Doping problems rumble on for Tour de France Champion Contador
Cycling is a maddening, frustrating and unpredictable sport. The vageries of its variable institutions and the way that they relate to each other is difficult to fully understand. Its strangeness has been fully crystallised by the case of Alberto Contador and the clenbuterol tainted steak.
The two time Tour champion tested positive, was stripped of his title and then banned for a year. He appealed and his defense was accepted by the Spanish Cycling authority. He’s been free to race since and won the Tour of Murcia in fine fashion recently through an excellent showing in a 12 km time trial.
Now though the real problems begin. The World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) and cycling’s international authority the International Cycling Union (UCI), have both taken this judgement to the International Court of Arbitration for sport, the sporting equivalent of the supreme court that was the ampitheatre of Pantani and Landis’ demise.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport has promised that it will rule on both appeals before the start of the tour giving rise to the possibilty that Contador will be on the startline in the Vendee at the Passage du Gois on July 2nd. What a story it would be if he was.
Velo News reported earlier this week that Contador was training at high altitude in preparation for the Giro d’Italia whilst most other Tour de France contenders are warming up with the Tour of the Basque country. This would suggest that Contador realises cycling’s authorities aren’t likely to let him ride in their marquee event with the spectre of a doping case hanging over him. After all no one has been successful in a full campaign for both tours since Marco Pantani and he was subsequently shown to have levels of banned substances in his system akin to a dope fiend straight out of The Wire.
Equally the Giro may well be his warm up of choice. Lance Armstrong was largely responsible for the doctrine that both could not be ridden and has been proven right in recent years; riders rarely attempt both now given that the race through the mountains of Italy is akin to that of France rather than a precursor for it. Bradley Wiggins singled out his involvement in the Giro as one of the factors behind his poor showing in the Tour last year even though he made a pre-scheduled drop out mid-way through.
Thomas earns team support for a tilt at a classic
British rider Geraint Thomas will be joint leader of Team Sky with Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha for the Paris-Roubaix one day race this coming Sunday after impressing with some aggressive displays in the Tour of Flanders. This will come as a huge boost to the Welsh rider, who held the white jersey during last year’s Tour, as the chance to get a race of this magnitude under his belt is a signal of his progression as a competitor. Many people will be looking to Thomas for another strong showing in France this year after it was he, not expected star Bradley Wiggins, who performed strongest in the mountains for Dave Brailsford’s outfit. Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara will start as favourite for the race after cementing himself as the best Classics rider in the world over the the last couple of years.
Horner and Kloden go close in the Basque country
Chris Horner and Andreas Kloden, of a now Lance Armstrong-less, Team Radioshack, put in a solid team showing to finish third and fourth in the opening stage of this year’s Tour of the Basque Country. Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha won, with last year’s fourth place in the Tour de France Sammy Sanchez coming a narrow second. The result will be no small comfort to Horner and Sanchez after they went clear of the pack on the formidable La Antigua climb and then stayed away on the descent into Zummaraga. They will hope to replicate this form in the grand Tours later in the year and will have their eyes quietly fixed on the podium.