Jeez, why can’t people get caught doping with anything normal anymore? I don’t particularly trust Joe Papp, but as far as assessing the effects of performance-enhancing substances go, I’m more than willing to defer to his expertise.
Despite my own initial response, Contador’s statement that his Clenbuterol positive was the result of contaminated food certainly seems to have legs. The drug’s primary performance enhancing effect is largely fat management, something the still-three-time Tour winner has never struggled with.
Cases of Clenbuterol contamination among the food supply are well documented, and the amount detected is so small that Contador’s B sample might just come up clear, avoiding what will almost certainly be a messy, protracted legal dispute about what should count as a positive test, and what should qualify one for the Nazi Frogmen exemption.
And frankly, I hope that’s how it turns out. Anti-doping efforts have come a long way since another Spanish Tour champion, Pedro Delgado, tested positive for a not-yet-banned substance with an obvious PED-masking effect and was allowed to continue without sanction. If what’s reported on this case is true, Contador’s A-sample turns that scenario fully on its head, and hopefully, the system’s mechanisms for fairness will prove as effective (at least in this instance) as the mechanisms for detection.
I’m also impressed with how well Contador has presented himself in the face of this scrutiny, especially given his lousy media relations in the past. Granted, he’s had over a month to go over how to confront the issue, but, assuming his statements are true, it’s tough to imagine a more gut-wrenching twist for a rider who missed a Tour when his DS was caught in a dope doctor’s office with 50,000 EUR straight cash, was gifted his first Tour win the next year through an extra-judicial doping ejection, was arbitrarily denied a start 12 months later, and essentially raced alone against the entire peloton when the biggest celebrity in the history of cycling hijacked his team the following year.
Conversely, one has to wonder how another Spaniard, Ezequiel Mosquera, will handle news that he and a teammate have tested positive for a decidedly more effective chemical agent. Mosquera, who’s workman-turned-rockstar ascension was the story of this year’s Vuelta, now has to overcome the equally compelling narrative of a hard-worn rider at the end of his career crossing the line to try and maximize his chances in chasing down that one big win.
Media attention can be quite the double-edged sword in that regard, something Mosquera’s would-be employer just can’t seem to get its head around—unless, of course, Vacansoleil is trying to imply a little something about what’s included in the luxury camping trips it’s trying to advertize..