Okay, let’s get something out there between us right away: Los Angeles and winter are as well acquainted Pat McQuaid and common sense. It’s not that one is hostile to the other, they’ve just never been introduced. It gets colder in Los Angeles during the months of December, January and February, but that doesn’t make it winter. Similarly, women race bicycles, but that doesn’t mean they deserve a minimum wage.
Wait … what?
Let’s move on. Winter. I’ve had this stuff for nearly a year. Why? Friends who had tried the Rapha Winter Embrocation told me is was spicy. Around these parts that’s code for “too much heat for the South Bay.” So I waited out our mild spring. And our unambitious summer. Even our tame fall.
I wasn’t presented an opportunity to even try this stuff until December. That was the first time temperatures dropped below 50 degrees. And this stuff proved to be warm. It did just the trick out on the road, keeping the legs both warm and shiny and smelling like a medicine cabinet from 1964. Heavy on the wintergreen with hints of lavender, cypress and juniper berry.
So how hot is this stuff? I’d give it a 6. It’s about the same as a Mad Alchemy medium, which is a good, all-pupose heat for most places that actually experience something like four seasons. The more I type, the more I destroy my own street cred. Step away from the keyboard, sir.
Frankly, all that stuff is just data. Here’s what makes the Winter Embrocation amazing. It’s a self-contained experience. Consider a time capsule in a cream. From the metal canister with the embossed screw top (which reminds me of the old metal film canisters from my youth) to the rich perfume, the embro evokes a bygone time. But that’s only part of the attraction of this concoction. While I respect that not everyone loves Rapha stuff (usually because it’s more expensive than a Fabergé egg), they do a remarkable job of conveying their obsession with cycling.
I couldn’t tell you the last time I saved packaging from something, but the box the embro arrived in is so cool I’ve been unable to throw it out so far. The pink seal on the box let’s you know unequivocally that you are beholding a Rapha product. But the seal bears a short note about Mont Ventoux, just as two of the four sides of the box are splashed with a photo of Mont Ventoux shot near the Simpson Memorial. On another side they reveal the connection of Mont Ventoux to the embro: The scent is taken from native flora in the area. All of the Rapha skincare products share this association with the flora of Provençe. You should try the soap. It’s like bathing in lavender itself.
Texture and consistency in embrocations doesn’t get discussed enough. I have to say that the consistency and feel of the Winter Embrocation is spot-on. It’s creamy enough to spread easily without having a watery feel. Unlike some embros, this one will travel well.
A 4.2 oz.tin goes for $27. While that’s a bit more expensive than some embrocations, it’s not so expensive as to continue to cultivate Rapha’s reputation as more expensive than everything else, save Assos. You can find out more here.
This seems to be the week of doping news. First, Armstrong’s investigation is dropped. Then Contador’s case is overturned and the rider is suspended and stripped of wins he accrued while apparently riding clean. Moments ago it was announced that Jeannie Longo Ciprelli’s home was the subject of a doping raid. And what will tomorrow bring? Well, the proverbial other shoe will finally drop in the Jan Ullrich case. Ullrich? Remember him?
Whether you believe Lance Armstrong raced on bread and water or was as supercharged as a Corvette, the case wound to a close with nothing like a conclusion. What we’re faced with is a succession of doping scandals with finishes that can’t be called resolutions. No matter whose side you’re on in any of these cases, you’re probably not happy with the outcome.
In any discussion of doping and cycling the conversation seems to take an inevitable turn. “What if there were no rules against doping?” It’s impossible to discuss the toping without something electing to remove the moral implications of cheating and just asking the obvious question of what the ramifications might be if we simply allowed professional cyclists to take oxygen-vector drugs, anabolic agents, amphetamines, pain killers and—holy cow—even cortisone.
It’s the ultimate parallel universe fantasy for cyclists. No ethical dilemmas. No charges of morally repugnant cheating, just a scenario in which the absolute fastest guy is the winner.
Allow me a brief digression if you will. While I consider myself an athlete and someone interested in many forms of physical fitness, body building has always creeped me out in the same way that shows on surgery do. I’m fascinated at some visceral level, but before I can examine anything truly interesting I get so grossed out I have to flip the channel.
Some years ago I found myself in the curious circumstance of dating someone who worked for a bodybuilder in his 60s. Yes, you read that right. Body builder. Sixties. He could have bench pressed me for an hour, maybe two. He, and his numerous friends, were “naturals.” No, don’t think hippy commune; he and his friends used no anabolic agents. And the funny thing was that they didn’t need testing to tell the difference. It was readily apparent in the physiques of competitors. The “naturals” didn’t have the crazily herniated muscles that seemed to bulge to the point of an unprotected astronaut’s head in outer space. Pop!
Here’s what surprised me, I found the physiques of the naturals interesting to behold. They had arguably done the same amount of work to get to the competition and for the guys in the open categories, you’d see someone rather Incredible Hulk looking alongside a guy who wouldn’t frighten children. It was a juxtaposition on the order of eagle and pterodactyl. Yep, both birds, but….
I could identify with the naturals at some elemental level. I suspect looking at the juiced up guys had the same effect on me that looking at kiddie porn would. It just felt wrong, not something I wanted to continue to gaze at.
Okay, with that out of the way, let me pose a scenario: Suppose that two different Tours de France were run in 2013. Let’s imagine that WADA folds and Pat McQuaid throws in the towel and allows the rise of a top-fuel category. On July 1 there are two different pelotons ready to roll. Both have adequate TV coverage ensured for the three weeks of the race.
And let’s pose yet another hypothetical: Suppose for an instant that you had time enough in your day to watch as much of both different races as you wanted. Say four hours or more.
Would you really watch all of both races? Or would you favor one over the other?
I know what I would watch.
Sure, I’d tune in to the top-fuel race. But I’d do it for the prologue, a couple of sprints and then the odd mountain stage. At a certain level it would be kind of like watching top-fuel dragsters. It’s cool at first, but after a while that straight track gets boring. I find grand prix and touring car racing much more interesting. And World Rally Championship? Whoo-ee! Put real-world challenges in a race and that has a big effect on my interest level.
