Thursday, January 27, 2011

Another Black Eye For Cycling, Contador Banned, Stripped of Tour Title!

Here we go again!

It seems pro cycling still has a long way to go in cleaning up its image and its riders. The big news today is that three time defending Tour de France champion Alberto Contador has been stripped of his 2010 title and suspended from the sport for one year after he tested positive for a banned substance last year.

Contador tested positive for a weight loss/muscle building drug called clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour, but has maintained that he picked it up through bad meat that he ate while competing. The drug is sometimes used in cattle to help with the growth process. Velo News reports that the drug can "have short-term stimulant effects, including increasing aerobic capacity, blood pressure and alertness," as well. Contador now has ten  days to present any counter arguments, or he must sit out of the sport for one year. He intends to hold a press conference tomorrow to discuss the situation. He continues to maintain his innocence.

The Spaniard now joins disgraced rider Floyd Landis as the only Tour de France champions to ever be stripped of their titles. Landis lost his crown following the 2006 race after testing positive for very high levels of testosterone in his blood. The 2010 Tour will now be awarded to Andy Schleck, who is a great competitor on the course, but certainly doesn't want to win a TdF title in this fashion.

Guilty or not, Contador's suspension is yet another incident for a sport that has struggled to be taken seriously in recent years. When the winners of the sport's biggest event are continually under scrutiny, and getting stripped of their titles, it really does make the general public wonder what is going on. Add to the fact that cycling's biggest name, Lance Armstrong, continues to be under investigation for alleged doping while winning his seven straight Tour titles, and you can see why many fans are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the sport.

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I'm a very big fan of pro cycling. I think that the riders are supreme athletes and aren't given as much respect as they deserve – at least not here in the U.S. It pains me to read these stories and to see the sport continually beaten and battered in the court of public opinion. I'll continue to follow cycling and watch the Tour de France each year, but it is becoming harder and harder to defend the riders, who seem to always be looking for new and creative ways to cheat. I'm not sure the sport will ever be completely clean, but I do hope that moving forward we can finally start to get past these drug scandals and focus on the amazing races and riders that compete in them.