS proceedings. Just never really read a full explanation of this.

      all that being said its also possible he is still doping with some other unrelated substance. They couldn’t detect that so they have pinged him on this technical breach as karma of sorts. This would seem ethically “problematic” to say the least!

      • Columnist

        February 7th 2012 @ 10:26am
        Tim Renowden said | February 7th 2012 @ 10:26am | ! Report

        The level of clenbuterol detected was tiny – too tiny to indicate that he had recently injected himself, and also too tiny to deliver a performance benefit. The contention is that it was a trace amount that got into his blood via an autologous transfusion, which is obviously illegal.
        There were allegations that his blood also contained abnormal levels of plasticizers, which are an indication that blood has been stored in a plastic bag:

        • February 7th 2012 @ 10:50am
          nordster said | February 7th 2012 @ 10:50am | ! Report

          ewwwwwww the whole transfusion thing some of them have been into just creeps me out!

          and cheers for the explanation, the main press reports only seem to give the surface of the story and all the politicking etc. rather explaining what some of these details mean.

    • February 7th 2012 @ 10:26am
      WoobliesFan said | February 7th 2012 @ 10:26am | ! Report

      Question – is it possible to even win (physically speaking) the Tour De France naturally? If your rivals, who are just as good (or even better) are on drugs, then how can you possibly do it?

      Take sprinting for example – Ben Johnson, Lindford Christie, Carl Lewis, Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin – all failed drug tests. You simply cannot win the 100m sprint these days without being enhanced. I’d go as far as to say you can’t even make the 100m final without being on them.

      That’s right, I’m saying Bolt is drugged up….it’s a no-brainer… Nandrolone used to be the choice of champions, now its most likely some designer drug created by sneaky dudes such as Victor Conte.

      • February 7th 2012 @ 11:01am
        jameswm said | February 7th 2012 @ 11:01am | ! Report

        Carl Lewis tested positive? You mean the couple of stimulant ones?

        The testing has come a long way WoobliesFan, and I reckon the Schlecks and Evans and most of the guys there are clean. They seem to compete on a level playing field and are tested rigorously. The testing has just about caught up to the cheating.

        As for Bolt – he ran 19.70 over 200 as a skinny 17yo. The guy has since trained professionally (though from what I understand, is pretty lax and could train harder) and improved at a normal rate since.

        I’m as cynical as anyone, but I don’t think Bolt cheats. He has grown, bulked up and improved at normal rates. Not like a lot of American sprinters who leave College and all of a sudden bulk up and improve dramatically.

        I think Bolt is just a freak.

        • Columnist

          February 7th 2012 @ 11:11am
          Tim Renowden said | February 7th 2012 @ 11:11am | ! Report

          Agreed. Plenty of people were shocked when Bolt “appeared out of nowhere” at the Beijing Olympics. Well, he only “appeared out of nowhere” if you hadn’t been watching him since he was a freakish junior.

          I would like to think that the knowledge that blood samples are stored and can be retrospectively analysed and compared to blood profiles now keeps most cyclists clean.

          • February 7th 2012 @ 11:18am
            Jeb said | February 7th 2012 @ 11:18am | ! Report

            What’s your opinion Tim on the affect that going clean has had on the peloton? The guys seem to be feeling a lot more pain these days?

            • Columnist

              February 7th 2012 @ 1:25pm
              Tim Renowden said | February 7th 2012 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

              I agree. There seems to be less constant attacking, and even the top riders seem to be extremely cautious about using up too much energy too early. None of the crazy “attack every day in the mountains” stuff we used to see.
              In last year’s Tour, when AC or A. Schleck attacked, you could see they were knackered for a day or two afterwards.

              • February 7th 2012 @ 3:12pm
                Jimbo said | February 7th 2012 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

                Also, if you look at the times for the ascents of various climbs in the tour, they are actually quite a bit slower today than they were in the infamous late 90s/early 2000s era – read into that what you will. If anything can be taken from the Contador case, at least the riders seem to be microdosing today rather than using the horse – sized doses of the pre – EPO testing era.

    • February 7th 2012 @ 5:41pm
      MattyB said | February 7th 2012 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

      So who’s going to be next to screw this sport up for everyone else?

    • February 10th 2012 @ 5:55pm
      Manny said | February 10th 2012 @ 5:55pm | ! Report

      Well I am now a believer in Karma. That 2010 Tour de France will be best known for Contador as the victory that was never meant. The infamous chain gate in which Alberto profited from. Have it not happened, would Alberto have won it anyway? That is arguable. But think about it, if not, he still ended up loosing it, 20 months after. It was not meant for him, simple. You can fool other riders, but you can’t fool destiny.

      In terms of the CAS decision, perhaps contradictory? They had reasonable doubt, but reasonable doubt is not good enough in a system in which the accused must prove he is innocent. They even provided Alberto with what would have been a more plausible defense…contaminated supplements, but not meat from a dead cow that nobody will be able to analyze. In my opinion his defense was a long shot, too good to be true, this food contamination defense made a pariah out of him

      What I believe happened? Contador has a predisposition for respiratory problems, asthma. Clenbuterol is a broncho dilator, marketed as Spiropent and Ventipulmin (People with chronic breathing disorders such as asthma use this as a broncho dilator to make breathing easier) How do I know, I have prescribed it! It is available in 0.01 or 0.02 mg per tablet as well as liquid preparations. That is also used for weight loss, sure, but that was not it’s original intended use, it more like a repartitioning effect; its weight loss effects was discovered incidentally. It surprises me that absolutely nobody theorized his case from this angle: that he was experiencing some respiratory problems the days before the now famous positive test, used a small amount of it and got pinned.

      No worries, he will be back in August, just in time to prepare himself for the Vuelta a Espana, were he will seek redemption, if you want to call redemption winning a race in your own homeland in which the RFCA (the Spanish Federation) threw the towel in for him to no avail.

      Am I a fan of him? No. Am I a fan of Andy Schelck? Neither, remember he did not waited for Contador when Contador fell on the cobblestones on the same race, stage 3, so his call for foul play after the chain gate resound more with the tunes of a spoiled brat.