Thursday, February 17, 2011

Alberto Contador... A Free Man

There has been a lot of talk lately about Alberto Contador and his alleged doping.  During the 2010 Tour De France he tested positive for small traces of a banned substance called clenbuterol. Since then, he has been under investigation by the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC).  Alberto's defense to the positive drug test was that he ate meat that was contaminated with the drug.  In theory, that could have happened due to the fact that the amount of the drug found in Contador's urine was so low.  However, clenbuterol has been banned in Europe since 1996.  In this article, they point out that out of 80,000 animals tested in Europe, only one tested positive for the drug.  That leaves his argument a little weak in my opinion.

This is where I get frustrated.  The RFEC investigated Contador's case and decided to hand him a one year ban.  Why not the normal two year ban, you ask?  That's a great question.  Don't worry... it gets better.  Now Contador had 10 days to appeal that decision.  Of course he appealed.  Then what happens?  The prime minister of Spain, the day before the RFEC makes their final decison, tweets he believed “there's no legal reason to justify sanctioning Contador."  Are you kidding me?!  Talk about swaying the vote!!  How on earth do you expect the RFEC to come back, after already feeling immense pressure, and NOT overturn Contador's case?  The next day the RFEC's final decision comes out.  All doping charges are dropped on Contador's behalf.  Seriously?  Let me ask you this... why do we have anti doping programs?  Why do we even test athletes?  It's simple.  So we catch the cheaters.  What good does it show for a sport that is already completely tainted with rumors and speculations when a rider has tested positive for a banned drug, and is set free with no punishment?  US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) Chief Executive Travis Tygart said this, “It’s a very, very unique set of facts that would justify someone being completely cleared, so unique that we haven’t seen it at all, at least here in the United States.  If there’s truly been a flip-flop, as reported, it appears to be a classic example of the fox protecting the henhouse. It would look like they are protecting a national hero.”  That's exactly the conclusion everyone else came to and did nothing but make the RFEC look pretty dang stupid.

The UCI and WADA have both said that they are waiting for further details before deciding if they will appeal. The UCI has 30 days after receiving the document to notify the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), while WADA has an additional 21 days.  This is an extremely long process and could take until after the 2011 Tour de France has started for them to make a final decision.  Pat McQuaid, President of the UCI, was quoted to have said that he hopes the CAS, if notified, will understand the urgency of this matter and hopes to resolve it before the Tour.  In the mean time, Contador is racing again.  If this case is overturned again and Contador is banned, all wins, including the 2010 TdF, will be erased.
Lets talk about Contador's excuse.  No matter how small the chances are the he ate contaminated meat, we can't dispute the fact that it is, in fact, possible.  Why didn't any of his other teammates have clenbuterol in their urine samples though?  You'd think that his team would have traces of the same drug when they all eat together. 

This isn't even the half of it.  The most damning evidence against Contador yet is the fact that extremely high levels of plasticizers were found in his system.  The same plasticizers used in blood bags.  This poses the extremely intriguing and convicing fact that not only was Contador on Clenbuterol, but that he blood doped as well.  It is assumed that he extracted his own blood weeks back while the Clenbuterol was not completely out of his system, then when he transfused that same blood back in his body during The Tour, the Clenbuterol showed up on his drug test.  The thing I am most curious about is why haven't we heard more about this?  It's almost as if it was swept right under the rug and completely ignored.  How does this make the UCI and everyone else involved look?  Not great. 

The thing I love about the UCI is they hide things to protect the riders like no one I've ever seen.  When Contador was first notified of the positive drug test, Pat McQuaid publicly denied the fact that Contador had a positive test when he knew very well that he did.  Needless to say it didn't make McQuaid look very good when he came out and basically said "umm, oh yeah, nevermind... he does have a positive test."  Given the UCI's past history of burying the news of failed tests by top riders, this is another huge red flag.  The news that Contador has been cleared does nothing to clean up the image of the sport. If anything, it may hurt the reputation of cycling even more. Funny... All Contador can worry about is himself.  Nothing new... El Pistolero.