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The fallout from Contador verdict

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Matt Slater | 21:52 UK time, Monday, 6 February 2012

I am rubbish at jokes but I heard a good one today.

What links a beautiful town in France, an abattoir in Spain, a legal bill that would bankrupt most developed nations and Luxembourg's greatest sporting triumph?

Come on, you must know this one: it's been running for 566 days.

Actually, now that I think about it, this joke is not very funny.


Contador was found guilty of doping after testing positive for clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France but he says the failed test was a result of eating contaminated meat. Photo: Getty

It is a farce, all right. But nobody appears to be laughing, least of all the two main beneficiaries of Alberto Contador’s fall from cycling superstar to biking bad boy . . . a well-worn slide, you could argue, but few have fallen this far and this hard!

But before I get to how Andy Schleck and Michele Scarponi reacted to Monday’s announcement from the Court of Arbitration for Sport that they are the winners of the 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d’Italia respectively, we should rewind to the events of 21 July 2010.

Picture the scene: Contador and his Astana team-mates are getting some well-earned R&R in Pau, the aforementioned nice spot near the Pyrenees.

It is a day off, their first for a week, since which time Contador has taken control of the 97th edition of cycling’s most prestigious and toughest race.

They are now just four days and 300 miles from riding to victory in Paris - Contador’s third win in four years.

So when the Spaniard decided he wanted a choice slice of beef for his dinner, who was going to say he did not deserve it?

Eat up, Alberto, you will need your strength if you are going to maintain your skinny margin over that mountain goat, Schleck.

That much we know. We also know the name of the butcher, the slaughterhouse and even who bought it.

All that is missing is the identity of the cow, which is a huge shame for Contador as that cow has some explaining to do.

Could he/she explain how the asthma drug clenbuterol got into its system?

Could that animal offer an explanation as to what a banned performance-enhancing substance, popular amongst bodybuilders, was doing in its muscle tissue?

No, of course not. But neither could Contador and that is why he is now staring at the ruins of a glittering career.

Having waded through the Lausanne-based court’s 98-page judgement, I was struck by two surprising thoughts.

First, I feel sorry for the lawyers who worked on this case. They had 4,000 pages of evidence to get through.

Second, after all this time and all those arguments, nobody really knows why there was a minuscule amount of clenbuterol in Contador’s urine that day.

The rider says it was the meat what did it.

Cycling’s governing body, the UCI, and the World Anti-Doping Agency say it was the rider, but cannot quite prove how he did it.

The bad news for Bertie, however, is they do not need to prove any of that. They just need to show it was there and then shoot down any suggestion that the cow in question could have been the only animal in western Europe trying to take short cuts for the perfect body.

So, while Contador’s camp could point to the recent cases of tainted meat at football’s Under-17 World Cup in Mexico and tales of farmers doping their animals in China, the UCI and Wada could counter with evidence that, of 24,000 animals tested recently in the European Union, only one showed up with clenbuterol.

Their explanation for the positive was far more plausible, they said.

He either had an illegal blood transfusion the day before the test – and that transfusion got contaminated – or he took a tainted food supplement.

Those two claims ignited enough legal argument to power Switzerland for a few weeks when Contador’s day in court finally came around last November and his hotshot legal team was successful in dismissing the transfusion idea (an aced lie-detector test could only have helped).

But they could not knock enough holes in the suspect supplement theory and this, on the balance of probability, is the explanation that the three-man CAS panel liked best.

Which supplement this was and where had he got it from? Not important.

Under sport’s strict liability rules on doping, Contador had to come up with something more likely than his opponents’ theories and the sirloin was not that.

Some 18 months after the little man with the big lungs crossed the finish line, his sport has a new hero, the mild-mannered Schleck.

Not that he is jumping up and down about it: just the opposite.

For him, this is no way to win and he has made it clear that he believes his great rival’s story and will not consider himself to be a champion until he climbs the top step in Paris himself.

Noble sentiments but there are many fans who think he should have won in 2010 anyway, as Contador’s margin of victory was exactly the same amount of time that he took out of Schleck when the Luxembourger’s chain slipped off in the mountains, thus breaking one of cycling’s unwritten rules of fair play.

But Schleck’s voice was not the only one to back Contador on his judgement day.

Scarponi, the Italian who finished a distant second at the 2011 Giro, echoed Schleck’s reluctant acceptance speech, and cycling’s greatest champion, Eddy Merckx, went even further, saying he was “disgusted” with the decision.

Far less surprising, perhaps, is the almost universal support the 29-year-old has received at home.

After all, it was last January’s decision by the Spanish Cycling Federation, under huge political pressure, to exonerate the rider that prompted the UCI and Wada to demand a stiffer penalty.

There is some irony, however, in the words of support from Oscar Pereiro, who won the 2006 Tour de France when American cyclist Floyd Landis was stripped of his victory for also failing a drug test.

Justice was served much quicker that time, but cycling’s critics will say it did not do much good in terms of lessons learned, did it?

My view, if I am allowed to have one, is that cycling is a cleaner sport now than it has been for a very long time. Perhaps ever.

Cycling should also be congratulated for policing itself far more aggressively than most.

But there is no getting away from the fact that this is bad news for a sport that has only just started to recover from a particularly grim decade.

It will also fuel the conspiracy theorists who contrast Contador’s treatment with the recent announcement from the US federal government that it will not be pursuing its investigation into Lance Armstrong, Contador’s predecessor as cycling’s best rider.

For them, Contador does not sell enough bikes and is therefore expendable. Armstrong, on the other hand, is a one-man industry.

There is no answer to those claims, not one that will convince the anti-Armstrong lobby anyway. But that is cycling’s biggest problem.

It is far too vulnerable to these eternal debates and easy cynicism. And it will remain so for as long as its champions fail to adequately explain the unusual drugs testers find in their bodies.

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  • Comment number 1.

    In light of all the support he has received it'll be interesting to see if he does carry out his threat to quit

  • Comment number 2.

    The worse part is that it took over a year for the judgement. Contador competes in (and wins) loads of races in that time that would have been totally different had he not been there. They are all now ruined, and awarding the TDF to Schleck is pointless. No one remembers Pereiro as the winner, and had Landis not been competing, then he would not have won. Schleck may still have won, but others in the race would have taken a different approach with no Contador. It's great to have an aggressive anti doping policy but pointless if you let everything drift on without judgement. Why does it take the UCI and CAS 18 months to do what could really be done in a week? And why is he allowed to race before the judgement? It just sends mixed messages to young cyclists. For what it's worth I think Contador was not intentionally doping as the level in his system was so low. I believe his victories in the intervening period to be legitimate. However rules are rules and he has to take responsibility. It's just laughable to see how poorly the governing bodies of sports handle these things. They care only about ensuring the commercial continuity of their businesses. You can include the UCI, WADA, CAS, the FA, FIFA, UEFA, IOC, RFU, ECB and numerous others. If my bank was run like these organisations I'd call for government buyouts and an end to bonus culture..... hang on.

  • Comment number 3.

    Good to see that cycling is still being covered by the BBC...shame that it is drugs related. I'm a keen cycling fan and I want to cover a few issues here with this article, and a few points relevant to the debate.

    Firstly, the substance contador was guilty of is not typically considered a performance enhancing product for cyclist. It was also found in such tiny amounts (undetectable in most drugs test) that it it widely considered to have no benefit what so ever to Contador. however, rules are rules, and as such I agree with the ban for him - essentially he couldn't prove why it was in his body. Both contaminted meat and blood transfusion have been proven to be very very unlikely. This is why he is getting some support from other cyclists as he hasn't 'doped' as other cyclists have in the past. This isn't a case of a cyclist systematically 'doping' through blood transfusions, but a likely case of a contaminated food supplement (the most likely explanation provided in the trial).

    Secondly, Contador has enough support and is exciting enough as a rider to not go from a high flyer to a 'bad boy' whos career is shot to pieces. he will most likely be racing again at the tour of spain in august.

    I'd also be careful labelling Andy Schleck as the new hero. The circumstances in which he lost the tour to contador in 2010 is a debatable matter in itself and not as cut and dry as you put. He is not happy about winning the tour in this way because he is a sportsman who wants to win on the road, but also because he knows contador got very unlucky in being caught for this substance. There is also the factor that many riders in the peleton have been implicated in doping scandals in the past (including the schlecks), and so seeing a pro go down for something that could happen to you is a concern for most of the pro cyclists.

    Contador is currently pretty much the biggest name in cycling full stop. He is a huge draw for crowds and sponsors. He is certainly not expendable and this could have a big impact in those willing to sponsor teams and events in the future. Dont forget there have been many bans relating to clenbutorl in other sports and in cycling where people have been given bans who didn't have the funds to fight their cause like contador will have done. Him being a huge name has helped his cause.

