Contador, Criteriums, and Clenbuterol

Oct 22 2010

Tyler HamiltonLet’s see…suspended rider to participate in unsanctioned criterium. Why does that sound familiar?

Ah yes—the Tyler Hamilton case. I wish I could tell you more about it, but the massive number of dead links from this otherwise excellent summary article is clouding my memory. Am I the only cycling site on the Internet that knows how to write a 404 page and rock a little .htaccess magic?

Anyway, my understanding of the events surrounding the Stazio crits is that the UCI threatened to suspend clean riders for attending under a rarely-enforced regulation that prevents license-holders from racing at unsanctioned events.

My reaction at the time came down pretty heavily against USA Cycling—whose subservience had nothing do to with an alleged cover-up of another American’s positive test, I’m sure—but in hindsight, the UCI was probably equally out of line for enforcing a rule that would bankrupt many European riders.

But with Contador’s plan to race in Spain this November, it seems the shoe’s on the other side of the Atlantic. Following another high-profile setback on the enforcement of its biological passport program, the UCI should be feeling the pressure to at least appear to be serious about enforcing its rules.

Their treatment of the Contador case has been roundly assailed for its sloth and opacity, and in the past Pat McQuaid has appeared more than willing use the rule as leverage in situations as trivial as his yard-measuring contest with The Cartel. I can’t imagine the fallout if he fails to threaten everyone else at at the race with punishment for racing with Contador.

As for the Spaniard’s case, a recent high-profile Clenbuterol bust in the Canary Islands is being pitched as a potential win for the defense, since it seems to contradict Spanish agricultural claims that clenbuterol is not administered to livestock.

But I think it’s far more significant that the Canaries have long been favored as a training ground by Grand Tour winning cyclists—including Contador himself—as well as a base of operation and frequent travel location for some very infamous doctors.

So while I continue to think it’s a bit of a dick move to fine-print riders into saying what races they can and cannot do, it might just be the soundest course of action for an organization that’s struggling to prove their rules are worth the paper on which they’re written.

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