Contador follow-up

February 18, 2012

Lots of comments on my last post regarding Contador. I realized in reading them that I should have started out differently, by clarifying that of course the best outcome for him would have been an acquittal and zero months banned. But the way the rules are written, that’s just not really in the cards. If a substance is in your body, you’re guilty unless you can prove it got there inadvertently. That’s difficult to do, and so the athlete is usually banned for 2 years (Mexican soccer players notwithstanding, but Spain isn’t Mexico and cycling isn’t soccer).

Therefore, if the usual outcome is a 2 year ban, being deprived of income for only 7 months is a victory relatively speaking. Just compare it to Ullrich. He got a 2 year ban this year as well, he also got a year and a half of results stricken from the books, but unlike Contador the period for which his results were stricken was not deducted from the 2 years. Instead, his ban started retroactively in August 2011, long after he had retired but it means that he still has 18 months of ban left. Of course, that’s not as bad for him as 7 months are for Contador, but it’s odd how the calculation method for these two cases can be so different. There’s a third dimension to CAS’ calculation of Contador’s ban length, which I will cover next time.

Some of you thought my post indicated I think Contador is guilty. To be honest, that question is not that interesting to me, because other than Contador himself and some of his inner circle, nobody really knows. I spoke with one of his inner circlers last year who was sure Contador was innocent (and this is not a Contador groupie), on the other side I don’t buy the beef story. That leaves the contaminated supplement option, but that’s tough too. As Cancellara commented, any top rider has their supplements tested to avoid contamination, a consumate pro like Contador would not take something willy-nilly (and athletes who are that careless can expect to eventually test positive).

So who knows, all we know is that the substance was in his body and his explanations were not sufficient to reach the level of doubt required under the rules. It’s OK to blame the rules, but it’s a lot harder to blame the judges for how they applied the rules. And the rules won’t change too quickly when the only athletes who really care are the ones who’ve been caught.

5 Responses to “Contador follow-up”


  1. Appreciate yr insight and different point of view. I do not think guys are innocent, but I am always surprised how different approach to doping have in NFL, NHL or in soccer. How is it possible? It´s sport also, isn´t it? And how it comes that you are guilty until you prove opposite? How is this possible?


    • Well, I think that’s a common misunderstanding; you’re not really guilty until proven innocent. You’re innocent until proven that a substance is in your body. At that point, you need to prove it was there for some benign reason. And what’s the alternative? That the doping lab would have to prove why and how you got the substance in your body?

    • Larry T. Says:

      NFL, NHL or any other sports organization can do whatever they wish about doping UNTIL they want their athletes to participate in the Olympic Games. THEN they must conform to the WADA code. Everyone in pro cycling is innocent – until a banned substance is detected in a sample or obvious evidence of doping turns up via the bio passport. At that point the athlete truly is “guilty until proven innocent” but let’s remember this is not criminal law and nobody’s going to jail, they just might not get to play for awhile. The fear of false positives dominates the testing procedures – otherwise how would all these folks “who passed all the tests” (Marion Jones, etc.) get away with it for so long? I firmly believe the ratio of those who’ve cheated and gotten away with it vs those who never intentionally took a banned substance but somehow tested positive is firmly on the side of the cheaters – so they really ARE innocent until proven VERY guilty.

  2. tom hewitt Says:

    A picogram is one-trillionth of a gram. A gram is about 1/30 of an ounce.
    A milliliter measures fluid volume equal to one-thousandth of a liter. A liter is a little bigger than a quart.

    An individual could get 50pc/ml in his system by reading about Contador’s Tour victory. This is beyond non-sensical. If total insulation from the outside world is what’s required to be a UCI cyclist then the peloton is going to shrink. Who wants to be a participant in a sport that demands knowledge of one’s whereabouts at all times and total responsibility for anything, no matter how minute the amount, in one’s system? No wonder star cyclists like Igor Astarloa have given up on the sport. Who needs the grief?

  3. Larry T. Says:

    Nobody forces anyone to become a pro cyclist as far as I know. And the sport does not currently seem to be lacking racers who want to join the group. If someone does not like the rules they simply can find another sport to participate in – why change the rules to allow them to dope up to a certain level? Did that really work well with hematocrit vs EPO?


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