    Finally, i have no sympathy for the lawyers in this case. The result has been delayed over and over again (for many reasons), but lawyers sure no how to milk these big cases (same with the armstrong trial).

    I'm sure%2

  • Comment number 4.

    (last line from above was cut off)

    ...I'm sure people with have opions on this, but I wanted to make sure those with a lesser interest in cycling get a fuller picture.

  • Comment number 5.

    Maybe now Wiggins can make history - allez Wiggo chapeau, chapeau!!

  • Comment number 6.

    They know the rules and the consequences, they also have team managers and doctors who can and should watch over them carefully and monitor everything they do on the tour. Its just three weeks out of seventy odd years to be told what you can and can not do and what you can eat. The rewards for being good are well worth the sacrifice, while being caught has its own rewards. If in any doubt either don't eat it or freeze some for future analysis.

  • Comment number 7.

    What a superb well-thought out objective blog, Matt, amidst some of the hyperbole I've read coming from another cycling great, Merckx. I feel that cycling justice was done. Schleck would have won had his chain not slipped, and I have followed every TdF since the great days of those wonderful battles between Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor, and that was via the BBC World Service long before today's live coverages on tv.

  • Comment number 8.

    If I get started on American "sporting heroes" and illegal drug use I will probably be permanently banned from this website, so I will maintain a dignified silence on the matter.

  • Comment number 9.

    As for the misguided sympathy for the lawyers, who do you think produced all those reams of evidence, Matt?

  • Comment number 10.

    The amount of time this has taken is ridiculous. So long that this season isn't a write off if he chooses to carry on training. And the fact is that even the races he didn't win have been affected. At last years Tour, where he came fifth, there were days riders were watching him rather than those they should have been.

    The grey areas involved in making this sort of judgement have made the whole thing a farce. Contador puts up a very unlikely story and the prosecution puts up no story and says it is for Contador to prove it was an accident. Then even though they can't say he did it on purpose he gets the full two year ban.

    This is like the police saying I got from one location to another too quickly therefore I must have been speeding and I am banned from driving. Neither side has any evidence of me making the journey but still I am convicted.

    And now despite it being CAS, the UCI and WADA that let Contador carry on being leader of the Saxo Bank Team for so long they are saying the whole teams World Tour status is under threat since most of their ranking points come from Contador. The organisational failures are just a joke.

  • Comment number 11.

    Apply the same tests to other major sports as the cyclists do and sit back... There is no way that the human body has improved in fitness levels over tha past decade in a number of sports that can simply be put down to better diet and training. There is so much money involved now that i find it hard to believe that an athlete is clean after his 90 or 80 minutes game when he holds a calm and easy breathing interview within moments.

  • Comment number 12.

    #11 - I think you are being overly cynical. I would actually suggest that fitness and training levels have progressed passed what the human body can cope with. Athletes careers are shorter and plagued by more injuries than ever before.

    Sure there are cheats, some are taking drugs, but almost all sports are subject to the same tests cyling is. The only difference may be in the way the overseeing bodies deal with it.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm interested in more information on how the blood-doping scenario was proven invalid as I think this changes many attitudes to the case (regardless of the time taken).

    I remember reading in the cycling press a year or so ago that one of his (ex) Astana team-mates had come out and said that Contador had taken Clenbuterol to lose weight a few months before the Tour when he'd also had some blood removed (before doping during the tour).

    I also remember hearing that plasticiser (from blood bags) had been found in the sample but that this cannot be provided as evidence (currently) as the test has not been certified.

    [Remember: when Floyd Landis was stripped of his title, he finally admitted it wasn't because he'd taken testosterone during the tour but rather it had been taken before the tour and blood-doping was the reason it was in his system.]

    Can anyone therefore shed any light on this blood doping scenario being rejected as a valid cause of the Clenbuterol in his system?

  • Comment number 14.

    in regards to the length of time this has taken the fault surely lies with the spanish cycling authorities who instead of imposing the ban straight away as they should have instead cleared Contador. Im not saying I agree with the ban but it should have been Contador to appeal to CAS rather than UCI and WADA. If that had happened then the case would have been settled quicker. Contador would not have employed delaying tactics and we might have had this resolved a year ago

  • Comment number 15.

    What I find curious about this is the amount of clenbuterol found in the test ... an amount which could have contributed zero to Contador's ability to ride a bike. No amount of masking could cover a significant absorbtion of the drug and leave such a miniscule trace. Contamination of some kind seems the most obvious cause.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think this case raises huge, huge questions.

    As the tour leader, Contador is tested every other day. Why was no trace found the days before or after? There are test that can prove blood doping, but they were unable to prove this.

    Why was his blood tested to 1000th of what is the norm? As this is not the norm, and the test isn't routinely done to this accuracy, or in sufficient quantities to know whether it is accurate, can one such test against hundreds of others before and after be believed? Have they done enough tests at the level to demonstrate that there is only one way that these minute quantities can enter the blood? Why did they sanction this extraordinary level of testing - did they know something?

    I really don't know what I think about Contador, but the evidence against him, given that there are so many questions, so many different possible reasons, so many questions about why this test to this degree of accuracy, and that it has taken so long to try and prove without doubt, I'm really not convinced of.

    There are no winners - Shleck isn't, Contador certainly isn't, cycling isn't. Some poor lawyers have made a mint and probably exhausted themselves in the process. Its a sad day for cycling - a brilliant sport that's probably its own worst enemy.

  • Comment number 17.

    #16 - just to clarify: that's part of the problem, there is NO definitive test to prove blood doping.

  • Comment number 18.

    Moral of the "Tour de Farce" story:

    Be a vegetarian and especially don't buy steak from Lance Armstrong's Farm in northern Spain

  • Comment number 19.

    Sorry - don't mean to be spamming this website! Found some details from the case that might be relevant:

    "blood parameters of Mr Contrador during the 2010 Tour de France were not normal… extremely high concentration of phthalates (additives
    used to make plastic products such as bags used for storing blood and
    blood components) were found…
    … such concentration is consistent with a concentration found after a blood transfusion..."

    However, it does then go on to say that WADA's first theory is that it was from a plasma transfusion was "very unlikely". However it does not attempt to quantify "very unlikely"

  • Comment number 20.

    If you compare this case to Lance Armstrong's, you should clarify that Alberto Contador has failed a drug test, Armstrong (officially) hasn't. Don't just suggest that the difference is the number of bikes sold and leave it like that.

  • Comment number 21.

    I first started following professional cycling in 1963 when I moved to Italy. It was known then and still is that doping exists in cycling. However it also exists in almost every other sport with the use beta blockers, steriods and even alcohol. The thing that bothers me in cycling that almost 100% of these accusations are arising from France and the French press yet there has not been one Frenchman accused since they started their campaign. It makes me think there is more jealousy than ethics in this matter. Probably the simplest solution is to let these so called athletes carry on putting their lives at risk. The cheats are finding new drugs well before they can be detected and the cost of detection, which is spiralling upwards, could be spent elsewhere. We shall all then know that the winners are probably drugged until THEY can prove otherwise.

  • Comment number 22.

    Very well written article, coincides with many of my views on the state of the sport. Let's hope this helps the image of cycling in the long term.

  • Comment number 23.

    In many ways Contador's situation has been caused by the previous dope cheats and the chequered history of doping in the sport. Cycling has had to adopt a strict zero tolerance policy because it's the only way they can truly clean up the mess left over from the 80's and 90's. Regardless of how the tiny amounts of Clenbuterol got there they were there and if you know that any amount will get you banned why eat, drink or take anything that could be even slightly contaminated?

    If this was caused by some 'dodgy' beef then Contador should have known better than to take the risk and go outside of his strict diet and food regime and he only has himself to blame. Cycling is probably the cleanest sport on the planet now and it's because they have a zero tolerance policy, ride clean or don't ride at all!

  • Comment number 24.

    #16 - Your post reads of someone who knows more than the layman but less than someone who's really looked into it.

    To answer some of the points, Contadors tests did find evidence of blood doping, expert witnesses noticed clear differences between his blood passport in 2010 and that from 2007. A long period of time but differences beyond what would be expected by natural changes.

    Your 1000 times statement is inaccurate and no-one authorized any special testing on him, every test taken that day and on some other days on that Tour went to the same lab and had the same test. It just happens to be the most sophisticated testing facility WADA use and as routine is far more accurate than the minimum required - hardly a bad thing I'm sure you'll agree.

    The oddity as when you read the ruling where Contador's team spend much of it trying to blame and discredit the source of the veal eaten on that fateful day, WADA try to point at indicators of blood doping and then almost as an afterthought CAS decide that far more likely is contaminated supplements.

    The rule is pretty simple, Clenbuterol in your system and you'd better have a cast iron and excusable reason for how it got there. Contador didn't and got the mandatory 2 year ban.

    The biggest villains in this piece are the Spanish Association who took Contadors same flimsy defence and tried to apply a reduced ban and thus dragging this on a year longer than it needed to.

