Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What's Next For Contador? | Cyclingnews.com

What's Next For Contador? | Cyclingnews.com

A little extra blog material today. Since we're in the midst of the racing off-season, I think I will try something different this winter; Instead of just talking about my training and whatever, I will add a little something different, and will post on some things of interest in the Pro cycling and in the Triathlete world on occasion. No politics, no work related stuff. Those are my only no-no's.

My 2 cents on the doping issues which continue to plague pro sports; My first observation is this. The subject seems to garner a much higher level of scrutiny and becomes a much more public issue, via the press, in European countries. In the US, it seems almost as an afterthought if the headlines reach Pro level sporting, such as football, baseball (read, Barry Bonds and the Balco investigation). Maybe this is just the US culture on this subject in general, I don't know. But, the issues of doping and performance enhancement appears to be much higher profile across the pond. Here is a Nov. 2007 quote from Bob Stapleton, former GM/Manager of T Mobile, now with HTC, “The visibility these issues have in Germany is enormous,” said Bob Stapleton, a former telecommunications executive from California who took over as general manager and owner of the team late last year. “This is 50 times Barry Bonds.”
 The other issue for Pro cycling, for the UCI in particular and WADA is this: The problems with doping implications and bad press have been reaching the top levels of Pro cycling for years, and while it seems to have diminished in quantity (in my opinion, I could be wrong here. Maybe it is still well hidden), the quality of doping cases has been worse than ever. For example, Floyd Landis in the 2006 Tour de France. A Superman like performance on stage 17 to Morzine-Avoriaz, Landis looked like he was on fire! I remember thinking he had lost the Tour, for sure, on the previous day, when he blew up and lost tons of time. He looked mere mortal, like one of us mere mortals on a group training ride where we blow the lid and go too hard for too long. 

I remember watching this stage on Versus (then known as OLN) that summer of 2006. I was awe struck, it was one of those moments in sport that gives you (or at least myself) goose bumps, and you almost get misty eyed at that surreal thing you are watching unfold. This same feeling was had during the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals, where the NY Rangers played Vancouver Canucks to a game 7 showdown. My buddy and I watched every game, and we watched game #7 in my crappy apartment, drinking beers and screaming at the TV most of the game. High fives and toasts for the NY hockey Rangers are something I will never forget the rest of my life. I remember that angry fist pump Landis gave as he crossed the finish line, and I couldn't help but be impressed, awe struck.
I will never forget this moment either, but for much different reasons. Landis denied doping, the Phonak team folds after being plagued by doping issues. Landis mounted a legal defense, filed appeals and went on a publicity circus-like crusade, appealing to everyone and anyone who would listen that he was really innocent. That is, until 2010. He suddenly admitted to systematically doping for years, and implicated US Postal and, of course, Lance Armstrong, in the same. More on LA in a later winter post, stay tuned, it will be worth it!
It's just LA's world.

Ivan Basso is another prime suspect; claimed by the now defunct Discovery Pro cycling team and Johan Bruyneel, and then suddenly sacked by Discovery for his ties to Operation Puerto. Discovery had to do this, to save face with the sponsor and to distance themselves with a suspected doper. Basso later claimed to have tried to dope, but he never did it. Really? Look at his performances prior to his involvement in the OP affair, and afterwards. He had become a ghost of his "former" racing self, even having difficulty riding mid peloton when he resumed racing after his doping ban. Yes, he has now recently begun the rise back up through the peloton to the front, even winning the 2010 Giro D'italia. Is he racing clean? I have a hard time believing it.
Basso on the dreaded Mont Zoncolon climb, 2010 Giro. Look at that face...

Alexander Vinokourov is another prime example, caught doping on the Pro cycling's biggest world stage. Vino denied everything, and still to this day does. Now, he returns to race with his Astana Pro cycling team, claiming he will give his 100% support to team leader Alberto Contador. Well, how about 60% support for AC, and a little of the left overs for Vino? Vino looks to attack his own teammate (again, remember back to T Mobile/Telekom with Jan Ulrich?) and wins a stage of the 2010 TdF. Oh, and lets not forget his winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège  earlier this year as well. Is Vino racing clean? Well, is he?

Vino-an innocent man?

This brings us full circle to Alberto Contador. He has been provisionally suspended pending the outcome of the doping investigation dating back to the 2010 TdF, where he tested positive for Clenbuterol (also, plasticizers were found in the tests. This material is supposedly a type of residue from plastic bags, like those used to store blood). AC claims to have eaten tainted meat from his home country, brought by one of the team employees at his request. Experts wage war, each side lodging their opinions on the matter. Scientific evidence for or against him, he's innocent, no he's guilty. To me, it sounds very much like another song and dance, a juke and twist, the same thing we've heard in the past, just another mouth speaking the words.

Time will tell, one way or another. I do believe one thing for sure-the sport of Pro cycling has got to do something to change this pattern of doping, or there will be no sponsorship left to support a great sport. The money will go away, the TV coverage will drop (its not great to begin with in the US). What to do to change it? Well, for starters, how about instituting stiffer penalties including a 4 year ban for first time offenders, and a lifetime ban for repeat offenders. Dope once=shame on you. Dope twice=shame on you again, no more. Also, hit the offenders with stiff fines. Take the financial incentive out of the picture, and make the chance of getting caught too steep to risk anymore. This has to be a cultural change, and yes, it will hut. There will be casualties, and some of our sporting "Heros" will fall, shattered. They are, after all, mere mortals, like we are.

Much more on the topic of doping and performance enhancing issues can be found here, a great website IMO, along with tons of other interesting and informative details on Pro cycling, including top 100 cyclists of the modern era. Its called The Virtual Musette: A Road Cycling Blog. 

Check it out here: http://www.thevirtualmusette.com/posts/2010/10/27/top-100-cyclists-of-the-modern-era-end-of-year-update-2010.html

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