15 February 2011

Responsibility and punishment

"it could not be shown conclusively that Contador had deliberately taken the product"
Nothing is black and white when it comes to doping in cycling. I am not clear about the message sent when Alberto Contador is cleared of all doping charges against him. Punishment is not just about the individual but the message sent to others about right and wrong. Alberto Contador has been cleared to race again this season. This is after he was charged and suspended for a year, but now 6 months after it all started, influenced by a tweet by the Spanish prime minister, we are supposed to forget all about the fuss. Contador will race as soon as tomorrow in the Tour of the Algarve, and until the UCI spends more time and money saying he can't.
Are we going back to the days when an athlete was not held responsible if they claimed they did not know they ingested a performance enhancing drug? Does this open a window to athletes receiving unknown substances from others? I thought we learned that lesson ages ago with the Russian Olympic athletes given drugs by their coaches. Now who is responsible for doping? It seems the various attempts to hold the individual riders responsible have failed. Meanwhile Alberto Contador's team SaxoBank-Sunguard gained by holding onto Contador and his points during this unknown waiting period. Their star rider is back on the team, a good outcome for the team and the rider.

I am still reeling from the whirlwind of bad press, insufficient punishment, and a lack of lessons learned. In the past two years I have seen dopers immediately being hired back by teams, dopers not being required to pay fines previously agreed upon, dopers given differing penalties depending on who they are, dopers continuing to compete (and win) even after substances are found in their blood samples, and teams using doper's points for overall team ranking. If not wrong, it certainly is confusing.
Financial penalty and suspension from competition hasn't seemed to work. What if all the history of a riders wins and points were immediately taken away, or combined with a life suspension? Now a rider could claim they were a victim. The doping problems remain in cycling, and have now grown even bigger and more gray with the added difficulty of proof of doping intention. That is what Alberto Contador has contributed to this sport.

The attitude towards doping in Spain continues to be at odds with other countries. The easy to access performance enhancing drugs available in Spain continue to be: clenbuterol, nandrolone, growth hormone and EPO. 

As usual when I want to read real facts and excellent viewpoint versus strictly opinion, I turn to Charles Pelkey: The Explainer: Questions about the Contador decision By Charles Pelkey Published Feb 16th 2011