So, I’d be glued to the natural race. I can identify with those guys. They are me with more talent and discipline. I understand the choices they’ve made. The guys in the natural race have a similar, if not the same, moral compass I do. That matters to me.
You see, I don’t think you can ever completely repeal the taint of doping. There will always be a threshold you’ll have to voluntarily cross. Some of those willing to cross it never saw it in the first place. To some, cheating is a semantic point, a distinction of no great import. Racing, after all, is about winning and losing. Right?
Let’s try this a different way: I couldn’t ride with a guy who was a bike thief. Similarly, someone who will do anything possible to be as fast as possible isn’t someone I understand. That inability to see how respecting a social contract is an important part of how a community derives strength by creating bonds between people means that he and I simply won’t connect. If that part of the social contract is meaningless, then what about the other bits? Is my car safe? Is he going to try to seduce my wife? Where does it end?
So those guys in the top-fuel division? I’ll never really understand that thinking and as a result, I’ll never really understand those riders. But understanding them isn’t even really the issue.
Drug testing, after all, was a response to a PR nightmare that makes the current flaps over Armstrong and Contador seem like spelling bee cheating. The major events that have led to overhauls in drug testing were deaths. No scandal is worse for the sport than a death. One need look back no further than the 2011 death of Wouter Weylandt at the Giro; there wasn’t a news outlet that didn’t cover the tragedy that day. Instantly, our non-cycling friends asked us why we participated in such a dangerous sport.
And that’s the rub. Any time an athlete dies—no matter the cause—sport is scrutinized. This isn’t specific to cycling. In a world where all doping is okay, rider deaths would surely increase. Given the blind eye and lip service Hein Verbruggen paid to the heart-attack deaths of Dutch cyclists in the early 1990s due to EPO, it’s unlikely the UCI would feel any great motivation to address the issue. That leaves the audience, teams and sponsors to deal with the fallout.
When you consider the devastation that a rider’s death plows in his family, his team and through the company personnel at each of his team’s sponsors, it wouldn’t take long before family, fans and sponsors would begin to cry out for an end to the deaths. But as we know from the studies performed by researcher Bob Goldman, more than 50 percent of Olympic athletes have said they would take a drug that would ensure they would win a gold medal—even if it was guaranteed to kill them within five years of taking it.
While we don’t know if you can transpose those results 100 percent to the pro peloton, it’s not unreasonable to surmise that if that drug was available something like half of our living Tour de France champions would be dead today.
Hannah Arendt wrote, “No punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes.” And if death is not a punishment, then nothing is. We can’t depend on the athletes to choose sanity, so we must do it for them.
It’s been a little more than a day since the International Court of Arbitration for Sport released its decision in the Contador case.
The big news is already out, mainly that Alberto Contador was found to be guilty of having violated Articles 21.1 and 21.2 of the UCI’s Anti-Doping Rules. That resulted in a two-year suspension, officially beginning on January 25, 2011 and, with credit applied for the time he served on provisional suspension, ending on August 5 of this year.
By finding that a violation occurred during the event, Contador was automatically stripped of his victory at the 2010 Tour de France. Furthermore, those results he acquired during the period now deemed to be part of his suspension would also be negated. Most notably, that means he is no longer the official winner of the 2011 Giro d’Italia.
Okay, all of that stuff we know, but a number of you raised questions about the decision, the defenses raised, the allegations made and the term of the suspension itself. Fortunately, the three-member CAS panel spelled out its reasoning quite carefully in a well-drafted opinion. I know that many of us don’t consider a 98-page legal document to be the height of recreational reading and it took me a while to sort through the thing myself. I was actually pretty impressed, though, by the work of the three attorneys on the panel, who may have taken a little more time than any of us would have liked, but did a thorough job in explaining their reasoning.
So, using the decision letter, the UCI’s Anti-Doping Rules and the WADA Code as guides, let’s tackle a few of the more common questions I’ve received over the last day or so. The questions that appear below may represent edited or merged questions I’ve received. Some have come from emails sent directly, via Twitter and Facebook and in the comments section below the original news story.
Is this some sort of “new math” CAS is using? It’s a two-year suspension and he spent all of last year racing. Still, he’s coming back in time for this year’s Vuelta. To me that looks like a six-month suspension.
It might be good to start by asking why Contador got to ride in 2011. Look at the cases involving Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton for purposes of contrast. Contador managed to put in a full season last year. Conversely, Hamilton and Landis did not compete during the entire process, including the wait for the appeal.
The biggest difference, of course, is that both Landis and Hamilton lost their cases in the first round, when the case was originally heard by the American Arbitration Association. Contador, whose case was originally heard by a doping panel, assembled by the Real Federación Española de Ciclismo (RFEC), actually won his case … at least in that first round.
Once the RFEC issued a decision in his favor, Contador was free to ride. He had been cleared of the charges and in the event of an appeal, the original ruling stands until its reversed by CAS. That’s the same reason why Landis and Hamilton were not able to ride. They had been found in violation of the rules and those decisions would stand, unless reversed on appeal.
Contador did accept a provisional suspension and did not compete once he was notified of the positive result from the 2010 Tour on August 26. The RFEC issued a ruling in Contador’s favor on February 14, 2011, at which point he was again free to ride. He had, therefore, already served a suspension of five months and 19 days. The UCI Anti-Doping Rules specifically state that time served under a provisional suspension is to be credited against any future penalty relating to the violation at issue.
Interestingly, the CAS panel noted that on January 25 of 2011 (keep that date at the back of your mind) the RFEC actually floated a “plea agreement” past Contador, which would have resulted in the negation of his 2010 Tour results and a one-year suspension. On February 7, 2011, he turned down that offer and the RFEC panel ruled in his favor a week later.
It wasn’t until March 24 that the UCI announced its intention to appeal the RFEC ruling to CAS. WADA filed notice of its plan to appeal five days later.
In imposing its penalty, the CAS panel ruled that Contador’s suspension officially began on January 25, 2011, the day the RFEC floated its initial plea deal to Contador. A two-year suspension would carry through to January 25, 2013, but then the rules call for him to be credited with time served, so he is once again eligible to ride on August 5 of this year.