    For anyone who has a spare 2 hours - read the CAS document. It's eye opening and by the end you'll be struggling to work out what AC's legal team were actually doing for their money.

  • Comment number 25.

    Thanks Matt.
    @DW, I can't help be reminded of Eliot Ness, persisting despite the bullying, even if only to try Capone for a lesser crime. Many testers will still believe they caught an intentional transfuser.

  • Comment number 26.

    ok, so i'm in agreement with most people that this has all taken far too long to resolve. its is positive to see cycling still maintains such a strong anti doping policy and wish other sports would follow suit.
    The bottom line is that Contador has been found guilty and that's all there is to it. he didn't deserve to win the 2010 Tour de France after the way he took advantage of schleck's chain coming off - that debate could go on for years still, but it goes against the grain of the sport's etiquette.
    what surprises is me that apart from being stripped of his titles (and i'm assuming he has to repay prize money too?), essentially he's only serving a ban of a few months due to it being backdated. Little punishment really.
    Don't get me wrong, Contador is a great cyclist but its a shame for the likes of Schleck cos althoguh now recognised as the 2010 TDF winner he never got to experience the thrill of winning it.
    And as for the speculation into Lance Armstrong, i really think its time that was put to bed now. He was harrassed by French authorities and the UCI for years trying to 'catch him out' and any slight hint of a story or problem and the media were all over it having a field day. He was an outstanding cyclist who is a living miracle by the fact that he overcame camcer when his chances of survival were slim to none. He made some trmemendous achievements and should be recognised for what he did and not still be subject to all these conspiracy theories.
    anyway, contador ban - right thing in my opinion.
    ok, got that off my chest now :-)

  • Comment number 27.

    The time taken and the fact that the ban is almost over is ridiculous and damaging to sport. The sooner that lifetime bans are implemented the better, and suspension from the time of first failed test until appeal is proved either way.
    #23 has it right, The cyclists have their own chefs, kitchens and the reources to check on their suppliers, if it is through contaminated beef (I don't think so) it is the team's fault for leting him eat outside of their strict regime.

  • Comment number 28.

    I have no doubt that Contador was blood doping, and i agree he should have been banned on the spot and then had to appeal to regain his status. The Spanish federation have acted appallingly, and are the ones to blame for the delay. In relation to Armstrong, too much time has now passed to keep pursuing him. If they do keep going for him where are they going to stop, Fignon admitted he took illegal substances, will they strip him of his titles?? And what about the legendary greats, Hinault Merckx Anquetil....... drug use was prevalent in those days and no doubt they all took something illegal at some stage. If they couldnt catch Armstrong at the time, then leave him be. Armstrong is now a legend in the same way that Hinault Merckx and Anquetil are for their era's, and we will only drag our sport further and further into the gutter with this sort of witch hunt.

  • Comment number 29.

    I think that one hundred percent certainty does not exist, but after reading information, opinions and the sentence that sanctions the Spanish cyclist, I could not avoid taking a clear position that I will try to summarize in five points.
    1 - All experts say that 50 picograms of clenbuterol found in the blood of Contador are not by far enough for a hypothetical doping had occurred to give any advantage in athletic performance.
    2 - The "biological passport" completely discards blood transfusion.
    3 - Contador was subjected to the polygraph, confirming his innocence, but that is not admitted as evidence.
    4 - The argument that in Spain, as in most of the Western world, the analysis of meat for human consumption consistently give negative result is not valid, since these are made from the standpoint of public health, the same that "negative radioactivity in the air or water" does not mean there is no radioactive isotopes. It only means its concentration is considered harmless to health as 50 picograms of clembuterol are.
    5 - Not only the court's decision flagrantly violates the presumption of innocence of Contador. It violates human rights and the final recourse to a higher court should morally and financially compensate him, condemning the court and the people and interests that have been behind this absurd resolution.

  • Comment number 30.

    Where does one start? By the rules of strict liability, an athlete is responsible for everything taken. So Bertie is found with a minute trace of clenbutarol. How did it get there? Dodgy beef, dodgy food supplement, from blood doping, etc
    ‘All’ he has to do is explain were it came from – but the UCI/WADA/CAS don’t believe him. Funnily enough, the Spanish authorities did – I wonder why?
    Why it’s taken this long is a disgrace – and does the sport no good at all.
    As far as Joe Public is concerned, it’s another cyclist caught doping – what a rotten, dirty sport. When the actual truth is far different – cycling is the most rigorously test sport – other sports would do well to follow, but don’t. Operacion Puerto was a perfect example of this – football is a joke when it come to doping, as are plenty of other sports.

  • Comment number 31.

    Julio5565 - 1. 50 Picograms of clenbuterol may not be enough there and then to aid his performance, but who is to say this is not the left over traces of a larger dose used in training earlier in the season, possibly at a time when he put blood into a blood bank, which leads me nicely onto -
    2. Blood transfusion has not been completely discarded, the biological passport simply means that the athletes need to be more careful about how they blood dope, it does not exclude it
    3. Polygraphs are not reliable and are NOT used by most of the worlds law enforcement agencies for this reason - in effect you can train yourself to pass one.
    4. Not sure what your point is here, for there to be enough clenbuterol in the meat he was eating it would have to show up in public health tests
    5. In cases like this the anti doping rules of sport have a presumption of guilt until the athlete can prove there innocence for a very good reason. Contador has been lucky to be given this much time in order to prove his innocence, and he has failed. he deserves what he has got.

    The only absurdity in this decision is that the Spanish authorities did not ban him in the first place, but instead allowed themselves to be corrupted by political influence.

  • Comment number 32.

    CAS say it could be a tainted supplement. i would think, given the team Contador rode for, all supplements would have been checked out repeatedly before being approved, and the rider would not have taken something that he was not cleared to use. so i think it is unlikely that this drug came from there.
    the veal excuse? well, it is possible.
    the Blood doping? my personal opinion is that this was the case. he got caught and that is life.

    as for comparing Armstrong with Contador, it is difficult to do so. i've raced a bike on the continent, without much success, but i've never failed a (admittedly very rare) drug test because both my team and myself managed out intakes reasonably carefully. if a small, third division outfit can be so careful, then it is extremely unlikely, in my opinion, that a top notch team could suffer such a silly fault like tainted meat. it is more likely that they messed up with their 'medical assistance' and got caught! If LA doped, he obviously had it managed very, very well. such is life.

    but then again, i am a huge cynic. perhaps it was just a rather body-conscious cow that caused all this.

  • Comment number 33.

    Julio5655, i do like your support for your rider, but the points you have raised are not really valid..wait: post31 has done a great job of helping with that.

  • Comment number 34.

    There a lot of misinformed comments here. I will spell it out in capitals: THE LEVEL DOESN'T MATTER! I'll explain why:

    The so-called level is a level that was determined by WADA to be the minimum level that its accredited labs should be able to measure. It was a way of them saying to the labs "Right, if you want our accreditation, you need to be able to detect clenbuterol at such and such level". It's way of setting standards in the lab. It has nothing to do whatsoever with whether it is at a performance-enhancing level or not. This is because clenbuterol is a YES/NO drug. It is just not meant to be there at all. It's not like testosterone where the body produces it and the lab needs to determine whether the level is normal for the body or suspicious. If clenbuterol is there, that is a failed test. Contador was unlucky (for him anyway): his sample just happened to be sent to a lab whose capabilities far exceed the standards that WADA set. If his sample had been sent to a lab that can only just detect the level at WADA's minimum requirements, he would have got away with it. As it happens his sample was sent to some kind of super-duper lab that picked it up, hence it was flagged up.

    So now people say "but the level was so minuscule, how could that make a difference?". Well all that we know is what the level was at that snapshot of time when the sample was collected. Basic pharmacology tells us that a drug rises to a peak from the moment it is "consumed" then falls to a trough. There is no way of knowing where Contador's sample stands on that timeline as we don't have another sample on that timeline. It is reasonable however to assume that had he been tested hours earlier, the level could have been higher. It is also reasonable to assume that if he had been tested hours later, the level would have probably fallen to a level below what even the super-duper lab could detect.

    All in all, the drug should not have been there, and he needed to prove it got there in a non-illegal manner. Which he didn't do. The level doesn't not matter.

  • Comment number 35.

    Excuse the double negative in that last sentence there!

  • Comment number 36.

    I have never quite understood why this debate on Contador's guilt was so... Well, debatable?

    I appreciate that Contador offered an explanation that was not, at face value implausible. Equally I appreciate that the quantities found of the substance in question have been almost universally assessed as 'insignificant'. However this have, for me, never been the point.

    In many sports the rational and fair argument would have been to give the athlete the benefit of the doubt. There are enough question marks, lets show a little trust in someone who has undoubtedly been a champions of his sport. But... This is cycling.

