Alberto Contador has been suspended for a period of 1 year by the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) and has been stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title, as reported by multiple news agencies. Since I make not pretense of being a reporter, I will leave the "news" for other websites.
The Contador controversy has been percolating in the cycling world for the past several months, ever since news of a positive blood test for clenbuterol surfaced back in the fall of 2010. As with any controversy, the debate that ensued amongst fans and followers of cycling was animated.
"He is a cheating bastard. And I hate that stupid pistol thing he does every time he wins a race."
"The amount of clenbuterol in his blood is so small... it wouldn't have made a difference in his performance."
"You dumba**. That's because the clenbuterol was from the off-season and he banked blood back then. And then re-infused it during the Tour."
"Really? With all the blood checks, you think he transfused blood and his hemoglobin stayed exactly the same?"
"Pshaw, who needs hemoglobin! I know he doped!"
Some of the arguments were cogent. Others were rather fantastic. But overall, as King Mongkut (from the King and I) would say: "Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...."
The debate will rage on, probably for a long period of time (see: Lance Armstrong) but the one thing that is certain is that Contador's controversy is harmful for a sport that is already under the public eye because of its doping history.
So what are my thoughts today as the news broke?
- Andy Schleck is now the odds-on favorite to win the Tour this year. No duh.
- It's unfortunate that cycling gets so much of the bad press for doping. It's impossible not to assume that some form of doping occurs in many other sports... it's just that they aren't as strictly monitored. If you look at all the legal problems that professional athletes get into... do you really think that every one of them has the moral conscience to not dope? "I have no problems harrassing a woman or carrying a gun for 'protection' but doping? No way, that's wrong." Really?
- It'll be interesting to see what Contador does from here. His provisional suspension began back in August and so he'd actually be able to race in the Vuelta this year if he wanted to. My guess is that he'll come back and destroy that race (with Menchov taking second).
- I've always found it somewhat odd that the public expects sports figures to be models of morality. They are athletes. Not your teacher, not your priest, not your good Samaritan. Why do we act so surprised when they "do wrong"?