Monday, February 6, 2012

Contador Stripped of 2010 Tour de France Title

It doesn't get much bigger than this, folks. First, there was Floyd Landis, whose 2006 Tour de France title was taken from him after the fact for having injected testosterone.
Now, the "heavy hand" of the law (in the form of the Court of Arbitration for Sport) has come down on Alberto Contador. His 2010 Tour de France title, mired in doubt for years due to a positive test for a substance called clenbuterol, has now officially been stripped and he will spend most of this season serving out the remainder of a "backdated" two-year suspension, set to end in August of this year.
Not sure what a "backdated" two year suspension means, but it seems basically to boil down to a 6 month suspension, since Contador's actually been racing the whole time this case has been in the various courts and panels and appeals in the governing bodies of cycling and international sports. My initial reaction, based on the information I've seen so far, makes me think to myself, "why not just call it a six month suspension", but maybe backdating it even though he was competing has other ramifications I'm not aware of.
Of course, losing his 2010 Tour title is already a huge blow. As for Contador's reputation, I think that those who doubt the validity of the charges against Contador will continue to do so, and those who feel he doped intentionally will feel affirmed in their opinions. I've been on the fence about it much of the time, but this kind of ruling lends credence to the validity of the charges. So maybe people like me will be able to lean off the fence a little more, if not just get off it entirely.
What does this verdict mean for pro cycling? Kind of a double edged sword, I'd say. It shows that cyling is a sport that will police its own, even the big names. On the other hand, it's another sign of the deeply rooted issues involving doping and perfromance enhancing drugs that cycling has to confront. If one in every four champions of cycling's highest profile event is going to be diqualified for doping, it certainly casts a shadow of doubt over any stellar performance in the race.
For me, I love pro cycling and I will continue to watch it regardless of this decision. In some ways the possibility of doping is just part of the mental equation I calculate when watching the peloton flow through the hinterlands of France and disintegrate when they hit the hard climbs of the Alps and the Pyrenees. It would be nice if they could clean up the sport and make it so that one can be more sure that only chemicals influencing the outcome of the race are the blood and adrenalin naturally coursing through the riders' veins, though.

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