Contador’s attorneys did argue that it would be “unfair” to negate any results he achieved between the time of the RFEC ruling and the CAS decision, but the panel disagreed. Among the cases the attorneys cited was that of Alejandro Valverde, some of whose results earned prior to the full adjudication of his case were left intact.
It’s worth noting here that CAS issued its ruling in the Valverde case in May of 2010. It imposed a two-year suspension, back-dating it to January of 2010. By doing so, Valverde’s results earned between January and May were in fact erased from the record books. By that standard, the CAS panel said that it would be inappropriate to impose a sanction that begins in January of 2011 and then leave intact the results Contador earned after that date.
So, confusing as it might seem, the CAS panel did carefully work its way through the whole process and imposed what it found to be a fair penalty.
Why did this all take so long?
I’ve read in your column and others that there is no acceptable level of clenbuterol and that it’s a simple strict liability offense. It was there. Contador didn’t dispute the test result, but tried to explain it away. What was so complicated that made this thing take almost two years?
True. It’s been 19 months since Alberto Contador tested positive for minute traces of Clenbuterol and it was only yesterday that CAS issued a final decision in the case. In Hamilton and Landis, the process took even longer.
The author of the adage that “the wheels of justice grind slowly,” could have had the whole WADA system in mind when he penned that one. Look at some of the most high-profile doping cases in cycling to get a feel for it if you have your doubts. Hamilton, Landis, Valverde, Ullrich … they all took years to resolve. Even if they had been successful in their appeals, their careers had effectively been on hold for a period almost as long as their original suspensions.
While the rules may appear to be simple, that isn’t always the case. I guess the best way to describe the problem is that in doping cases, sometimes strict liability isn’t actually so strict.
Generally speaking, a strict liability offense is one in which the prosecution need not prove the element of intent.
Since I just handled a case involving a defendant charged with possession of a controlled substance, let’s look at the law my client was alleged to have violated:
It is unlawful for any person within the city limits knowingly or intentionally to possess a controlled substance unless the substance was ….
Do you see that those two key words in there? “Knowingly” or “intentionally?” In order to convict my client, the prosecution would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that my client actually knew he had the controlled substance in his possession. (Admittedly, in most cases, that’s not a huge burden for the prosecution.)
Conversely, there is no intent element when it comes to speeding. If you get pulled over for going 40 in a school zone, the cop, the prosecutor and the courts don’t give a rat’s rear if you knew you were speeding or if you knew it was a school zone. You were operating the vehicle and the vehicle was going faster than the posted speed limit. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. That is strict liability in its purest form.
Now, CAS has in the past offered a little wiggle room in these strict liability cases. In a sense, that wiggle room gives the athlete the opportunity to put forward an explanation that would show him to be a completely innocent victim of circumstance. It means that the athlete has the chance to raise an “affirmative defense.” That does, however, shift the burden of proof over to the defendant.
Take for example the case of table tennis player Dimitrij Ovtcharov. He played an event in China and, soon after, tested positive for clenbuterol. In his defense, he offered evidence that, although illegal, clenbuterol is still widely used in China and that he was very likely exposed through food he consumed on that trip. The German Table Tennis Federation ruled in his favor, the international governing body did not appeal and he was free to go.
While those really-good-explanation defenses might be considered, the CAS takes a really narrow view of them. There have been several cases in which riders have accidentally ingested banned substances by consuming contaminated food supplements.
For example, in USADA v. Moninger, USADA v. Neben and USADA v. Oliveira, athletes were able to show that they consumed contaminated supplements, but hearing and appeals panels still cited Article 21.1-(1)(1) of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, which states:
It is each Rider’s personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters his body. Riders are responsible for any Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers found to be present in their bodily Specimens. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing Use on the Rider’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an antidoping violation under article 21.1.
In those cases, the explanation served only as a mitigating factor – information that prompted the court to reduce the penalty due to the absence of intent.
But Contador was going for full exoneration and was offering his own version of the Ovtcharov defense. To do that he had to present evidence to support the claim. In a heavily regulated market like that in Europe, providing that evidence might be harder than it would be were one to raise that same claim when referring to the unfettered market in that bastion of unregulated free-enterprise, known as “China.”
While the sample in question was provided on July 20, 2010, it wasn’t until November 8, that the UCI formally asked the RFEC to begin disciplinary proceedings. That actually moved pretty quickly and, as I mentioned before, the decision was released in February.
It then took another six weeks or so before the UCI and WADA decided whether to appeal the RFEC ruling. When they did appeal, they raised a number of peripheral issues, including the blood transfusion theory and the whole “plasticizer” question.
That added a whole new complexity to the case and there were a number of extensions and continuances granted as both sides sought to sort through some fairly complicated evidence. Then, as frustrated cycling fans know, the CAS panel took its own sweet time in issuing a decision. Again, the panel said, it was due to the complexity of the issues presented … even though they then disregarded the most complex charges and defense and came up with their own theory (see below).
It took time, but because of the complexity of some of the issues, it actually moved along reasonably well … at least in terms of how lawyers might view it. When you’re looking at it from an athlete’s perspective – and a finite window of opportunity to have a career—this process is painfully slow.
Was it the plastic?
What’s your take on the whole plasticizer question? I thought it was interesting and am wondering if that might have tipped the balance for CAS.
I do not think the transfusion/plasticizer issue did anything but complicate and delay the process. A careful reading of the decision letter shows that the CAS panel actually spent a great deal of time considering the UCI/WADA allegation that the trace amounts of clenbuterol were the result of a transfusion.
They ruled that the evidence did not support the allegation that Contador had transfused the day before his July 21st blood sample was taken.
In the absence of a specific WADA rule or substantial peer-reviewed studies regarding what levels of plasticizers one might expect to see in a normal blood sample, the CAS panel wisely reviewed Contador’s biological passport data instead and found no evidence that he had transfused.
Interestingly, too, was the introduction of polygraph evidence that purportedly showed that Contador was not lying when he denied that claim.
