The 2010 Tour de France winnner Alberto Contador lost his case with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and now also his Tour title.
The decision has been pending since about August 2010 soon after Contador tested positive for clenbuterol, a finding he said was due to eating tainted meat from Spain.
Contador was one of the only riders to lose a Tour title after the fact, other than Floyd Landis who lost his title in 2006 due to a positive finding for a banned substance.
The finding by CAS which has been delayed for more than 18 months, was heavily criticized by cycling great Eddy Merckx who made a statement at the Tour de Qatar according to a report by the Associated Press.
“It’s very bad for cycling. It’s bad for everybody. It’s like someone wants to kill cycling,” he told AP reporter Paul Logothetis. “I’m very surprised, very surprised. It’s bad for the sponsors. It’s bad for the Tour (de France). It’s bad for cycling.”
Merckx’s reaction was based in part on the fact that cycling is one of the few professional sports where testing for banned substances is done on a daily basis during the race itself. Testing is so rigorous, that riders are subject to surprise tests when they aren’t even in competition, day or night, in any place in the world.
Mark Cavendish, last year’s TDF Green Jersey winner for best sprinter wrote extensively about the rigours of banned substance testing in his book, “Boy Racer.” Any time, anywhere in the world, he described being suddenly awakened by international testers. No other professional organized sport in the world operates under such continuous scrutiny as cycling.
What’s more, though many people privately snickered at Contador’s defense, and many argued the amounts found in his blood were too great to be the result of eating bad meat, the actual amounts that were found in Contador’s blood were relatively tiny.
“Cycling always receives a bad name. It’s always cycling that’s attacked and other sports are never attacked. In other sports they don’t go so far,” Merckx said. “If you go zero-zero-zero-zero-zero (tolerance) you can always find something in everyone,” he said, according to the AP.
Because of his two year ban–which basically started from the time that the positive test for clenbuterol was announced,
Contador will not be able to race again until Aug. 6. It also means he forfeits any wins since then, including his title at the Giro’Italia last May. He will also be ineligible for competition in this year’s Tour, the Giro and the Olympics.
Now also the second runner up from the Tour de France, Andy Schleck will gain the title for the 2010 race. According to reports Schleck said that “will not make me happy.”
“I feel sad for Alberto. I always believed in his innocence. This is just a very sad day for cycling,” Schleck is reported to have said. “The only positive news is that there is a verdict after 566 days of uncertainty. We can finally move on.”
Indeed, Contador rode a very tough Tour in 2011, a year after the investigation had begun, and presumably drug-free. Many reporters wrote and even spoke on the sidelines that they thought they were witnessing a near drug-free Tour, an assumption they based on observed overall slower race times.
But despite a difficult beginning in the race, with apparent knee problems plaguing him from several crashes, Contador’s power up the l’Alpe d’Huez was hardly what one might describe as slow.
A big point was made by the SaxoBank Team in last year’s Tour when they hired a cook working in a separate traveling kitchen to prepare food for Contador and his team. No more tainted meat for this guy, was the message. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.