    Cycling is a proud sport with a great history and a respect for the physical endeavour required that few other sports can muster. But lets not get lost in a haze of sentiment here. It is also a sport that has time and time and time again shown itself to be riddled with drug related cheating. This is an undeniable fact.

    We have seen countless high profile names (almost ALL previous winners of Le Tour in the past 25 years) make noble speeches about the evil of doping and how they have never touched the stuff... A few years later, they fail a test, or dedicate a chapter in their lucrative memoirs about how they were cheating after all. This is also an undeniable fact.

    Put simply (and as I fan of cycling this pains me to say) cycling as a sport used up any trust people had in the word of its athletes a LONG time ago. Plausible stories have been proven to be worthless. Heroes of the sport have been proven to be liars and cheats.

    All that is left that can be used to pass judgement is the science. Contador failed a test. FACT. He had something in his body that the rules CLEARLY state is not allowed to be there. FACT. The rules clearly state the penalty for this is a ban. FACT.

    I really don't see where the debate was here... Unfortunately.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    Joe G...are you Rafa Benitez in disguise? haha.

  • Comment number 39.

    Can I also add that direct comparisons with Lance Armstrong remain grossly unjust.

    I understand why people have suspicions about Armstrong. Almost anyone else who have achieved even half he has in cycling has gone on to be exposed as a drugs cheat.

    It seems almost impossible that whilst Ulrich, Pantani and Virenque were doping away an entirely clean Armstrong was leaving them behind on the big climbs and in the time trials. Cynicism in the case of Armstrong is entirely understandable.

    But then again that very same argument is the undoing of those who doubt Armstrong. Whilst EVERYONE around him eventually either failed an in competition test, were exposed in criminal blood doping investigations, or exposed by other evidence Armstrong passed test after test and has never been indicted by any body.

    Sure there have been allegations by other riders that they saw him do this or that. There have been stories in the French gutter press about alleged cover ups. But if so many people are aware of his alleged cheating, how is he the only one who has evaded capture. The people who claim they know he was cheating can offer no explanation to why he has not been caught.

    The riders who are found guilty offer explanations and always ask people to take into account what is plausible. Well it just isn't plausible that Armstrong could not have failed an accredited test and have been systematically doping throughout his career. And make no mistake, to win what he won, he would have had to have been routinely doping for years.

    If you want to focus on facts, and not opinion... he hasn't failed an accredited test. Therefore any comparison to proven drugs cheats like Contador are bordering on libellous.

  • Comment number 40.

    I don't know why Jimmy's (37) comment was removed. He was sticking up for Contador and mentioned that Marco Pantani was a possible drugs cheat. Do the moderators know that Pantani is dead and can't possibly sue the BBC?

  • Comment number 41.

    Contador misses 6 months of racing. He will be back for the tour of Spain. His home country will give him a raving return to a race he will be expected to win. The coverage boost that the tour of Spain will receive will be superb and should push the race back into the limelight, maybe even showing it on channel 4 due to the fact Contador should be racing in it.

    The case is over and done with at last and about time too, as well as the Armstrong case which probably cost millions of dollars of money that could have been better spent in some of the poor states of America.

    I dont believe after such a time he should have been banned, but no point crying over spilt milk. He did not win the Tour De France last year and there was a good chance he would not have won it this year.

    Lets hope there are no more big name casualties in the future.

    As for Wiggins winning the Tour - With or without Contador on top form he would be there or there about, but his team mate Chris Froome could go even better.

    I enjoy my cycling very much and follow lots of big names. He is one of the top 2 in the world along with Philippe Gilbert and I believe he will be back with a lot to prove..

  • Comment number 42.

    The farce of Contador's retrospective disqualification from the events in which he competed after being cleared by the Spanish federation demonstrates that procedural changes are required. Any elite international athlete competing in global events should either have his/her case heard by the international governing body or, if the national governing body hears the case and lifts the provisional suspension, the athlete should only be allowed to compete at national level until the international federation and WADA confirm that they are not appealing the decision to CAS.

  • Comment number 43.

    Crikey. The BBC are awful scared of getting sued these days. An exact replica of what i said before but with some slightly more careful wording.

    I'm not really a cycling fan. I tend to follow bits a pieces via the BBC website but nothing substantial.

    From my point of view this is a PR disaster for cycling in this country where it is a minority sport (As opposed to Spain, Italy, France etc..) The problem isnt so much that he was found guilty, as that there was so much ambiguity about whether he was gUilty or not. To someone outside of the cycling world how do we know that other cheats aren't getting away with it, or conversely are perfectly innocent people having their name dragged through the mud? You cant encourage a growth of the sport if we cant be sure we can trust the result. Its a shame because completing a tour is one of the greatest feats of endurance in sport.

    A couple of years ago i read a book about Marco Pantani, the book implied very strongly that he used banned substances (If i remember correctly the substance was EPO?), and that he did it during his win at the TDF, of which he was never stripped, presumably because of a lack of evidence.

    Is there anyway that cycling can rid itself of this sort of ambiguity and stigma? or do you think its just always been and will always be present in the sport. Does the reward outweigh the risk?

  • Comment number 44.

    "Contador failed a test. FACT."

    Not quite. Contador gave a sample that was above legal levels. This, of itself, isn't a failed test. A number of atheletes regularly provide such samples without failing tests, as they have legitimate reasons for the presence of steroids in their system (cycling is a sport where asthmatics thrive, apparently...).
    A test is only definitively failed if a substance is there without such a valid reason. Which is what CAS have just decided was the case with Contador.

  • Comment number 45.

    I think it is worth noting two things about Bertie's positive test for the asthma drug clenbuterol. Firstly, people keep making the argument that the amount of clenbuterol in his system would have no performance enhancing effect. That is missing the point.
    Clenbuterol is used pre-season /mid-season before peak to aid weight loss by all manner of athletes and models while reducing muscle waste (- hence it has been used experimentally on beef cattle, but is banned in most countries).

    If Bertie had used it, lets say, to get his weight down pre/mid-season, and then had a blood transfusion in recent proximity to using the drug, with the aim of using that blood for a transfusion in, lets say, the tour. Then traces of the drug would show up in his system - albeit tiny amounts.
    A tell-tale sign of doping. And that is why it is included on the 'banned list' along with many other things and the amount required for a positive test is so low.

    Secondly, as has been pointed out; Bertie would not have been lying on a lie detector test had he answered the question:

    'Did you use the asthma drug clenbuterol in the 2010 Tour de France’?

    Of course he didn't. He just had a blood transfusion which contained the tell-tale traces of it.

    Funny also, how the initial lab report also mentioned plasticisers been in the blood. i.e. traces of plastic, found in blood which has been transfused from blood bags. (This is also why the UCI are developing a doping test for plasticisers - another tell-tale sign.)

  • Comment number 46.

    I see you point Janik17 (44)... However I would argue in the context of Contador it is semantics.

  • Comment number 47.

    RE: Janik17

    'A test is only definitively failed if a substance is there without such a valid reason. Which is what CAS have just decided was the case with Contador'

    So on that evidence: Contador failed a test. FACT -i.e. he failed a test for not having a valid reason. This is a fact.

  • Comment number 48.

    Hello all, thanks for reading and commenting - some really thoughtful stuff up there.

    Here are a few replies:

    christoph (1) - I guess we'll find out for sure this evening. AC is holding a press conference in Madrid at 6.30 UK time. Will he appeal? On what grounds? Will he quit? Can he afford to quit? Will he return in August (on a tide of Spanish love at the Vuelta)? What will Saxo Bank do? So many questions...

    spareribbs (2) et al - On the isssue of why this took so long, I think we just need to accept that this was, from the outset, a very complicated and contentious case. And it would be wrong to apportion blame to any one side. All four parties in this case have at one time or another been guilty of delaying the process, often for good reason. There were disputes about the admissability of evidence, the use of expert witnesses and the composition of the three-man arbitration panel. But the most significant cause for the delay in my view was the Spanish Cycling Federation's decision to completely exonerate AC on the basis of his contaminated beef explanation. That forced UCI/Wada's hand - they had to act for the good of the sport and the entire anti-doping effort - and it meant they would have to demonstrate the relative unlikeliness of AC's explanation versus the more common causes of a positive test for clenbuterol in Europe. All of this evidence had to be collected, collated, translated, argued, weighed....justice can't be rushed. Whether this is good justice or not is a different debate.

  • Comment number 49.

    #47 that is somewhat circular.
    Joe G was quoting that 'FACT' as a means of passing judgement on Contador. Failing the test IS the judgement, the science was merely part of the evidence towards reaching this decision.