In order to corroborate his assertion that he did not undergo a blood transfusion of any kind at the relevant time, the Athlete voluntarily underwent a polygraph examination on 3 May 2011. In doing so, Mr. Contador was asked and answered two series of question(s) ….
The results of the polygraph test were clear according to Dr. Louis Rovner, the specialist who administered the exam. His results were shared with an outside expert, who agreed with the conclusions and reported to the CAS panel that “After a complete review of all of the materials supplied, and both a semi-objective and objective assessment of the recorded physiological data, I concur with with Dr. Rovner’s findings that Alberto Contador was truthful when he responded to the relevant questions asked in each of his … examinations.”
The CAS panel reviewed the UCI/WADA allegations and pretty much lumped them in with Contador’s tainted beef defense, concluding that both claims lacked sufficient evidence to warrant consideration.
Oddly enough, the panel then went on to bring up the question of contaminated food supplements, despite the fact that neither Contador, the UCI nor WADA raise the issue.
In what has to be the weakest line of reasoning in the entire letter, the CAS panel posits its own contamination theory, even though a strict interpretation of the rules doesn’t require one. Then going even further out on a limb, the panel concludes that it was the most likely means by which Contador was exposed.
AC is stripped of titles. Does he have to give back the money? Since typically the money is distributed amongst the team, I like to picture AC going up to a masseur, to whom the TdF money represented a pretty significant bonus, and begging for the cash back.
While tradition dictates that prize money is distributed among a grand tour winner’s teammates and support staff, the money is awarded to the rider himself.
The CAS ruling makes Contador responsible for returning those monies. It doesn’t matter if he spent that money in accordance with tradition or bought a Ferrari. He’s the one who has to pay it back. Perhaps his staff and teammates might feel a moral obligation to help him out, but they certainly have no legal obligation.
The Explainer is now a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer. If you have a question related to the sport of cycling, doping or the legal issues faced by cyclists of all stripes, feel free to send it directly to The Explainer at Charles@Pelkey.com. PLEASE NOTE: Understand that reading the information contained here does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Charles Pelkey. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained therein without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
The wind beneath my wings
We all remember when we were kids discovering the joys of riding a bicycle. Sometimes, with friends, we’d whistle a tune or sing songs as we pedaled along. Later, when I got into racing, I found that music was a helpful ally. In a race called The Circuit of Glyndebourne, held on a rolling course through the Sussex countryside on a bright spring day, I found myself humming The Four Seasons hit, “Rag Doll.” I began pushing my pedals to the tune’s metronomic beat, which continued to pound through my head as I went on a solo break. I was pumped, and I barely felt the pain that I should have been feeling.
Music has always played a big role in European bike racing. When I first saw the Tour de France, in 1963, I was watching from a hillside in Normandy when the leading vehicle in the publicity caravan arrived. It was a box-like Peugeot van, and sitting on the roof was the iconic French accordionist, Yvette Horner, playing romantic melodies for spectators at their picnic tables — Paris café music at its best. To this Englishman, it was all so appealingly French!
Horner played her accordion at the Tour for more than a dozen years; she also presented the yellow jersey at most of the finishes before performing at evening concerts in the stage towns. I was reminded of her a few years ago at a Tour stage in the Massif Central when we watched an outdoor screening of “Les Triplettes de Belleville,” the quirky animated film that features a 1950s’ Tour and accordion music by Roberte Rivette, a Horner caricature.
Today, the Tour’s publicity caravan is filled with piped pop music and disco dancers, while the brass band that performs on one of the custom floats is not actually using its trombones and trumpets — they’re just lip-synching. But a real oom-pah band does come from the Netherlands every year, jazzing the crowds at places like Dutch Corner on L’Alpe d’Huez. That band, made up of true cycling fans, also travels to events like the road and cyclocross world championships, where they help establish the party atmosphere that plays such a defining role in this sport.
In the 1970s and ’80s, opera was an integral part of cycling in Italy. RAI television used to open its Giro d’Italia coverage with an inspirational aria, perhaps Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s “Turandot,” while showing sepia scenes of Coppi and Bartali battling over cloud-covered mountains. And the Italian version of Radio Tour would play classical music for long stretches of races when there was no real action. During quieter moments of the Tour, one of my press-car colleagues, a passionate Catalan journalist from Barcelona, Miguel Utrillo, would entertain us with his own operatic outbursts, his favorite being a made-up song about a Pyrenean stage town: “Oooo-ooh, Saint Lary!”
Another indelible memory is Sean Kelly’s phenomenal time trial between his hometown of Carrick-on-Suir and Clonmel that won him the 1985 Nissan Classic; the video of his record-setting ride was later set to the hit song “Wind Beneath My Wings,” sung by Sheena Easton. The lyrics well described how the Irish regarded their Sean: “Did you ever know that you’re my hero … I could fly higher than an eagle, ’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.”
There’s also something truly uplifting about the dramatic fanfare-style refrain played before every single presentation at the Tour de France, bringing pomp and dignity to those jersey-awarding ceremonies. But the Tour’s most stirring moments come in Paris, when a military band regularly plays the winner’s national anthem.
After listening mostly to “La Marseillaise” or “La Brabançonne” through the late-1960s, ’70s and early-’80s, it was emotionally moving to hear “The Star-Spangled Banner” ring out for the first time in 1986, with Greg LeMond on the top step of the podium. Ironically, there have been no more French or Belgian winners since then, replaced by 10 victories for both the Americans and Spanish, and single breakthroughs for Ireland, Denmark, Germany and Italy. And then, last year for Cadel Evans, we heard the first rendition of “Advance Australia Fair”, unusually and joyfully performed by Aussie singing star Tina Arena.
What does the near-future hold? Maybe Andy Schleck will rightfully bring us Luxembourg’s “Ons Heemecht” for the first time since his countryman Charly Gaul won the Tour in 1958. Or perhaps there will be the first-ever win for a rider from eastern Europe, Africa, Asia or South America. I know that my personal collection won’t be complete until I hear the noble strains of Britain’s national anthem, “God Save The Queen,” echoing off the cobblestones of the Champs-Élysées.
