Painful Times in Front of Us
What will be the repercussions of the Ullrich and Contador cases?
January. Really CAS - that's the media's fault?
Last week RadioShack-Nissan team owner Flavio Becca got a bit snarky regarding Contador and the Saxo Bank team. He accused them of trying to curry favor with the Israeli judge on the CAS panel by holding their training camp in Israel and doing good deeds like building a school in Israel. You see, you need two out of three judges to rule in your favor to make those pesky clenbuterol charges to go away.
Sure, on the surface it's a bit odd. To my knowledge no professional cycling team has ever had a pre-season training camp in Israel, but without more evidence I have to believe that team Saxo Bank was there for altruistic reasons. Well, the media had the nerve to report on Becca's statements and the Associated Press went further and wrote that the WADA lawyers nearly walked out of the proceedings because their expert witness was denied the chance to give testimony. This reporting of the facts got CAS' panties in a bunch, so they delayed the ruling.
Myself and several other journalists could only shake our heads in disbelief. The 2011 Tour de France is in the books and we are still faced with determining who really won the 2010 edition. Will it be Contador? Will it be Andy Schleck? Will the Tour's reputation survive the fallout if CAS rules against Contador? Will professional cycling's reputation survive regardless of the outcome?
If Contador is found innocent of purposefully ingesting clenbuterol for performance enhancing reasons my belief is that it will make splashy front page news in Europe and maybe a paragraph in the back of the sports section here in the States. For my European readers, cycling in the States only gets the attention if an American wins the Tour de France or someone has a horrible accident. Anything else, forget it.
The ramification of an innocent Contador is that an athlete can be found not guilty of a positive doping result if he or she can prove that the ingestion was accidental. To further clarify, a positive result will no longer mean an automatic ban. A rider's lawyer will have an extra loophole and can claim that the drug in question was found in their client's body because of a vitamin, meat, tainted water bottle, Jack Daniels ... whatever. Defense lawyers have a great imagination and will come up with all kinds of excuses. However, it's going to take some real brainstorming to beat the twin fetus defense by Team Tyler Hamilton. That theory was pure gold!
Unfortunately this doesn't help Tom Zirbel who was sanctioned for two years after taking a supplement that had traces of a banned substance. Zirbel was all set to transfer to the Garmin squad and make his European debut. But the positive result scuttled that and any chance of joining and making that next step in his professional career. If he had been found positive in a "post-innocent Contador world" he might have had a fighting chance to defend himself.
A guilty Contador