The spotlight falls on cycling: Articles worth reading
Apologies for our silence in the midst of some dramatic debate and news in the world of cycling. In the aftermath of the Sports Illustrated article on Lance Armstrong, we've had some good debate on our previous post, Alberto Contador has been handed a one year suspension which he will apparently appeal (and risk a longer suspension) and most recently, Paul Kimmage has produced the longest and most detailed interview to date with Floyd Landis.
All the while, we've been rather silent, with work pressures to blame! So we are a little late to the party, but for those who haven't yet read about the above stories, here are three must-read articles.
"Anti-doping decisions are not negotiations"
First, a viewpoint on the Contador case from Joe Lindsey at Boulder Report. In it, he describes how the suspension of Contador was delivered as a "proposal" rather than a sanction. It hits on some crucial points, most notably that the rule says a two-year sanction for a doping offence unless it can be proved that the banned substance entered the athlete's system completely by accident.
This became relevant here in South Africa because two of our top rugby players were recently pardoned after testing positive for a banned stimulant last year. What happened in this case was that as soon as the positive test result was found, the medical director of SA Rugby requested that all supplements and medicines to be sent to a laboratory for analysis. And sure enough, a supplement by a company called USN was found to contain the supplement, even though a certificate had been issued guaranteeing that it was "clean". The result was that the players had no knowledge of ingesting the stimulant, had even taken steps to ensure that they were not taking anything illegal, and they were rightly pardoned.
In the Contador case, this couldn't happen, because the alleged tainted beef could never be proven. So how a reduced sentence was achieved is beyond me. It certainly sets a dangerous precedent and highlights once again the inconsistencies in the anti-doping process.
Bonnie Ford on the precedent and some startling insight into the Spanish anti-doping mindset
Next, an article by the always excellent Bonnie Ford of ESPN. In this article, the most striking comments are those relating the initial reaction of Juan Carlos Castano, President of the Spanish Cycling federation, who actually said that he "hoped the case would be resolved in favour of the cyclist". This leading statement gave little hope that the committee, comprised of people who answer to Castano, would reach anything but a lenient sentence.
Ford also paints a telling picture of how the news was broken to Contador many weeks before it was ever known in the media.
What will be most interesting now is to see the reaction of the UCI to the verdict. The fact that they seemed to be trying their level best to sweep the issue under the carpet back in July and August last year doesn't inspire much hope that they'll act to look for a harsher sentence. As Ford writes: "One of the foundational problems of the anti-doping infrastructure established globally a decade ago is many of the organizations doing the policing are simultaneously promoting their sports, and rare is the governing body willing to gore its own ox."
That applies to the national federation, and to the UCI, who, as I have said before, have been complicit in the sport's doping problem since it began.
Kimmage draws more out of Landis
And finally, the longest piece of all, and the most fascinating, is the detailed interview of Floyd Landis by Paul Kimmage. Kimmage is famous, even notorious, for being a doping "whistleblower". His book "Rough Ride" is a must read, and he then became infamous when Lance Armstrong laid into him at the AmGen Tour of California a few years ago.
The thing about Kimmage, however, is that history has, for the most part, shown him to be right. His revelations about cycling in "Rough Ride" were roundly dismissed and he became a pariah to the sport. Then came Festina in 1998 where those outside the sport suddenly realized the truth about the sport, while those inside could no longer blindly deny their own "cancer" (and yes, I borrowed that word from Kimmage, who used it to describe the sport's problem when Armstrong returned).
Kimmage's 7 hour interview with Landis has been transcribed word for word by NY Velocity, and it reveals the mindset of Landis in great detail. Of course, many are going to dismiss Landis as a liar. Because yes, he was. He took money, he toured the country denying doping and he lied to everyone. Does that disqualify everything he says now? Depends what you want to believe. But the interview provides new revelations, it gets into Landis' mind like no interview before.
It's lengthy, so do it in stages if you need to, but it's well worth a read!