Monday, February 6, 2012

Contador & Lance...what an absolute mess, part 1

First and foremost, I am not an expert on performance enhancing drugs, masking agents, UCI or WADA policy, or the International legal system.  I do consider myself to be a person with a certain amount of common sense, and a realist.  That is, I see things how they actually are, and not how I'd like for them to be.  

As far as the Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong legal cases, I'm starting to believe that those are the two main things that have been missing from how both of these cases have been handled.

And above all else, I believe that if you are going to set in place a set of rules for people to follow, then you have to abide by those rules like they are carved in stone.  Not only do the people who are asked to live by these rules have to treat them like they are carved in stone, but the people doing the asking have to treat them like that.  

If you want a sure fire way to make sure things degenerate into chaos, then start down the slippery slope of selective enforcement.

First, the Alberto Contador case.  This one seems ridiculously simple.  The UCI/WADA rules state two things.  First, a rider cannot have any clenbuteral in his system.  The important word in that rule is "any".  And second, the rules state it is the rider's responsibility to make sure that no clenbuteral enters his system.  Either on purpose, or by accident, the burden lies with the cyclist.  That seems pretty cut and dried to me.  It doesn't matter if it was an accident, (by eating contaminated meat as Contador claims).  If you test positive, your guilty.  When the Spanish Cycling Federation cleared Contador or any wrongdoing, they were basically choosing to selectively enforce the rule.  

CAS, (The Court of Arbitration for Sport), decided to ban Contador for 2 years, and strip him not only of his 2010 Tour de France title, but also his 2011 Giro d'Italia title.  Is this a fair decision?  I don't know, but I do know that per the rules, it is the right decision. 

These are the rules that everyone was aware of, or should have been aware of, and that everyone agreed to race by when they signed on to be a pro cyclist.  The time to protest the rule was before you failed a drug test.  To start crying about how unfair the rules is after you've been accused of breaking it, seems a tad hypocritical.

Secondly, the Lance Armstrong case.  Let's begin by allowing me to state that you're not likely to meet anyone with a bigger non-sexual man crush on Lance Armstrong than me. And despite what I'm about to say in the blog, frankly, even I believe that Lance probably engaged in some sort of illegal activity while he was racing.  If Lance wasn't doping, then he was probably the only one in the peloton at that time who wasn't. 

But knowing or believing something is one thing, proving it is another.

For the last 10 years of his cycling career, Lance was, without a doubt, the single most tested athlete on the face of the earth.  And not only has he never failed a drug test, he's never even had a "suspicious" drug test.  There are those who will say "well he just never got caught".  That very well could be true.  But these are the rules set down by WADA & the UCI.  You cannot ruin a person's career, and probably ruin them financially, based on what you believe happened.  You have to have facts if you are going to take those kind of drastic actions.

Soem will say that Alberto didn't deserve what he got, and Lance didn't get what he should have gotten.  That to may very well be true.  But if you are going to operate an organization like the UCI, you've got to have rules, and those rules have to be enforced for everyone.  You cannot get into the business of deciding who "deserves" punishment, based on what kind of person you perceive them to be.  Punishments have to be handed out based on the written rules and the facts in evidence in that case.

This reminds me of a true story here in Texas.  A few years ago, I was listening to the radio and they were talking about the case of a family who had showed up to claim their multi-million dollar Texas lottery prize.  They had the winning ticket, they showed up at the right office.  The trouble was, they showed up 3 days too late.  This was a family that really could have used the money.  One of the host of the radio show  was saying that the lottery commission should have gone ahead and given them the money, even though, per the rules, they were too late.  

The other radio host asked a very astute question.  What if it had been Donald Trump who showed up 3 days late to collect his millions of dollars?  Does he deserve to get it?  

If you are going to run something like the Texas Lottery, or the UCI, you cannot get into the business of determining who deserves a million dollars, or who deserves punishment, based on how nice a person they are.  There have to be rules, and they have to be enforced.

Now, do I think that these decisions are right?  Based on the rules set down by the UCI, absolutely yes.  Do I think that these rules are fair?  Probably not.  Just because these were the right decisions, based on the current rules, does't mean that the current rules don't need to be changed.

Who does the UCI blame for the current mess that is professional cycling?  They need look no farther than the mirror.  More on that in tomorrow's posting.

Peace out...NFF.

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