  • Comment number 50.

    most riders who are testing legally positive for certain things are generally requires to get medical certification BEFOREHAND. it is not that common that positives can be alowed without prior certification. Petacchi and salbutamol and Armstrong and topical steroids are cases which exemplify of this sort of exemption.

    in certain cases, positives can be explained retrospectively. one amusing example was the tennis player, Richard Gasquet, who tested positive for cocaine, but it was somehow proven that he has not taken it himself, but had kissed a female who had been using the drug.

    a second test of a drug sample is obviously allowed, and in some cases does exonerate an athlete, as was in the case of the Kenyan runner - Lagat, i think - whose b sample cleared him of an EPO charge.

    there can also be very unfortunate cases where an athlete tests positive for a controlled or banned substance, but is found to have an illness that causes excessive natural production of the substance in question. i believe there was a czech swimmer who tested positive for high hCG levels, but was found subsequently to be suffering from testicular cancer.

    in the case of Contador, there really is no concincing reason, according to CAS to rescind his positive. that makes it a failed drug test in their eyes.

  • Comment number 51.

    GC (3) - There's no disagreement on the issue of the amount of clenbuterol in AC's sample. It was a tiny amount (not the 400th of the amount that would usually trigger a positive, as was claimed early on, but more like a 40th) but clenbuterol is not a threshold drug for Wada, it's a yes/no drug. Under the current rules, you can't take it. Any of it. And there's a good reason for that: clenbuterol is actually a pretty 'good' PED, even for cyclists. It's primary benefit is as a bronchodilator and decongestant, so it helps with breathing, but it also has well-known fat-burning properties, hence its popularity with body-builders, particularly at the end of a steroid cycle. There has been some internet chatter about AC looking to lose some weight a few years ago....just chatter, though. I also take slight issue with your take on AC's profile, particularly as I was comparing it above with LA's. I know how good AC is and how often he pops up in adverts in Europe during the cycling season. But he has almost no profile whatsoever outside of cycling's heartlands and these are the new markets that the UCI is eyeing up, markets that have heard of LA.

    BLRBrazil (9) - Don't worry, I don't really feel sorry for the lawyers.

    Verzino (10) - You're right to flag up the "grey areas" in this case...I would say it is mainly grey, with little bits of black and white and the edges. Eighteen months, 400,000 pages of evidence, 50 different lawyers and experts, and still we don't have any real certainty about how & why AC failed that test.

    I think this case could have a very significant impact on the future of the anti-doping struggle:

    - Will Wada and the other international sports federation now take on every national federation that fails to apply the letter of the law in drugs cases?
    - Will Wada be forced to concede that clenbuterol is too prevalent not to be a threshold drug? Or would that just tell dopers exactly how much clenbuterol they can take?
    - Is the presumption of guilt in doping cases, as opposed to innocence in criminal cases, fair?
    - Can we take anti-doping seriously when there is still no effective way to test for blood transfusions (the experts just cancelled each other out in this case)?

    Right, that's enough from me. I'm going to watch the last 10k of the Tour of Qatar. Come on Cav?

  • Comment number 52.

    @ 12 & 42: good points
    @ 21; interesting proposal :)
    @ 24, 31, 34 & 45: interesting and well-argued posts
    @ 28: a strong counter-argument would be that one of the chief deterrents in law is that "you won't get away with it; we will catch you sooner or later". One of the worst cases in recent history was the way the US authorities came down so hard on sprinter Marilyn Jones, seemingly more because she confessed than because she broke the rules. The message was clear: never own up, even if you're guilty!
    @ 29: you've raised an interesting doubt in my mind - is it possible that the meat industry does not want the public to know what goes into their product these days and will therefore do all they can to prevent the information getting out?
    @ 43: ask Carl Lewis.....

  • Comment number 53.

    @ 51: I never really believed you did in the first place. Thanks for providing an interesting blog that generated some very stimulating posts!

  • Comment number 54.

    Joe G (39) - As with Ivan Basso I don't think there is any evidence that Ulrich doped. He, and Virenque, never failed a test. Come to think of it, nor did Pantani. That it something for those who believe Armstrong's argument about never failing a test.

  • Comment number 55.

    It has been interesting to read everyone's posts, but I remain very upset about this decision for three main reasons:

    Firstly, it is unacceptable that an organisation charged with administering a major international sport has taken eighteen months to reach a decision on a single case of a contaminated sample, complicated though it may have been. It is grossly unfair on the person involved, indeed on everyone in the sport, and calls into serious question the competence and decision-making of that organisation.

    Secondly, by adopting a "zero tolerance" approach to certain substances, the UCI has given cyclists guilty of a single, minor transgression the same penalties as those who have systematically broken the rules to gain an advantage. This is extremely unfair on those who have inadvertently ingested a proscribed substance, whose body has created it naturally or who are the victims of incorrect test results and laboratory error. Such cases have already occurred and other professional cyclists - less well known - have had their careers ruined. Surely the principal purpose of an anti-doping policy is to prevent cheating, not to punish people for technical infringements of the rules? The tiny sample found in Contador's urine is most unlikely to have enhanced his performance, and this should have been taken into account. Furthermore, unlike Landis, Contador has competed at a consistently excellent level for many years without testing positive on other occasions. I would say that on the balance of probabilities it is most unlikely that he would want or need to deliberately break the rules to enhance his performance. If the C.A.S. are not prepared to accept Contador's explanation, then they should at least demonstrate that he intended to gain an unfair advantage. If they cannot do so, then a two year ban is quite disproportionate to the offence.

    Thirdly, and most seriously, the decision to disqualify Contador from subsequent events, including the Giro of 2011, is a fundamental breach of judicial principles. He was cleared to ride in those events, did not test positive and won them on merit. I believe that this decision could well be overturned in a court of law.

    Sean Burke, Cotignac

  • Comment number 56.

    I am going to go to much about the amount found in Contador just the overall view this is giving me. Cycling Authorities have shot themselves in the foot with this Saga. we all know many other sportsman have been taking drugs to improve performance, and unfortunately track and field is a major example. The testing is thorough and regular.

    You can not compare someones fitness from running 100 metres to someone in the sadlle for three weeks in the Tour, the publics unfortunate view is that most of them are taking drugs in the first place. The "cycling authorities" are therefore having a Zero policy to counter this image.

    The problem is with this clean image is if an athlete was found with such a small amount under the recomended guide lines, would they really be pressing to drag there own sport into this Mess?

  • Comment number 57.

    The legal test of "balance of probability" is weaker that "case proven" and yet Contador is punished the full two years, the same, I think, as for other riders for whom the evidence was overwhelming. Consequently he is denied his living for two years and suffers huge reputation damage (which is probably worse for him) because his lawyers cannot prove where the substance came from and the adjudicators automatically find against him. When John Terry appears in court the legal test will be proof beyond doubt and should he be found guilty I suspect his sentence will not involve a ban of two years. If WADA and/or CAS is a court of law why doesnt it need to prove charges beyond all doubt?

    I find it very difficult to accept that Contador deliberately doped himself as I understand that the measure of the drug was tiny and not enough to enhance his performance - why should a world class sportsman with a team of doctors do such a crass thing with only 300 miles (downhill at that) to go. Surely this is a question that the adjudicators needed to answer rather than demand that the Contador lawyers prove the origin of the substance found in his body

  • Comment number 58.

    Yes, I am Spanish, but as you can argue that my position is so clear against the sentence because of that, I can argue that Contador being Spanish, having so many spaniards in the last decades (and no french and no british) won the TDF, has clearly conditioned this case developments and result.
    - How is it possible that the same sentence that recognizes no evidence of doping condems Contador to the maximum penalty?
    - Why the blood transfusion theory calified in the sentence as "unlikely" is the principal argument of those backing the sanction?. The sentence stated as "most likely" theory of supplement contamination, by commonsense discards any doping intention (yes, at those minimal levels) because of previous days analysis.
    - Presumtion of innocence is a basic human right and if CAS rules say the contrary, CAS rules are violating human rights.
    - Should Contador have sent every bite of food to the laboratory before eating it?. Furthermore, not any laboratory but Köln?
    - Even if he has succesfully lied to the polygraph, even if the biological passport is not fully discarding doping, even if the presence of an insignificant amount of the substance is certain, how can you apply the maximum rigour with so little evidence?. What should be the penalty for a 5000 picograms (not unlikely), polygrah fail, biological passport fail and inculpatory testimonies case?, the same?, depends on nationality?. Ridiculous.

  • Comment number 59.

    I am also very upset by this whole sorry saga and I strongly agree with Sean Burke's excellent comment (#55).

    Anti-doping test measurements must bear a clear relationship to the known biological effects of the substance being tested for. What purpose does it serve to find an athlete guilty of doping on the basis of a test result that does not correspond with any conceivable performance enhancement?

    The idea that one can have a "non-threshold" test is, scientifically, a nonsense. All bioanalytical tests are subject to the principles of accuracy and sensitivity. There is always a limit of detection where the signal coming from the test substance approaches the background noise produced by the detection system or interfering substances, which can be introduced in all manner of ways, from incompletely-understood metabolic pathways to the handling of the sample itself. In the current case, Clenbuterol will certainly be found in the testing lab itself - in calibration standards, other samples, and possibly equipment used to process the samples. The question "is substance X present in this sample?" never has a simple yes/no answer. It must always be stated at what level, and with what confidence.