Did anyone say Bradley Wiggins?
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Images: John Pierce, Photosport International
Nearly 19 months after his rest-day urine sample showed trace amounts of the banned bronchodilator clenbuterol, the International Court of Arbitration for Sport has stripped Alberto Contador of his titles at the 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d’Italia and suspended him until August of this year.
In a 98-page decision issued on Monday, a three-member CAS panel ruled in favor of an appeal from the UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency challenging last year’s ruling by the Spanish Cycling Federation that Contador had accidentally ingested contaminated beef during a dinner in Pau, France.
The panel found no factual basis in Contador’s claim that the low levels of clenbuterol in his urine and subsequent blood samples were the result of the illegal use of clenbuterol by Spanish cattle producers. Conversely, the panel did not accept the Appellants’ claim that the presence of plasticizers in Contador’s blood was an indication that he had been engaged in blood doping, using blood stored from earlier in the season when he could have been using clenbuterol for its performance-enhancing qualities.
“Mr. Contador did not prove but should prove that he did ingest the specific meat he refers to for the meat contamination and that such meat contained the banned substance,” the panel noted. “In this respect, the UCI refers to reports concerning to the specific meat Mr. Contador considers as contaminated, which concluded that no contamination with clenbuterol is involved.”
Based on those findings, the panel reversed a February 14, 2011, ruling by the Spanish Cycling Federation that had cleared Contador and ruled in favor of challenges subsequently filed by the UCI and WADA.
Crediting Contador with time served during a provisional suspension, his two-year ban from the sport officially began on January 25, 2011. The suspension will total two years, but with credit applied for the time he served in the months immediately after he received notice of the test, he will be eligible to ride on August 5 of this year, meaning he could opt to compete in this year’s Vuelta. The decision means that Contador’s win at the 2010 Tour de France has been negated, giving the victory to Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck.
For his part, Schleck said he had no reason to celebrate.
“There is no reason to be happy now”, commented Schleck in a release issued by his team. “First of all I feel sad for Alberto. I always believed in his innocence. This is just a very sad day for cycling. The only positive news is that there is a verdict after 566 days of uncertainty. We can finally move on.”
“I trust that the CAS judges took all things into consideration after reading a 4,000 page file. If now I am declared overall winner of the 2010 Tour de France it will not make me happy. I battled with Contador in that race and I lost. My goal is to win the Tour de France in a sportive way, being the best of all competitors, not in court. If I succeed this year, I will consider it as my first Tour victory.”
Contador will also be stripped of any results and prizes he earned after the January 25, 2011, suspension went into effect, including his apparent victory in the 2011 Giro d’Italia. Michele Scarponi, who finished second in last year’s Giro, will be named the official winner of that race.
Contador, who has been competing in the annual Majorca Challenge, has not issued a statement in response to Monday’s CAS ruling. In the past, the 29-year-old Spanish cycling star has suggested that he might retire if he loses the case. Contador’s brother and manager, Fran Contador, told reporters on Monday that the rider has no plans to retire and will serve out his suspension and be ready to compete later this year. The route for the 2012 Vuelta features an exceptionally mountainous profile and some have suggested that it was designed with Contador’s talents in mind.
Alberto Contador and Saxo Bank general manager, Bjarne Riis, have scheduled a Tuesday press conference to discuss the ruling and the rider’s future plans.
The decision noted that the same panel will issue a separate ruling on a UCI request that it be allowed to fine Contador at least 2,485,000 euros in the case.
Someday Lance Armstrong’s story will be told on the big screen. It’s too juicy a tale not to be developed into movie candy. It’s got all the stuff Hollywood loves: There’s the fame, greatest-ever success, hard-driving type-A character, the underprivileged youth and the transformation from brash upstart to seasoned professional by the ultimate proving ground: Cancer. And after escaping the jaws of death—literally—he then cheats career death by being exonerated at the end of a federal investigation. Remember, this is Hollywood, where the facts are as flexible as the colors on a painter’s canvas.
Here’s the thing: When the day comes that someone is asked to write a treatment of the story, they can’t do it straight. Or at least, they shouldn’t do it straight. Because Armstrong’s story is writ large, like puff-of-smoke skywriter large, for the story to capture the truly epic triumphs and tragedies of his life, it must be set as a Greek tragedy.
Naturally, the primary overlay would be with Oedipus. Rejected by his father at birth because the Oracle at Delphi told him that any son would kill him, Oedipus was adopted by Polybus, the king of Corinth. Armstrong’s birth name was Gunderson, you may recall. While still a young man, Oedipus learns from a drunk that he isn’t the son of Polybus and Merope; rather, he was adopted by them. In consulting the Oracle at Delphi all he learns is that he is destined to kill his father.
Like all proper Greek characters, Oedipus believes he can escape his destiny. He mistakenly believes that what the Oracle has told him is that he is destined to kill Polybus and marry Merope. So he sets out for Thebes. Here Hollywood frames young Armstrong’s journey to Thebes as his development first as a triathlete, then as Olympic cyclist, then as pro. Armstrong’s victory in the World Championship road race is the vanquishing of Oedipus’ father, King Laius. Even without knowing, he begins to fulfill the prophecy.
We then shift gears to the myth of Prometheus and the April day in 1994 when three Gewiss riders swept the podium at Fleche Wallonne. Armstrong is said to have been fourth in line when the three Gewiss riders pulled away from the storming peloton. That humbling, followed by Michele Ferrari’s notorious post-race statement about EPO not being dangerous sets the stage for Armstrong’s 1996 victory at Fleche Wallonne. Armstrong has been accused of adopting the European method of training in that he worked with Ferrari. The overlay here is that he, like Prometheus, stole fire, in adopting their methods and winning a classic.
Naturally, such a feat couldn’t go without punishment. Testicular cancer replaces the rock to which Prometheus is chained. And his liver that regenerates each night after being pecked out during the day by an eagle? Chemotherapy. But our hero, like Prometheus, is immortal and doesn’t die while enduring a punishment that would kill any mortal. Recall that Armstrong’s chances for survival were less than 10 percent.
