The Messenger

It’s not Alberto’s fault. He peed in a cup. His pee went to Germany. Some Germans found things in the pee that ought not be in pee. It was bad pee … you know … as pee goes. And so, chaos ensued.

Let us not rehash the chaos in full, but let me provide you this brief synopsis: pee>adverse analytical finding>consternation>press leak>rumors>sanctions>bureaucracy>more bureaucracy>politics (i.e. more bureaucracy)>interminable wait>proposed suspension>acquittal.

Since the acquittal, which is provisional in as much as there are still periods of appeal and counter-appeal to be slogged through, Alberto’s name has been closely associated with, depending on your viewpoint, cheating and/or justice. He has been much maligned, and also much revered.

But Alberto and his pee, such as they are, aren’t really that important to the story. They are only the messenger.

The story is really about everything that’s wrong with professional cycling. The truth is that some professional cyclists take prohibited drugs to improve their performances. The system in place to stop them from doing that doesn’t work very well. The authorities charged with enforcing the rules are incompetent or complicit. Interests are conflicted. The federations, teams, sponsors and riders can’t get together on solutions. Enforcement varies wildly depending on the country you happen to be from. The processes are slow, plodding and interminable. Even the semblance of fairness does not exist.

This is the story. It is a sad one. It’ll even make you angry, if you let it. This story will go on and on and on. Like a classic Russian novel, the names of the characters will change. Allegiances will shift. Alliances will form and break. All the foibles and failings of this human species will find expression at some point. Count on it.

Right now, Alberto is only the messenger. He is just one character for better AND for worse. Don’t shoot him. It won’t help anyone.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International


  1. Sophrosune

    No doubt the Contador affair is frustrating on a number of fronts, and views vary 180 degrees on what those fronts may be. But I think this all can prove to be a new opportunity in the evolving fight against doping, not only in cycling but in all sport. Just as the Festina affair seemed to bring the fight against doping to a new level and then the development of a test for EPO gave a new tool, it would seem in the Landis and Contador cases we are seeing flaws in the doping regimen. I see this as a positive. Let’s improve the rules to accommodate the issues of environmental contamination. Let’s develop tests that can isolate the difference between an intentional dosage and one from contaminated food or supplements. These are not impossible goals to achieve scientifically. It’s merely a matter of setting one’s sights on the problem and the will to address them.

    Also, let’s eliminate the national federations deciding penalties, just as the Spanish federation asked to be relieved from this responsibility. Let’s sort out the power heirarchy of cycling: is it WADA? the UCI? Who?

    I hope that the powers that be take this as an opportunity to fix problems rather than entrench themselves in the status quo. Who knows, they just might.

  2. Jim

    One shouldn’t have to display the patience of a saint and share the lunatic’s ability to believe in impossible things just to be a fan of a sport. Knowing the extent to which the corruption has poisoned the honesty of bike racing makes it impossible to be a fan. One can suspend disbelief or walk away. Being aware of the problem and remaining a fan seem mutually incompatible.

  3. Jesus

    It was sad news to know Contador will race again. I think they let go an opportunity to prove the war againts cheating is true no matter who the racer is. Too bad.

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  5. Baldy

    I’ll be using Contador’s defence for my own infractions. For my next speeding fine, I’ll argue that I drive a Toyota, and that said cars have been reported to have sticky accelerators. I’m sure they’ll be squashing the fine.

    One other question I have, based on Landis’ interview with Kimmage. Did the UCI decide to throw him to the wolves for other reasons than just a positive? Did they handle Contador’s case differently because of lessons they learnt there, or because he has never pissed anyone high ranking off?

  6. Alex Torres

    I think that most (if not every) top cyclist of the XXI century will be under suspicion for doping. Should be the same with other sports I guess. The closer a rider comes to the top of the podium, the darker may get the cloud. We´ll be always wondering about the who/when/what, and if a victory came clean. Not that it ever did, for riders have been using “something” for as long as there´s bicycle races. But today is a mess, thanks not only to doping but in great part to politics and corruption within the sport. Big money does that. My opinion.

  7. DrCodfish

    It’s the story of the Spanish Inquisition only we are relying on a high tech version of the rack to find the truth:

    “The story is really about everything that’s wrong with professional cycling. The truth is that some professional cyclists take prohibited drugs to improve their performances.”
    (Some people are charge with practicing witchcraft)

    “The system in place to stop them from doing that doesn’t work very well.” (Rack and torture until the truth is known)

    “The authorities charged with enforcing the rules are incompetent or complicit.”
    (Torturing people into telling the truth?)

    Yr Pal, DrC

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