    With an understanding of the above comes the logic that all doping tests should have threshold values associated with them, below which the test is considered to be negative.

    The purpose of anti-doping testing should be to catch the rogue athlete who seeks to gain an unfair advantage by deliberately using drugs or blood products, and NOT to punish honest athletes who are caught out by circumstances beyond their control.

    When one thinks about the years of dedication and effort required to reach the level of athletes like Contador, and how all that can be blown away in a moment by a laboratory result which itself does not prove any performance gain and which could be produced in all manner of ways (not least by mistakes and cross-contamination during the testing process), then something is very, very wrong with the system.

  • Comment number 60.

    What happens concerning prize money Contador won during this period?

  • Comment number 61.

    #50, I don't disagree with any of that. In fact, I wholly agree.

    Your yourself draw the distincition before legal positives and failed tests. In fact your final sentance is a neat summary of my position.

    "in the case of Contador, there really is no concincing reason, according to CAS to rescind his positive. that makes it a failed drug test in their eyes."

    It might seem like semantics, both I think the distinction is important. The test only says what is in someones system, not why. That has to be taken into account before one knows whether someone is guilty. As Contador is.

  • Comment number 62.

    What this decision illustrates more than any previous is that UCI, and the WADA Code, need to adhere to established principles of legal justice that are not disproporationately in favour of the governing body. To have strict liability and place the onus on the athlete were all that has been proven is that an inconsequential amount of a prohibited substance has been found in his system and he has to produce who it got there, as well as that he had no fault or negligence in the matter.....well, I'm not the first person to say that the WADA Code ripe for judicial review as being contrary to EC law principles of proportionality.

    Strict liability was introduced at a time when doping was rampant and testing procedures were much less adequate or sophisticated than those today. The CAS probably, in all circumstances, made the right decision under the straight jacket imposed by the WADA Code, but not the right decision when viewed under basic legal principles of due process and the right to a fair trial.

    Amazingly, the WADA code completely ignores the intention of the athlete in determining guilt (or only introduces it as a mitigating factor). Once in your system, you are guilty until proven innocent. The complete opposite of any basic fair legal system. Doping is cheating - therefore it should be a requirement to prove that on the balance of probabilities they intended to cheat. Otherwise, are they cheating if they didn't mean or didn't know that they were ingesting a substance?

    It is time to reform the WADA Code, and preferably soon, or London 2012 could see a rake of similar dubious judgments......

  • Comment number 63.

    @ 61:

    forgive my obvious lack of proof reading! i realise i should re-read before i post; being distracted by work hinders that.

    yes, upon reading our posts, i see we do arrive at the same conclusion, but in subtly differing ways

    the test does prove the what, as you mentioned, but AC does not indisputably prove the why. AC's inability to have his conviction for doping quashed now makes it a 'fact' that he failed a doping control, which differs from your views put forward in post 44 [really sad semantics!]

    that is all really unimportant anyhow. given the peculiarities of this case, i would have agreed with the initial 12 month ban proposed to him in 2011 by RFEC (which he successfully appealed), rather than the 2 years now, which means he will miss 2 grand tours of this year. it is just sad, sad press for this wonderful sport.

    i would really love to believe that AC is above board and beyond reproach, but it is hard for me to do so. past history and my own meagre experience tells me otherwise.

    Glad Cav won a stage in Qatar today despite not being 100% or so he says; he looked as good as normal to me.

  • Comment number 64.

    @62 Schweeps,

    You appear to disregard the fact that this is not and will never be a legal case, AC has not been charged with a crime and therefore the rules of 'justice' and a 'fair trial' do not apply. AC when taking part in international cycling events will have signed up to compete under the rules stipulated in the WADA code which makes the rider responsible for what is in his system and his intentions are not important.

    Whilst this may not seem fair, you do not have to cast your mind back very far to find excuses for doping such as 'my doctor gave it to me so I thought it was fine', so this may seem unfair but its the best system in a world where winning at all costs is often all that counts.

    Personally I feel for AC after yesterdays verdict as there is no way that after being cleared to ride and tested so regularly after serving his provisional ban he should have his titles from 2011 taken from him. I don't believe he is a 'doper' but the rules are there to be stuck to to and any level of Clenbutenol in the system should have resulted in a ban.

    Its just such a shame that this has taken so long to be dealt with and will undoubtedly get all cyclists labelled with the tag 'dopers' as this continues to get played out in the media - after doing so much to improve its public perception the big losers through all this is cycling.

  • Comment number 65.

    It's all wrong.

    Nobody should ever have to prove their innocence. Contador has ultimately been condemned on his inability to prove his innocence and this is completely 100% unacceptable on every imaginable level. We stopped witch hunting centuries ago. We stopped destroying people who could not prove their innocence because the cost to humanity is too great. Doping pales into insignificance with the moral destitution this system has fallen into. Our civilization is supposed to give people the benefit of the doubt systematically when their guilt cannot be proven. Failure to do this is the real sickness that we see dragging our sport down and tainting everyone with suspicion. Contador is innocent until proven guilty. He has not been proven guilty.

    All athletes the world over should refuse doping tests until this abuse is ended and the tests are not used for witch hunting. Alan Baxter (Skiing) was a clear example of such an innocent victim (His name was cleared but never received his Olympic medal). It has to stop. There are better ways to educate athletes. This is prehistoric and dumb.

  • Comment number 66.

    When all is said and done, it would appear that Contador has received a two-year ban simply because he couldn't prove his innocence. Whether or not this was a formal trial with proper legal guarantees for the accused, it seems to be a strange way to decide something of such importance, especially as CAS was unable to prove his guilt with reasonably good evidence. In any cuasi legal procedure the principle of "in dubio, pro reo" has a deserved standing .

    I have to wonder whether the fact that Spain has such a deplorable record of individual and team dopings in recent times weighed on the minds of the "judges". Surely not!


  • Comment number 67.

    "You appear to disregard the fact that this is not and will never be a legal case, AC has not been charged with a crime and therefore the rules of 'justice' and a 'fair trial' do not apply."

    @64, is the certain not to be the case? Contador was in France when this sample was taken and France has a criminal offence of sporting fraud, or something similar, don't they? He might yet face a charge, though I form what I've heard there must be serious doubt that the evidence is strong enough for a criminal conviction.

    Also, as alluded to earlier, there are too many asthmatics in cycling for the cloud of suspicion to clear. Isn't it something like 50% who have a dispensation from the UCI to use anti-asthma treatments? Treatments that are commonly steroids. It's plausible that simply training at the levels needed to be a professional cyclist could be inducing this epidemic, and if cycling didn't have a substantial history of dopage one might believe it. But cycling does, and it smells very fishy.

    #65 - I was thinking of bringing up Baxter as an example of that strict liability. He wasn't cleared, he was found guilty, DQed from the Oympics and banned from competition for three months. A three month ban in this case being a tacit acceptance that he didn't set out to cheat, but had taken the performance enhancing drug in error.
    For those who don't know the story, the problem was that Vicks Vapour Rub in Europe does not contain any banned steroids. But the one on sale in America does. Baxter had a cold, and instead of going via the GB team doctor, popped out to the local Salt Lake City pharamcy to buy himself his usual treatment. I think everyone assoicated with skiing accepts this is what happened, but the verdict is still that Baxter committed a doping offence.

  • Comment number 68.

    @67 The Inquisition didn't use legal courts for burning witches. Witch hunting can happen anywhere and it is not acceptable. It is not acceptable here full stop.

    You are wrong about Baxter. There was an appeal and his ban was overturned by the Court of Arbitraion in Sport. Baxter did not commit a doping offense and he did not even use a banned substance. Check the facts for yourself.

  • Comment number 69.

    @64 Haventaclue52

    I accept your point that it isn't a criminal trial, but it is a civil law trial. If you read the judgment it's subject to Swiss law, in accordance with the WADA Code. AC hasn't been charged with a crime, but any civil law trial should have due process and legal justice.

    But I echo your sentiment, I feel sorry for Contador on a personal level, and for the sport in penalising it's poster boy over a technicality. He was never convicted of doping, just of being unable to prove beyond the balance of probabilities that the ingested chenbuterol came from meat instead of food supplements. This is not an excuse for all those who dope - I am aware that the vast majority caught are, by and large, guilty.

    This was overall a technically correct decision, but one that ignores all common sense, the factual context and basic legal principles with regard to burden of proof, evidential burden and proportionality under EC law.

  • Comment number 70.