Now we shift back to Oedipus. In his journey to Thebes, after unknowingly taking a step toward his destiny by vanquishing his father at a crossroads, Oedipus encounters the Sphinx. Bear in mind the Sphinx asks a riddle no one has answered correctly. Ever. Sound anything like winning seven Tours de France? The Sphinx is so stunned by Oedipus’ correct answer—mon dieu!—that it throws itself into the sea, where it dies.
Does that remind anyone of the emotional tenor of the response ASO and all of France had to Armstrong’s 2005 win? Let’s call it hand-wringing of mythic proportions.
It is at this point that Oedipus consummates the act for which we still know his name in its adjectival form—Oedipal—when he marries his mother. Much has been made of the similarity in appearance to his mother of Armstrong’s various romantic attachments. Ahem.
Now, the way the myth goes, Thebes endures a period of extended infertility. Sound familiar? Of course, Armstrong’s life takes an odd turn in that his infertility ends. But for many years, he, like the city of Thebes, endured a barren, uh, land. There’s another way to read this, of course. The field in question is the field of competition. His lack of wins due to being out of competition is the fallow field.
What Oedipus doesn’t understand is that he is the cause of infertility. The unavenged death of King Laius is the source of the city’s pestilence. And it is here that our hero’s travails take an eerie turn. Oedipus, in a move that can only be described as hubris, decides he is going to solve the infertility problem. In his quest to learn its cause he finds out that he did, in fact, kill his father. That he did marry his mother. Jocasta, his wife/mother, by some accounts, kills herself. And by some accounts Oedipus is blinded, either at his own hand (isn’t that rich!) or by a surviving servant of King Laius.
The import here is that in fulfilling his destiny Oedipus also exceeded it. Thebes was destined to suffer because he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. It can be said Armstrong was destined to return to competition because he was destined to miss it. He was destined to be concerned for his legacy with the rise of Alberto Contador. That he believed he might improve on his legacy was Armstrong’s hubris. He had to return and in that he had to fail. Had Armstrong never returned to competition it seems probable Landis would never have felt a need to open his mouth. In the myth, Oedipus’ blindness is both literal and metaphoric. Hubris is characterized as behavior that is tone-deaf to the events around the person. Anyone reading Lance Armstrong’s Twitter feed for the last two years can be forgiven for thinking that he’d never heard the name Jeff Novitzky. One of the qualities of hubris is to be out of touch with reality.
Ultimately, the hubris sufferer falls from grace. For challenging the gods the protagonist is humiliated. Before the cycling world knew the name Novitzky, Armstrong’s reputation among most cyclists was sterling. The difference is that the investigation that was sparked by him coming out of retirement has caused many of the cyclists who were his most ardent fans to conclude he was doping as he competed. The cycling world has turned on him, and in that blind Oedipus’ fate of being led through Greece by his daughter, Antigone, rings a note of truth.
Painting: Oedipus et Sphinx by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Now that federal prosecutors have dropped the grand jury investigation of Lance Armstrong, what becomes of all the evidence? Will it/can it ever be made public? Certainly, there is some interesting stuff in there, even if it didn’t support prosecutors’ calculations for a trial.
I have to admit that it was an interesting – and somewhat unexpected – news item that popped up my screen yesterday.
The office of André Birotte, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, issued a terse statement noting that he had “determined that a public announcement concerning the closing of the investigation was warranted by numerous reports about the investigation in media outlets around the world.”
Beyond that, Birotte’s office remained tight-lipped. A nearly two-year grand jury investigation is over and it appears that we’ll be hearing very little of what was found over the course of that effort.
Normally, the work of a grand jury is shrouded in secrecy, but Birotte was correct in noting that there had been considerable coverage of the case and it was only fair to announce that it had not resulted in a criminal prosecution. Still, it raises questions.
I have to admit that I was more than a little surprised by this one. I honestly expected at least something to come of a nearly two-year investigation. That said, I wasn’t privy to what was going on in the grand jury and the subject of the investigation had his own take on my speculative essays from the past (see photo at right).
Sources close to the investigation say that the decision came as a surprise to many of them, too. The case was being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Doug Miller and Mark Williams, with the help of FDA Criminal Division investigator Jeff Novitzky. The U.S. Attorney’s office did not indicate who decided to end the investigation, whether it was based on a lack of evidence, whether there were strategic problems with pursuing an indictment or whether pressure came to bear from outside the Central District. Indeed, the Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Novitzky and other investigators were informed of the decision only about 30 minutes before the press release was issued. Somehow, I think we’re going to hear a bit more about what went into this decision. I remain curious.
That big hurdle
While many have hailed the end of the investigation as a sign that Armstrong has been “cleared” of doping allegations, it may have just come down to other issues. Again, while the grand jury’s work was secret, there were indications that much of the investigation was focused on allegations of financial crimes, starting with the U.S. Postal Service’s sponsorship of Armstrong’s first Tour de France-winning team.
News reports from a year ago also indicated that U.S. investigators were making considerable progress as they worked with their counterparts in France and Italy to examine a complex web of financial transactions involving physician Michele Ferrari and a number of high-profile cyclists.
Right off the bat, though, pursuit of any charges stemming from those transactions would run up against both jurisdictional problems and questions of whether prosecutors could get past the federal statute of limitations.
Much of what was being investigated involved acts that occurred as many as 13 years ago. Any crime involving the fraudulent use of federal funds derived from the Postal sponsorship, for example, would have occurred prior to the 2004 expiration of that sponsorship. Meanwhile, federal law (18 U.S.C. Section 3282) pretty much limits prosecutions for most crimes to a five-year period prior to the issuance of an indictment.
One approach that might have gotten past that hurdle was for prosecutors to rely on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), (18, U.S.C. Sections 1961-1968), the statute designed to give prosecutors more options in pursuit of a larger criminal conspiracy. When it was passed in 1970, it was intended to be used in “Mafia” prosecutions, but it’s since been used in cases involving a wide variety of financial crimes.
