Maybe We Should Test For Accountability

Oct 4 2010

Pat McQuaidWhat is it about this sport that cultivates such an aversion to accountability? It must be drafting or something.

Let’s start with the UCI, who flatly denied a Contador positive to ARD after they were aware of it, and before the story broke. Ignore the fact that most third-graders know to spit back “neither-confirm-nor-deny” boilerplate to questions like that—it’s the frickin’ German media.

While they do seem to have a painfully self-conscious obsession with doping, they’re not exactly known for fishing expeditions. Contador’s positive tests occurred months ago, the UCI had already notified WADA, bringing dozens, if not hundreds of potential leaks into the loop. Did the UCI consider it conincedence that a doping specialist reporter called them to ask about Contador’s positive test?

Then there was the advice to Contador to keep quiet over the positive tests. Nothing says “we’re attempting to cover this up” like sequestering news from reporters, sponsors, team managers, etc. Now you’ve got Contador on record as saying he expects a “quick resolution“, rumors flying over slashed suspension terms, heaps of reporting on a double standard so obvious it would embarrass George Wallace, and—oh yeah—all this kicked up days before the UCI’s biggest week of racing.

In fact, the only thing transparent out of the UCI in recent weeks was their limp-wristed attempt to deflect attention and criticism onto the Spanish cycling federation. Words cannot convey how much better the sport and its governing body would look if the UCI had simply told Contador to come forward back in August, and confirmed—or at least not denied—the positive tests.

Alberto ContadorAnd then there’s Contador. Apparently, the B-sample clearance I’d been hoping for hasn’t come through. That makes a positive test. Contador should feel welcome to appeal to his heart’s content—it’s his right after all—but I don’t think there’s any reasonable expectation he won’t get sanctioned.

If Contador really did test positive from tainted meat, he should lose the TdF title for it. Yes, it’s not really fair—but then again, neither was Andy’s chain, Beloki’s crash, Hinault’s knees, Merckx’s liver or any other of a myriad of other hard-luck stories that potentially cost racers victory at the Tour de France.

At an absolute level, athletes have complete control over the food that goes into their bodies, and consuming anything other than the most rigorously vetted food at the biggest bike race in the world is as fool-hardy as taking risks on melted pavement, punching big gears through growing joint pain, or riding too close to a hostile crowd.

And frankly, if Contador’s case is handled like previous contamination positives, I think he should accept it and be satisfied. More than a few additional questions have been raised by this case, and with some labs apparently keeping an eye peeled for as-of-yet-circumstantial signs of doping, there’s no need for the Spaniard to start playing the retroactive testing card; at any rate, we know from experience that retro-positives are fairly easy to deny.

At the end of the day, what’s important is that people respect the rules cycling has established to deal with drug testing. They aren’t perfect—you’d be hard-pressed to find codified regulations that are—but they’ve come a tremendously long way in the past decade.

Tap-dancing around the media and normal procedure to try and control the impact of positive tests, or expecting special treatment because you happend to win a few Tours de France both undermines the effectiveness of the systems, and obscures the areas where it’s in need of further refinement.

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15 Responses to “Maybe We Should Test For Accountability”

  1. Oliver 4 October 2010 at 10:10 pm #

    It’s over:
    One of the gems in there: basically that getting clenbuterol in one’s system from eating meat is impossible! So why was everyone so ready to believe that line of b.s.? To defend the lies and fairy tales of that sort actually hurts cycling in the not so long term. (By not so long, I mean longer than the quarterly revenue report…i.e., an untranscendable horizon for anyone involved in business….)

    Finally an article that end approvingly with Kohl’s plain statement of fact: “It is impossible to win the Tour de France without doping.”
    I’ve been saying this for years and literally, absolutely, positively no one agreed. Until Kohl!
    For this he has been reviled everywhere in the press, on the internet (even perhaps on this hallowed site…). Maybe folks will finally get with the program, quit being delusional and realize that any and all serious Tour contender have been on a program, a rigorous doping program.

    And let’s start making and printing t-shirts with names of that poor Chinese domestique, Liu. What he’s up to?