    He has failed the test,simple as that,no excuse is needed
    to say he ate contaminated meat is almost a childlike excuse
    as well as denying other riders their true glory he also cheated me out of a substantial bet i placed on schleck before the TDF started
    i contacted betfair and received the following reply

    "If no official result of a relevant governing body is available, the result will be determined by Betfair (acting reasonably) using information from independent sources. In such cases, if any new information comes into the public domain within 48 hours of settlement, then Betfair shall (acting reasonably) determine either: (i) whether the market should be reinstated or resettled in light of this new information; or (ii) whether or not to wait for further information before deciding whether to reinstate or resettle the market. Except where Betfair has announced that it is waiting for further information, any information that comes into the public domain more than 48 hours after a market has been settled shall not be considered by Betfair (regardless of whether or not such information may have led to a different result).

    so my £500 winnings are just history cheers bert

    I have enjoyed watching the TDF since the days of lemond and fignon but if i had to say hand on heart has anyone won it unaided since then???
    I would say "no comment"


  • Comment number 71.

    It's pretty obvious by now that, like olympic weightlifters and baseball sluggers, they are just about all at it - at the top level at least (or they wouldn't be at the top level!).

    It's great fun listenening to the excuses though.

  • Comment number 72.

    Surely it would not be too difficult to ask/pay some volunteers who are not on drugs, to try some meat that has been shown to be contaminated, and see what it does to the samples. We could then see if the tests really are accurate, over sensitive. It would at least add some fresh prospective.

  • Comment number 73.

    Let's face it, "AC" has been under a cloud of suspicion ever since the BALCO scandal broke in the U.S. I have always considered him dodgy. The whole case does nobody any credit - from the Spanish exonerating one of their own to the case taking so long to process. You know, I just wish for once that one of them would have the decency to "fess up" when caught

  • Comment number 74.

    I kind of concur with naigib,its unrealistic to expect men to ride hard for 3 weeks on diet and training alone, why would a professional athlete(marco pantani R IP) need a personal blood centrifuge?
    I cannot think of any top cyclist of the last 20 years who has never had some kind of cloud over him,the exception being chris boardman who AFAIK was acknowledged to be clean by everyone.
    it is a shame for cycling that this whole affair has dragged on this long, hopefully they will get the blood doping issue sorted before this year's tour
    regards wobbly

  • Comment number 75.

    Armstrong never failed a test because there never was a test for what he is alleged (by several former teammates) to have taken. Then again American chemists are just more advanced than some, as the Balco case proved.

    And while the US feds have decided, with no explanation given, not to continue their investigation of Armstrong (and the whole of US cycling, let's not forget) the matter is far from closed. WADA has already requested all the info collected be handed over to them.

    For mine the weight of suspicion still falls more firmly on LA than it does on AC.

  • Comment number 76.

    Brilliant today that Cav won the third stage of Qatar. Surely SKY + Cav are the future of dope free cycling.

    Is it co-incidence that Contador was tested before the Tourmalet stage that he needed to win, that Andy Scheck lost 39 secs for the chain gate affair and that Contador won the tour by 39 secs?

    Poetic justice?

  • Comment number 77.

    #76 - It is coincidence, yes.

  • Comment number 78.

    I have had enough,
    Even if Contador were guilty (in opinion), reading so much anti-spanish rubbish makes me sick.
    No doping evidence is no guilt evidence and this sentence is a complete absurdity. It simply violates Human Rights.

  • Comment number 79.

    Unfortunately, if some people are willing to use pretty much any pharmaceutical to gain an advantage, then I find it quite probable that others might actually scheme for a competitor to fail a drugs test. With the presence of a lucrative betting market, I can also think of non-competitors who might have an incentive for a competitor to fail a test. This is one reason why I am uncomfortable with a 'zero tolerance' for any drug.

    McTyke [post #59] also correctly reflects valid and commonly accepted scientific reasons for not quoting a measured concentration of "zero". Reference to a lower "limit of detection" is more appropriate.

    Laws and rules invented by humans can always be circumvented by other humans when there is sufficient will. The game of cat and mouse between the testers, and those wishing to break the rules, may be a permanent fixture of the landscape. I certainly know of some extra medicinal-chemistry techniques to disguise performance enhancing drugs and confound the testing procedures. I can also think of new tests, but this is often harder because of the extra burdon that they could place on the teams and individuals.

  • Comment number 80.

    What I find strange about this whole situation is the explanation that Contador initially gave as the reason for the drug being in his system. He initially stated that a butcher friend of a teammate, turned up unannounced at the team hotel with some nice steak for the team to eat, and that he would have felt guilty about declining the offer...This is one of the world's top professional athletes, in the world's most highly drug tested sport. Are we honestly supposed to believe that he would have just eaten a piece of steak - about which he knew absolutely nothing, just so that the butcher friend wouldn't have any hard feelings? He is either very unlucky, naive or just a bad liar...I know which one my money is on. It sounds to me very much like the excuse Floyd landis quickly adopted after testing positive for steroids - "I drank too much whiskey after a bad day on the bike!"

  • Comment number 81.

    Finally the authorities have managed to catch an obvious drug cheat and give him the sentence he deserves. Contador's downfall was not the minute traces of clenbuterol found in his blood but the significantly larger traces of plastifiers present in his system which were a clear indication of blood doping. This is what caused the drugs authorities to pursue the case with such vehemence and finally get their man. In this light, any speculation about "contaminated food supplements" is at best irrelevant - it is in fact just a tongue in cheek way of saying what we all know, but cannot directly prove : that Contador's drugs were deliberately administered.
    It is hard to imagine that Contador will be allowed to ride the Tour de France again. For years the organisers tried to keep Armstrong away as a result of doping allegations which surrounded him. Lack of hard proof made this impossible for them.
    However, to allow someone who has been stripped of the title to compete in the event at a future date would only undermine their efforts to clean up the tour.
    Anybody genuinely interested in cycling should welcome this verdict. Perhaps now we will have a genuine, competitive sport where people get tired and show signs of physical excertion: the performances of Pantani, Armstrong, Contador et al in the high mountain stages over recent years have been nothing more than an insult to the intelligence of true cycling and sports enthusiasts. Little wonder that Mr Merx was disgusted by the verdict - he himself was banned for doping offences, and birds of a feather flock together ...............

  • Comment number 82.

    Quote from another BBC article today...

    Earlier on Tuesday, John Fahey, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said Contador should now be considered a "cheat".
    "The simple fact is that anyone who has a prohibited substance in their system is a cheat," he said.
    "The only argument then comes as to what was the nature of how that prohibited substance got into the athlete's system. But you're a cheat, effectively, the moment you've got that substance in there.''

    This shows exactly how perverse the anti doping system really is. There is no way that you are a cheat for the above reasons alone - it's an utterly stupid claim and I hope that this statement is used in Contador's next appeal because it is extremely revealing regarding the WADA mentality. There are many ways that you can have unwelcome substances in your body that are completely outside of your control - even that particle of plutonium that you are inevitably carrying around inside you.

    The only thing we need "zero tolerance" for is witch hunting. The "proof of innocence" burden has to to wiped out 100% This is an insidious and destructive mentality putting absolutely everyone under suspicion. Sport needs to clean up this situation first and remove the pseudo legal muppets and their show.

    It does not matter one little bit that some real cheats might slip through - the morally bankrupt such as Floyd Landis (yes I bought his book and want a refund) will always exist - but much greater injustice is always done though a culture of witch hunting and "proof of innocence". We know this from history - that's why a man is innocent until proven guilty - and Contador has not been proven guilty.

  • Comment number 83.

    Innocent until proven guilty, or guilty until proven innocent?

    Contador was innocent until both his A and B sample showed he had traces of a zero tolerance drug in his system. At that point he was proven guilty of having failed the drug test. Contador then failed to provide a sufficiently credible explanation as to how the failed test occurred, so he remains proven guilty.

    As to whether 2 years is a stiff penalty, this is the penalty for a first drug offence in the sport, with a subsequent offence being a life ban. That is the rule.

    Contador was found to have an unauthorised substance in his system. Contador could not provide an adequate explanation to explain the evidence against him (or in other words, had insufficient defence) so he was found guilty. The punishment for the crime is a fixed penalty of 2 years.

  • Comment number 84.

    As for the debate about the levels of the drug in his system ... No-one is disputing that at the levels found would offer no performance advantage, but are we really expected to believe the sample was taken at the exact moment that Contador had the greatest amount of Clenbuterol in his system, or is it reasonable to assume that at some point prior to the sample being taken, the levels reached their peak? And there is no way of knowing what level that was. The drug is a zero tolerance drug. Any amount is too much without a valid reason.

  • Comment number 85.

    AC's contrition reminds me very much of Landis (who continued to profess his innocence, just up the moment he decided to admit guilt and point his finger at everybody else).
    Let us not forget his history on this; he was also named in Operacion Puerto and has previously been barred from the TdF for his team's persistent drug infringements.

