Sunday, January 30, 2011

Contador Investigation: A History of Smoke

As I posted previously in regards to Lance Armstrong, when an athlete has a history of doping allegations, it's wise to ask yourself whether the proverbial saying that "where there is smoke, there is fire" applies. So what about Alberto Contador? Does he have much doping smoke in his past?

Interestingly, VeloNews answered this question for us in an article titled "Alberto Contador's Doping Timeline" which details Alberto's history of doping suspicions and associations. (Incidentally, I may be wrong, but my impression of VeloNews is that they are hesitant to write much about this darker side of pro cycling. My impression is that it's rare for them to say much about Lance's allegations. They seem to be the last to discuss these topics. This time, they are leading the way.)

Here is a summary of the points raised in the article, along with some other links and elaboration by me. See if you think there is enough smoke to conclude a fire exists:

  • In 2004, Contador collapsed in a race and almost died on the road; some suspected doping but he was later said to have a brain condition that he underwent brain surgery for.
  • In 2006, Contador joined Astana which is the team that took over for Liberty Seguros. Liberty Seguros was implicated in a doping scandal previously as was Astana later.
  • Also in 2006, Contador was named in the Operation Puerto doping scandal. Later, Contador's name was cleared from that allegation by the UCI. However, several of his teammates were not cleared.
  • In 2008, Contador joined Astana with Johan Bruyneel as manager. Astana was not allowed to race in the Tour de France because the team was found doping the year before.
  • In 2009, Contador won the Tour de France and Greg LeMond and others, including sport scientists, questioned his performance saying that it implied that he had an unrealistically high VO2 Max (near 100) which could not be attained without doping. Others questioned the estimates putting his VO2 max this high and, instead, put his implied VO2 Max in the 80s; still very high.
  • Also in 2009, Astana was found to dispose of suspicious medical supplies including syringes, perfusions and anti-hypertension medications. To my knowledge, the investigation of these supplies has never been resolved. (See this link for more information.)
  • In 2010, a trace amount of a banned substance known as clenbuterol was detected in Contador's Tour de France rest day test.
  • Later in 2010 it was reported that plasticizers were also detected in his urine when the clenbuterol was found, indicating that he had engaged in blood doping and leading to the theory that he originally had been using clenbuterol when he transfused his blood in May 2010 in preparation for the Tour de France.
Interestingly, the UCI is now offering Contador a reduced (one year) sentence for last year's clenbuterol test and saying that they believe he got the PED from a steak he ate. The UCI has even emphasized that Alberto can protest and the one year ban is simply their opening offer. Wow! That amazes me. It's kind of like making an offer on a car and saying, "I know you won't like this so feel free to counteroffer." Who is in charge here?! Isn't this a disciplinary finding to punish racers who are caught cheating? Didn't they do months of due diligence to see if there was any credibility to the steak story and Contador's legal team was unable to prove this wild claim? The burden is on them afterall. 

Importantly, no mention is being made of the plasticizers however... Sounds, to me, like they are ignoring some critical information in order to paint the best light possible on the former yellow jersey winner. This seems to be the modus operandi: slap the hand of the cheater and then let him back in as soon as possible. Ultimately, this mode of operation will only lead to more cynicism among the racers in my opinion. Cynicism will only lead to more doping as the cycle is repeated. 

I wonder whose doping timeline will be in VeloNews next year (or next month for that matter)...Any predictions?

1 comment:

  1. why can't they all just admit it and get back to competing naturally like the rest of us?