Rethinking Contador

'Berto laying down the hurt

This may seem a bit behind the times, since the Contador suspension news cycle has long since passed. Still there is something here for us to consider. Here in the states, popular opinion holds that Contador is a doping cheat, who raced on Pro Team Astana with Lance during his comeback year. The internal team battle during the 2009 Tour de France is documented in Bill Strickland’s excellent Tour de Lance. 

For those not following at home, Contador failed a doping control on rest day during the 2010 Tour. A Tour that he won by a scant 39 seconds. Which happens to be the amount of time runner up Andy Shcleck lost due to a dropped chain. Contador maintained his innocence through the entire, often delayed proceedings claiming that his positive was due to contaminated beef. That’s the short version.

This view, that El Pistolero is cheat is one that i held from moment his positive for Clenbuterol was reported. I’ve changed my mind. Here’s why.

I don’t think Alberto cheated. Which is different than saying he’s not guilty. He is guilty, and the fact that it took so long to finally suspend him is just one of the many problems with the whole system. In order to cheat you have to make a conscious decision to defraud your fellow competitors. WADA and the UCI successfully showed that Contador’s positive did not come from bad beef. But owing to the miniscule amounts in his system it likely that the Clenbuterol entered his system through tainted supplements . In other words, I believe he unwittingly allowed a banned substance to enter his system.

However, as I stated above, he is still guilty. According to the UCI the athlete is responsible for what enters their body. He wasn’t careful about what he was taking and this is the price he pays. I don’t expect this to be a popular view, but its one I hold. The truth remains that Contador is a a FUCKING FANTASTIC rider, who’s ability to suffer for what he wants is to be admired.

It should also be noted that Contador has avoided the typical rig-a-ma-roll, of the doper. Which includes declaring your innocence, writing a book a testing to the “facts”, taking people’s money to continue your own self delusion. All before coming clean and claiming that the sport can’t be fixed. Or by using the specter of costly legal fees and claims of “I’ve never been found positive”, which is different than saying “I didn’t cheat”.

In the aftermath I’m sure that Alberto Contador will pass Armstrong as the “most tested athlete” (which isn’t true by the way). I won’t go as far to call Contador a “Great Champion”, he’ll have to rack up a few Monuments to earn that title.  Still, he is the best Grand Tour rider of this generation. Like or not, his CLEAN, dominance of last year’s Giro and subsequent lack of “pop” during the tour stands as a testament to that.



Want to punch me in face for insinuating that Lance doped?

Feel free to leave a CIVIL comment.

6 thoughts on “Rethinking Contador

  1. Agree. However, I think it’s a strong indicator that the system is broken. If the UCI/WADA is going to penalize riders for accidental ingestion they should test supplements and have approved clean supplements. Instead they are “testing” and stickering bikes, a complete waste of resources.

    1. Tym: Agreed! Sadly it seems that the UCI is more concerned about lining the pockets of officials in the worlds most populous country.

  2. luke hanson 22/02/2012 — 16:29

    probably the most realistic and sane blog post written on the matter. it is a sad, sad state of affairs when armstrong is cleared after three or four of his own teammates admit they doped with him, including his best friend hincapie…. and contador is stripped of titles he likely earned without cheating because of an almost untestable amount of clenbuterol which doesn’t enhance performance. the other important thing to note is that it is probably the only time in sports history that one athlete’s blood was taken to an entirely different lab and allowed to be tested at levels thousands of times below the others. why does the money machine want contador out and schleck in? why did the money machine protect armstrong? my guess is they are better products but anyone who doesn’t ask themselves that question and come up with their own answer is in serious denial. too bad for contador but the good guys always suffer to expose the bad. i think that’s what we’re going to see happen…. i wouldn’t be surprised if the uci blocks saxo bank next after stripping contador’s points and keeps him from riding the vuelta. the last thing they want is to see him come back and decimate the field clean. that would prove them wrong the only way contador knows how… on his bike.

    thanks for your article.

    1. Luke: Thanks for the comment. Please, feel free to spread those kind words around 🙂
      To your points: I believe that the upside of Clenbuterol is that it helps the athlete recover, thus making it “easier” for them to go harder the next day. As for protecting one over the other. That’s a hard call. In this country it seems easier to make Alberto Contador the villain perhaps because of his association with Armstrong in 2009. For which the press is to be blamed more than anyone else.

      As for Armstrong. I recently told some one that believing he didn’t dope is like belief in God. The facts just don’t add up. How could this one man beat all these other, who ended up serving doping sanctions? Its certainly not because he’s super human.

      However I will posit one conspiracy theory. Everyone who ever publicly challenged Armstrong was busted for doping. Hamilton and Landis dare leave the fold. Contador managed to win the 09 tour without real team support only to fail a test a year later. Just a thought.

  3. I can’t say if people are guilty or not.
    But what is really interesting is how the matter was handled. A full 18 months after Contador tested positive.
    A retrospective ban.
    Which sucks for the riders and Contador, but what UCI have done is quite clever for the sport. They ensured that their star man ‘Contador’ did all the races and got the crowds and sponsorship.
    Banning him now means he’ ll sit out only for half a year and will still do 1 grand tour.
    Anyone else think this was handled more commercially rather than in the interest of justice?

  4. At some point a sensible sane discussion has to happen – the evidence shows that what contador did is not what Armstrong did, or Riis, or Ricco, or Anquetil for that matter. There was a minuscule amount of clen in his blood, much less than any beneficial effect. These are the facts. Right that he was banned, and the UCI decree that ‘riders are responsible for what is in their body’ is also right, but there has to be some granularity in the discussion.

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