  2. mindtron 4 October 2010 at 11:43 pm #


    I’m not saying I believe the excuse, but it can’t be impossible to get clenbuterol in your system from food or the USDA wouldn’t have noted it in this report:

    “Samples had clenbuterol concentrations of 160 to 291 parts per billion. The people were hospitalized with reversible symptoms of increased heart rate, muscular tremors, headache, nausea, fever, and chills.”

    as for the plasticizer test, if it isn’t validated for use, then it is BS to use it for a suspension. all that will do is cause the case to go to the CAS and get overturned

  3. father_figure 5 October 2010 at 6:02 am #


    Clenbuterol is used as growth drug. And as such its used on all sorts of animals, and is very much legal in most EU countries. Still its hard to get it into your body, but not at all impossible. Basically poor piggy needs to get pumped with it to an enormous degree before you eat it, for a drug to be detectable in your body. Whether it can help a cyclicts in any way considering all its side effects, its a diffrent story…

    I’ve already found athletes getting banned in recent years for having less amount of clenbuterol in their body than Contador. Without much drama…

  4. Oliver 5 October 2010 at 6:59 am #

    @ MindFigure: Read the linked nyt article.

  5. Luc 5 October 2010 at 7:13 am #

    Hi all,

    Plasticizer in the blood only proves that he used a plastic bag:


  6. mindtron 5 October 2010 at 1:32 pm #


    they must have updated it because it says nothing anymore about Clenbuterol being impossible to get in your system only plasticizers.

    I think the bigger question is whether he will also lose the 2009 tour due to the medical waste investigation in France as well.

  7. cthulhu 5 October 2010 at 3:57 pm #

    hmmm, the UCI gets aways pretty well in that nyt report….

    @father figure: clenbuterol and all ß sympathomimetic drugs are banned in the EU since 1996. Only allowed on horses not meant for meat production. I don’t say it doesn’t happen but I highly doubt it is widespread in EU-meat. I heard the punishment for it’s use is pretty severe.

  8. Not_really 5 October 2010 at 6:57 pm #

    Regarding plasticizers and the “everyone has some in their blood” argument, Pharmador’s levels were 8X levels considered normal. Normal in this case being described as “using a plastic bag.”

    The common wisdom is plasticizer level information is used as supporting evidence in relation to a doping positive. Re: When the case goes to CAS it is presented along with the doping positive for clembuterol, as evidence that it’s likely the clembuterol did not get there by accident.

    The way the UCI is handling this positive is more evidence that the way the UCI handles a positive depends entirely on secret factors.

  9. skippy 6 October 2010 at 9:24 am #

    WHEN manufacturers HAVE TO add a “DETECTABLE COMPONENT ” to the Blood Bags then there will be an END to “Blood Doping”!

    OF Course “New Products” will become available Soon if they are not already in use !

    UCI/WADA need to get TOUGH , 4 year Bans !st offence and Banned from all “CyclingRelated Work”!

    Returning Cyclists ONLY allowed to re eenter 2 levels lower than departure and then ONLY progress One step each Year ! HITS THE POCKET HARD !!

    ONLY A MUG will risk these sanctions but yes there are plentyof them still out there , lining up to make headlines and get the slap on the wrist currently available.

  10. Luc 7 October 2010 at 10:22 am #

    It seems that it is normal to have plastic in your blood…
    How much? That is the question.

  11. Joe 9 October 2010 at 9:03 am #

    Stop getting stuck into the uci and start getting stuck into Alberto! He is the doper not the uci. though, I agree they are corrupt .

  12. father_figure 9 October 2010 at 11:08 am #


    What i meant by legal is that you can buy it legally. As for the use on animals here is a nice report on that . The fact remains:1 – its IS used on animals 2 – person could get clenbuterol in their body by eating meat bought in local shop… Given its the yellow jersey before the crucial day of tdf… highly unlikely.

    Whether its tainted meat or not, its obvious he gets the punishment. Pro cyclist that fails to control what he eats isnt all that pro…

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