Under RICO the statute of limitations might — under a very narrow set of circumstances — be extended to 10 years. But somewhere along the way, someone determined that there wasn’t a winnable case.
As you might imagine, a team of lawyers, federal investigators and a grand jury would generate a ton of paper over the course of a two-year investigation. And as you said, Doug, it’s likely that “there is some interesting stuff in there.” I am the first to admit that I would give my right … errr … uhhh … arm to spend a few weeks sorting through that mountain of paper. It ain’t gonna happen, folks.
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure govern the work of federal grand juries. Rule 6 outlines a very narrow set of circumstances under which the results of a grand jury investigation might be shared. The only way that it would be shared with the public is if there had been an indictment. Then the charging document would have outlined the basis for a charge.
Now, the work of the grand jury will be available only to other federal authorities in the course of their work. There is no indication that there are other federal investigations under way. As far as we know, that side of the case is pretty much over and Mr. Armstrong has most certainly breathed a sigh of relief — if for no other reason than that he has now been spared the stress and expense of defending himself against a serious criminal charge.
What about the dope?
Okay, so despite the shroud of secrecy, there have been media reports about some of the testimony presented in this case. If you scan the aforementioned Rule 6, you will notice that the rules limit the obligation of secrecy to those directly involved in the grand jury or the investigation.
What that means is that witnesses, for example, are free to talk about their testimony. The most obvious examples have been the public interviews offered by Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton after they offered testimony alleging doping on U.S. Postal. Hamilton even made an appearance on CBS’ “60 Minutes” program to discuss his testimony.
Others have testified and some elements of that testimony have been leaked to the public. In this case, “the public” is composed of all of us: reporters, cycling fans, the curious … and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Indeed, USADA’s chief executive officer, Travis Tygart, issued his own statement on Friday, noting: “Unlike the U.S. Attorney, USADA’s job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws. Our investigation into doping in the sport of cycling is continuing and we look forward to obtaining the information developed during the federal investigation.”
As I mentioned, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure do provide for exceptions to the secrecy provisions. The rules under 6(e)(3) outline the circumstances in which the work of a grand jury may be disclosed to certain other entities. Mostly, those are to other federal attorneys, but it can be shared with state and foreign courts under limited circumstances.
Tygart’s comment would almost seem to suggest that he believes that a USADA investigation may fall under the provisions of Rule 6 and might allow some of the evidence acquired by the grand jury to be shared with his agency. We’ll see. I would expect to see a fight on that one. A strict interpretation of the the rules pretty much limit access to:
(i) an attorney for the government for use in performing that attorney’s duty;
(ii) any government personnel—including those of a state, state subdivision, Indian tribe, or foreign government—that an attorney for the government considers necessary to assist in performing that attorney’s duty to enforce federal criminal law;
I can’t imagine, though, that Tygart and USADA would try to make a claim that it does qualify as a “state actor” since that would open up a whole other can of worms when it comes to future doping cases. There are, however, obligations under the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport, the 2005 treaty to which the U.S. is a signator. The treaty encourages officials to share relevant evidence with anti-doping authorities. Furthermore there is considerable evidence in this case that had not yet been presented to the grand jury. Some of that could be shared as part of the government’s duty under the treaty or under any cooperative agreements various agencies have with USADA.
If it appears that investigators are prepared to share some of that information, though, we can expect a fight to erupt as attorneys representing Armstrong and others seek to prevent any evidence from the case from being handed over to USADA.
You might also keep in mind, however, that Tygart may already have a fair share of evidence acquired outside of the grand jury process. There were early indications that Tygart was involved in working with Novitzky in this case. Last year, Associated Press reporters spotted Novitzky in France on a trip that involved a visit to Interpol headquarters in Lyon. Tygart was also there. One must assume that the USADA CEO has seen at least some of the evidence in this case.
Would the SOL mean USADA’s SOL?
But again, any USADA investigation of Armstrong would involve allegations against a now-retired rider. Armstrong’s last Tour win came in 2005. Most of the allegations raised in the grand jury investigation — at least those disclosed to the public — go back even further than that.
Under the World Anti-Doping Agency Code, a national anti-doping agency has eight years in which to bring a case against an alleged violator. So that would involve the 2005 win … and maybe 2004. But there are five others that would remain unaffected, right?
But wait …
Interestingly enough, USADA only recently won a case that imposes sanctions for violations that occurred well beyond that eight-year-window.
In a decision issued just last week by the American Arbitration Association, former Olympic marathoner Eddy Hellebuyck was sanctioned for violations that occurred more than 10 years ago.
It is an interesting decision and one based largely on the fact that the AAA panel determined that Hellebuyck had not testified truthfully at an earlier hearing. Of course, making that determination was simplified by Hellebuyck’s public admission that he had been using EPO as far back as 2001. That stood in contrast with testimony he had offered in a hearing in December 2004 after testing positive for EPO earlier that year.
In its 2012 decision, the AAA ruled that the athlete’s active efforts to cover up past use – specifically in this case his perjured testimony at his first hearing – meant that the statute of limitations didn’t apply. The panel acknowledged that it was venturing into new territory, and, if Hellebuyck cares to appeal, it will certainly be subject to review by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Either way, based on the decision in Hellebuyck, we may see Tygart and USADA go full bore into an investigation of Armstrong and others. If that’s the case, USADA and WADA have their own rules regarding disclosure of an ongoing investigation. Again, it wouldn’t be until a case is actually filed before you might see some of the evidence presented in that matter.
The bummer about WADA rules is that whatever “trial” takes place would be behind closed doors. Of course the respondent has the option of requesting a public hearing, but you saw how well that went last time a big-named athlete went that route.
In other words, it could be some time before any of us see any evidence in this case … if ever. I know a lot of you are tired of the whole thing and the past-is-past argument is gaining traction in some circles.
Me? I’m just interested in watching how all of this unfolds. I’m not betting on the outcome, but I remain intrigued. I guess it’s like watching a train wreck. It’s hard to turn your head once you see what’s going on in front of you.
