… doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
Judging by various news reports, the latest person that anti-doping authorities (and various news organizations) are focusing on is none other than Alberto Contador. Contador was implicated in the Operacion Puerto affair last year, but authorities found insufficient evidence to bring a case against him, with only a few notes in Dr. Fuentes’ records suggesting a link between the two. However, under questioning by Spanish authorities, Contador denied knowing Dr. Fuentes.
France’s LeMonde newspaper yesterday published a story suggesting that Contador may be more deeply involved than Tour de France officials believe.
According to our sources, the name of Alberto Contador appears in several places in these documents. And, contrary to what Patrice Clerc has claimed, Contador is not merely incidentally “cited in the context of telephone conversations about the results of races.” . . .
According to the Civil Guard, these documents correspond to planning the 2005 season for the Liberty-Seguros team. It was in January 2005 that Alberto Contador returned to competition after his brain operation in the spring of 2004. . . . As distinct from Roberto Heras or Joseba Beloki, the investigative report did not reveal annotations mentioning doping products in relation to Alberto Contador’s name.
If the investigators didn’t find any evidence linking Contador to Fuentes’ doping operation then there’s no case, is there? Well, that answer isn’t good enough for Richard “Dick” Pound. According to The Mail on Sunday:
The likely winner of the most controversial Tour de France in history, Spain’s Alberto Contador, will step off the victory podium in Paris this afternoon and walk straight into an investigation into alleged links with a doping doctor which could ultimately cost him his title.That prospect would be a catastrophe both for cycling and for the organisers of the Tour de France, who had hoped the man wearing the yellow jersey on today’s final sprint down the Champs-Élysées would help to redeem an event that has seemingly been heading for oblivion.
Sadly for those hopes, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that Dick Pound, the chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, is to pursue further investigations into evidence that appears to link Contador to doping and which could yet see the yellow jersey stained beyond redemption.
There comes a point when you just have to let things go. Operacion Puerto, for all that it exposed, should fade away. Except for Pat McQuaid and Dick Pound, who keep using it as a way to brow-beat the various cycling teams and individual professional cyclists into doing their bidding. Dick Pound, though, is more like a pit bull that’s sunk its teeth into its prey and won’t let go. How many years will it be before the last accusation, the last rumor or innuendo of involvement will finally be made and pro cycling will be free of the albatross that is Operacion Puerto?
Pound will likely follow through on his bluster, as it will be his one last chance to smack down cycling before he relinquishes his post as head of the World Anti-Doping Agency in November.
But even The Mail on Sunday has to note that:
While some documents appeared to link him to Fuentes, his name was not on the list of cyclists being investigated by the Spanish judicial authorities last year and last March, the judge in charge, Antonio Serrano, dropped the case against all suspects …
The article goes on to mention some notations by Dr. Fuentes that refer to “AC,” which suggests Fuentes may have had the cyclist, who was on the Liberty Seguros cycling team in 2005, as a client. And the article suggests that JÃ¶rg Jaksche, another rider implicated in the Puerto affair, may be turning state’s evidence and talking with the World Anti-Doping Agency, offering information on Fuentes’ doping programs. This may be a good thing, if it finally helps put Puerto to bed. But, regarding Contador:
Contador has been cleared by the Spanish judiciary, who could find no evidence to link him to doping.
Enrico Carpani, the spokesman for the governing body of cycling, the UCI, has also confirmed to The Mail on Sunday that Contador had been cleared to ride by them after they had examined the documents provided by the Guardia Civil.
The Spaniard has never failed a drugs test and has repeatedly declared himself to be a clean rider. “If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here,” he said after taking over the race lead from Rasmussen.
Questioned about his links to Fuentes, he said: “My implication in Operation Puerto has been explained by the UCI. I was simply in the wrong team at the wrong time but I have already made it clear that I had no connection to the doping plot that is being investigated.’ But Contador will be missing at least one fan as he launches the victory sprint down the most famous street in France.
“I certainly wouldn’t go to watch the final stage of the Tour and I won’t be watching it on TV,” says Pound. “It may be called the Tour de France, but until the credibility of the race can be restored, it’s not the Tour de France.”
Sometimes all it takes to see your reputation ruined is to be in the wrong place (or on the wrong team) at the wrong time. Contador probably isn’t the first cyclist to fall victim to such a turn of events, and he’s not likely to be the last.
I’m afraid that for whoever possesses the yellow jersey on the podium in Paris tomorrow, winning may come to be a curse. Let’s hope that some time in the future the doping hysteria will have passed, clear heads will prevail, and rational steps will be taken to ensure that doping is eliminated from cycling. Until then, given what’s happened to Floyd Landis and Pound’s promised investigation of Alberto Contador, riders may come to live in fear of the curse of the yellow jersey.
Twenty Three Seconds
At the end of today’s penultimate stage of the Tour de France, Discovery’s Alberto Contador managed to hold onto the yellow jersey. Although he lost time to Cadel Evans, Contador dug deep and rode fast enough that he still maintains a 23 second lead over Evans going into tomorrow’s final stage. A mere eight seconds behind Evans is Levi Leipheimer, the man the Discovery Team had hoped to launch to victory. Barring any mishaps, one of these three men should become this year’s winner.
Traditionally, the final stage has been more ceremonial and less about racing hard. Questioned after finishing his time trial, Leipheimer (who turned in the day’s fastest time and won the stage) said that he would not try for any of the time bonuses on stage 20, assuring Evans that he’s not going to try and take second place away from the Australian rider.
But anything can happen, and if a breakaway forms with Evans in it, pressure will be on the Disco team to reel in the escapees. All it would take is for Evans to gain 24 seconds by the time he crosses the finish line on the Champs-Élysées to make Tour history by becoming its first Australian winner.
It could make for an exciting race. Or not, depending on how things play out. Whoever stands at the top step of the podium tomorrow will have earned his place in Tour history, if for no other reason than because he survived, unscathed, by the many doping allegations surrounding Le Tour Ironique. Survived, at least, for now.