    There are a lot of people asking why he isn't innocent until proven guilty. He's been shown to be guilty through the presence of a performance-enhancing, zero-tolerance drug in his body; he's subsequently trying to protest innocence by the perfectly plausible explanation of an asthmatic cow.
    If he wishes to appeal again, he should be barred from riding until the outcome of the new trial.

  • Comment number 86.

    I am glad that Contador has decided to continue in cycling and is considering appealing against the CAS verdict.

    As feedbackdestroyer rightly points out (#82) the statements reported to have been said by WADA President, John Fahey, are outrageous, ignorant and naive. A cheat is someone who deliberately sets out to gain an unfair advantage, not someone who is victim of circumstances beyond their control or, worse, sabotage.

    The principles of strict liability and zero-tolerance are totally unfair on the athlete and must go. It's all very well saying that Contador signed up to the WADA code (#64) but what other choice do the riders have? We need to regain a sensible perspective in all this, apply some common sense, and kick out those people like John Fahey who seem hell bent on destroying athletes' careers for no good reason.

  • Comment number 87.

    Agreeing with 16 above. Its agreed that although Ben Johnson was stripped of his 100 metre Gold medal, he did in fact run the time and the drug in question would not have increased his stride simply the bodies endurance to increase his training regime.
    The mention of blood doping or blood oxygen levels you can't sanction against as it naturally occurs to any athlete training at altitude once they return to sea level; Ethiopian long distance runners for example, dare I say the Pyrenees to the Champs Elysees.
    In respect of cycling one rider alone can't outride two riders anyway, so any drug can't as in Ben Johnsons case increase the leg speed or the bikes gear ratios, in fact the rider needs to be small and lite not large and muscular.
    The only benefit if you can call it that, is endurance and as someone is always going to be more likely to win than any other the finger of suspicion and testing is aimed more at the winner, making it odd that eventually a very minute amount is found on a day to day basis as with the Tour.

  • Comment number 88.

    Contaminated meat is too easy an excuse. If all anyone had to say was "I ate some meat" only vegetarians would ever get punished.

    Contador needed to prove that it was the most likely reason, and that meant he had to provide prima facie evidence that a Spanish farmer had committed a serious criminal offence punishable by several years imprisonment. He failed, as was pretty obvious he would from the beginning. He should have taken the 1-year ban and hoped WADA didn't appeal that. They couldn't let him get away with no punishment or they would never be able to punish any cheat ever again.

    I do recommend reading the CAS judgement in full. There is more stuff in it than is being mentioned here and you get a pretty misleading picture from the general press reports.

    And its not over yet. There is still the question of the fine to be decided. It ought to be pretty big, because Contador shouldn't be able to get away with making money from cycling while he was banned.

  • Comment number 89.

    I may be wrong but I'm sure that the amount of clenbuterol found in Contador's system was below the level which was actually considered to be constitute "doping".

    Therefore, has CAS not banned him for doping when in fact his samples do not breach the limits set by WADA?

    While the recent history of Spanish cycling has not been greatly supportive of a nation of clean riders and teams (Mozquera, Saunier Duval, etc), I would have thought that in order to convict Contador of doping would have required a little more evidence than that which CAS had available.

    It's a shame to have cycling in the limelight again for more doping bans when, in this instance, the evidence rests on a very shoogly peg.

  • Comment number 90.

    There is threshold amount of Clenbuterol that labs must be able to detect in order to get accredited, and the amount that was found in Contador's sample was well below this, as the lab used had better testing regimes than the minimum required by WADA. However, as Clembuterol is deemed a zero tolerance drug, any amount of the drug is considered 'doping' by WADA (ie anything greater than 0) - The distinction is just down to whether the test is sophisticated enough to pick it up. In this instance it was.

  • Comment number 91.

    As the amount of Clenbuterol detected was (from memory) about 400 times lower than the Lower Detection Limit (LDL) stipulated by WADA it would appear that Contador's (AC) sample would have passed muster in another accredited lab. He is also unlucky in the rule which appears to state that WADA don't have to prove anything other than "in all probability" rather than "beyond reasonable doubt" as would be required under criminal law. AC may have a case under employment law as he is, in effect, suffering restraint of trade without proof that he cheated.

    But as I have a background in analytical chemistry and not law my thoughts are a positive test through cross-contamination or carry-over from another sample. At such lows levels my guess is they are testing using GC-MS or more probably HPLC-MS. In order to calibrate HPLC it is usual to use an external standard - you inject a known amount, get a result and then inject the unknown sample and compare it against the standard. Some simple maths later and there's your result. Carry-over is not unknown from a standard, especially when dealing with such minute levels as picograms (1/1,000,000,000,000g).

    Again, as it's been so long I can't remember whether AC was the Maillot Jaune te day before, but he would have been tested certainly the day after and there's been no hint of a second positive sample. WADA need to wise-up and admit that their testing houses are not infallible - they're certainly not secure given the information that comes out of them - and should get all the samples re-tested at another "top" lab, or allow AC to do so.

    WADA/ICU seem to have got around their side of the moral argument by declaring certain products zero-tolerance, whilst allowing others below a threshold. For any given analyte the LDL should be the same wherever testing occurs - you can never say there is a zero result, just that it's less than your validation can substantiate. And on that basis NOBODY can prove they don't have anything in their system and EVERYONE is guilty of "doping" with Clenbuterol. For the record, it's a bronchial dilator, more commonly associated with asthma sufferers.

  • Comment number 92.

    I agree that cross contamination may be a culprit - This is why a failed test results in a B test - to ensure that the result is consistent. And you're right Contador should (and does) have the right to have the sample tested himself if he so chooses.

    However, with regard to the comment:
    "you can never say there is a zero result, just that it's less than your validation can substantiate. And on that basis NOBODY can prove they don't have anything in their system and EVERYONE is guilty of "doping" with Clenbuterol"
    This is why EVERYONE is innocent until proven otherwise. It is assumed that anything below the lowest level of validation is a zero reading. However, in this instance there was a level of the drug detected above the lowest level of validation (by this particular lab), and so there was proof that there was traces of the drug there. As you say, you cannot prove there is absolutely no trace of the drug in a sample, but you can prove there is a trace of the drug in the sample.

  • Comment number 93.

    "King Contador" ?

    or maybe just

    'King Cont ! ador.

  • Comment number 94.

    @ 86 Do you really believe that the WADA code is responsible for some terrible mishap of justice hear, the code is there to protect athletes not punish them, to ensure that athletes compete on across and even playing field, something that has not always been possible.

    As for yours (and others) assertions that John Fahey is somehow out to ruin the lives of athletes with no good reason, are you serious? It is the role of his organisation to protect those athletes who attempt to compete without performance enhancements across a range of sports. If you think these people who attempt to rid our sports of cheaters are the bad guys you should probably consider what any clean athlete would have to say on the subject, they agree to the intrusions of the WADA officials not because they are a burden but because they keep everyone honest (something many sports people have failed to be in the past).

    People seem to forget that AC did test positive for a substance that has no natural reason for being in his system and a substance that can only come from one of few sources, all but one of which indicates cheating. As for the excuse 'my friend the butcher gave it to me' consider this; Cycling teams have their own chefs and take over kitchens when they move in to a hotel to stop this type of thing happening, are you really to believe that the best cyclist in the world and his team failed to achieve this one time and thats when he accidentally ingested something contaminated. For me a little to far fetched.

  • Comment number 95.

    I heard a rumour....I do nt know if its true but, the night of he had the steak in the restaurant, the chef was seen waving to a cyclist who jumped on a bike as he left the restaurants back door all that could be seen of this cyclist was the words on his bike....LIVESTRONG.......

  • Comment number 96.

    I have just read the first few pages of the CAS Arbitral Award statement and on page 5 it clearly states that in the presence of Mr Contador's representatives, Dr De Boer and Mr Ramos, the B sample analysis took place. So to the comment about whether a B sample was ever taken - it was. It also states on the same page that the fact that samples taken prior to this date did not contain clenbuterol, the Koln lab reanalysed the samples taken on the 22nd, 24th and 25th July plus the blood sample from the 20th. All these samples were shown to contain levels of clenbuterol.

    It then states that Mr Contador gave a press conference on the 30th September at which he announced the finding of a prohibited substance in one of his samples provided during the TdF.

    Now whilst this document does not state that he was informed of all of the results, surely he must have been given the severity of a positive test result or was he not informed hence his statement to the press on just one sample. Whatever was or was not said it definitely was not just one positive result, which is how it has been portrayed to most of the sporting world.

    All sides have clearly made mistakes and the world media have written what they usually do to sell their papers - what they think their readers want to hear!! It is clearly evident that as a result, the sport of cycling has yet again been thrown into the limelight over doping (or not, depending how you see the case evidence before you) and given the economic climate in the world could cause sponsors to rethink their involvement in the sport. So the only losers will be the sport itself in the end.


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