A few doping cases are finally making their way through the system. Why is it taking so long and what type of message does it send to the cycling fan?
Cycling can be so confusing at times. I'm not talking about the inordinate amount of prize categories in the Giro d'Italia (Fast Team, Super Team, Escape Prize, Fair Play Prize). I'm talking about the people who are in charge of certain aspects of the sport. Doping and the results of doping are still front page news in cycling. Alberto Contador's case is finally going in front of the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) and it was reported his defense team is willing to strap Contador to a lie detector as evidence that he didn't knowingly ingest clenbuterol. If you read my past column - he believes he didn't. However, knowing and believing are two different things.
An outsider to the sport of cycling might be confused as to why Contador's 2010 Tour de France case has taken so long to make its way in front of sport's supreme court. For one, Contador's own cycling federation exonerated him. The UCI appealed the ruling and that set the ball rolling for a showdown in Switzerland at CAS. Both sides will argue that the amount of evidence to be examined, in this case over 3,000 pages of documents, slowed the proceedings like a water bottle into the spokes. Regardless, this is the week and Contador has four days to convince three arbitrators that his positive for clenbuterol was due to a steak.
Of course that all pales in comparison to the Jan Ullrich case. The German won the 1997 Tour de France. However, his name - or at least code name - was discovered on some stored bags of blood in 2006, which became infamously known as Operation Puerto. Long story short - Ullrich retired from the sport in 2007 and until about a year ago hadn't even ridden a bike. However, of late he has been popping up at Gran Fondos and this past weekend rode in a 100 mile event in Miami, Florida. While there he told Velonews that he wants a ruling from CAS so he can move on with his life. Ullrich stated that he has no plans on ever being a competitive cyclist or become involved in cycling management, so ultimately whatever CAS decides has no bearing on his life. Ullrich will get that wish at the end of the month as that is when the Lausanne-based court will rule - doper or not. I guess better late than never.
However this next news item even confused me. Italian anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri in an interview with the Associated Press on October 6th, 2010 said that doping in cycling was widespread and will never be eradicated. Ouch! Now that's harsh considering all that the sport of cycling has done to combat doping. In addition to in-competition testing, there's out of competition testing, and of course the biological passport. And let's not forget cycling has banned HGH and steroids - something other sport's athletes are unwilling to allow testing for. I'm looking at you NFL.
In the interview Torri suggests that some doping should be legalized as long as it