The Explainer is now a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer. If you have a question related to the sport of cycling, doping or the legal issues faced by cyclists of all stripes, feel free to send it directly to The Explainer at Charles@Pelkey.com. PLEASE NOTE: Understand that reading the information contained here does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Charles Pelkey. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained therein without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
Earlier this week I received an invitation to attend the North American launch of the new Campagnolo EPS system. I doubt Campagnolo has introduced anything that has ever been as eagerly awaited as this group. And with good reason; we’ve known that the heralded component maker has been working on this for ages. The’ve had more than adequate time to build interest.
Now let me say that I first heard about Campagnolo working on electronic shifting back in 2002. By that time, apparently, the prototyping on this group was old news. What I found out during the presentation was that they’ve been working on electronic shifting since the days of the first 8-speed Ergo levers. How was that not more widely known? I’m sure some Campyfiles must have known, but I hadn’t heard a word about it in the ’90s.
So why did it take so incredibly long to bring the group to market? Campagnolo was limited by the electronics technology available at the time. They literally (and I do mean literally) had to wait for the technology to be developed that would allow them to implement a design that was small enough, light enough, robust enough and smart enough to get the job done.
Before I dive too deep, a note on the nomenclature: EPS stands for Electronic Power Shift. Nice and straightforward.
I had the chance to look at it up close and to ride a bike with it on a trainer. My overwhelming reaction to it is one of sophistication. Shimano’s Di2 has not been without its criticisms. The group is heavier than mechanical Dura-Ace and reports circulated the riders using the group at the cobbled classics experienced bump-induced shifting. EPS feels like shifting; there’s actual lever movement and in that I believe Campagnolo got the single most important element of electronic shifting right. You feel like you’re using bike components. Further, the Super Record and Record EPS groups are lighter than Di2. Record weighs in at 2098 grams Super Record tips the scale a bit less at only 1875g.
The touch is light and the speed of the shifts is noticeable, but it’s not blink-your-eye quick. And if you’re anything like me and completely in love with the shape of the current Ergo lever, you’ll appreciate that this is exactly the same as the mechanical levers, though the texture of the hoods is a bit different.
Battery life is impressive. Last year the Movistar team used the groups and we were told they charged the group’s power units only three times through the whole of the season. The case itself is pretty impressive. It’s ultrasonically welded shut to keep the elements out and the electronics are cushioned from road vibration to increase their life span and reduce the chance that impacts will damage a component.
One interesting detail we learned about the group is that while you can downshift three cogs at a time and upshift five cogs at a time with mechanical groups, you can cycle all 11 cogs in either direction with EPS. Cooler still, we were told it takes only 1.5 seconds to shift through all 11 cogs.
When Campagnolo North America’s Tom Kattus invoked the name Syncro during the presentation, I admit I nearly fell out of my chair. For those who don’t recall, Campagnolo’s first effort at indexed shifting required a slight overshift before the lever settled into position. To say it was wonky would be diplomatic. That idea has been revisited with EPS—the front derailleur does an overshift automatically on upshifts. The idea is that if you combine a 40 percent increase in torque with a slight overshift you’ll get perfect shifting every shift, but you’ll also get a speedier shift, too. It makes sense when you think about it. Move the chain over just that much more and it will catch that much sooner.
The EPS Interface mounts easily on the stem, making adjustment easier to do on the fly (should you actually need to make an adjustment while riding) as well as making it easier for you to monitor battery charge from the saddle. It’s unlikely that battery charge will be a big concern when you’re out on rides, but should you start a long ride with a relatively low battery level, you will know where you stand thanks to the LED light on the left of the unit. It features five levels (bright green, blinking green, yellow, red and blinking red with a buzzer) that correspond to relative battery level.
I’ve been critical in the past of how much carbon fiber Campagnolo uses in its groups. My feeling has been that in some cases while the carbon fiber makes the component lighter, it also makes it unnecessarily fragile. The derailleurs have been my two big criticisms. That said, I’m fascinated with the way carbon fiber has been used in the bodies of these derailleurs and I don’t suppose they’ve gotten any more fragile than they were. I look forward to learning more about their manufacturing. What I really can’t wait for is a chance to ride this stuff.
As teams at the fringes of the ProTour struggle to find and keep sponsors, a few super teams have risen to the top of the sport. BMC, Team Sky and RadioShack-Nissan have thrown their large budgets at cadres of the best riders, and conventional wisdom suggests these are the teams who will be vying for the lion’s share of the podium spots in the year’s biggest races.
But things seldom go to script in top level racing. Despite the financial clout wielded by the super teams, talented racers from other squads will certainly muscle their way into the spotlight.
For example, BMC have Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd for the Spring Classics. Fabian Cancellara rides for RadioShack-Nissan. Those three riders will go on every favorite’s list for each of the big spring flings. But OmegaPharma-Quickstep believe their one-two punch of Tom Boonen and Sylvain Chavanel can pull off big results, surrounded as they are by northern European strong men.
No conclusion is forgone, unless of course the Schlecks are involved in a two-up sprint against my grandmother, in which case grammy is going to need some help shaking up that magnum of champagne.
All kidding aside, there are dark horses that aren’t so dark. Who are they?
It would be ridiculous to call Alberto Contador a dark horse, but, assuming he’s not suspended, he’s the prohibitive favorite to win the Tour de France this summer. BMC’s Cadel Evans, RS-N’s Schleck brothers and Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins will have their work more than cut out for them, and that is pro cycling’s top prize.
If Boonen were to take either Paris-Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders, or as last year, Garmin-Baracuda were to pull of the tactical coup they executed at Roubaix last season, that would take another shiny bauble off the table.
Mark Cavendish will be the favorite for Milan-San Remo glory, but does anyone think Matt Goss and Greenedge won’t be there to contest? This week’s Group Ride asks: Who are the riders who will ruin the party for the super teams? Who are the dark horses? And where will they win?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Earlier this winter we ran across the work of Australian photographer Liisa Heint. The Sydney-based shooter is known for her sports photography, having snapped everything from equestrian events to surfing and plenty of cycling. We suggested she pick a subject and run with it. You never know what you’ll get when you give a creative that kind of freedom, but what we got from her was as gorgeous as it was surprising.