Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bert And Lance...

It has been a pretty interesting week in regards to doping. First, with the verdict in favor of Lance Armstrong. Secondly, with Bert getting the boot for 6 months (Even though technically it's a "2 year" ban.). I have several thoughts on both these subjects. So lets start with one and move to the other.

 Alberto Contador has been stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title as well as his 2011 Giro d'Italia and all the other races that he's partaken in between the 2010 Tour and now. Which, if he cheated I don't disagree with. And since clenbuterol is a zero tolerance drug in professional cycling I lean towards the "so bad so sad" defense for Bert and tell him to suck it up. Take it like a man. And come back swinging.  Which considering the type of champion he is, I'm sure he will.

What really cooks me about this whole thing is two fold.

First, is the time in which it took them to come to a conclusion. Now I'm sure that between lawyers, the Spanish Cycling Federation (Who are known for their helpfulness and objectivity when it comes to condemning one of their own.), WADA and the UCI that this case was never going to be in the nine items or lest check out counter. But still, a year and a half!? That's pretty ridiculous even by "normal" court standards. And when you have a kangaroo court system like the UCI and CAS have. You would think coming up with the inevitable guilty verdict that both those courts always seem to conclude with (Seriously, have they ever lost a case?) wouldn't take that long.  But perhaps the particular brand of "justice" that the UCI dishes out runs at a molasses like pace. It sure appears that way.

None to surprising too was how quick and pointed the defense that a lot of the professional cycling community had (Particularly the Spanish riders, retired and current.) with the announcement of the guilty verdict.  He is obviously well liked in with in the peloton.  I mean, how could you not!? With those big brown sad eyes. Just makes me want to hoist him up on my knee and tell him everything will be okay...

I mean look at him. So sorrowful. Like a little puppy...
 But that brings me to the second aspect of this case that just chaps my ass.

They decide to allow him to continue to race after the 2010 Tour de France under a cloud of suspicion that he doped. And Bert being Bert continues to pile up the wins. Which is none to surprising really. But then once the verdict has been passed down that he's guilty and that he forfeits his "wins" from then until now. What about all the other racers that were near or close to winning? Or even for that matter close to the podium? That could make or break a contract for some guys. It could mean bonuses and vacations with their kids on sun filled beaches instead of flogging themselves at another race in order to continue their career for another year or few.

I don't blame Bert for wanting to continue to race. If I was in his shoes I would probably do the same thing. Especially after the Spanish Cycling Federation gave him the go ahead. But if the UCI/WADA were so sure that they were going to close the deal on this case (And lets be serious. We all knew that eventually they would.). They should never have allowed him to continue on.

I realize that all this case is complicated and that hind sight is 20/20. But how would you feel if you get a call saying, "Oh by the way, now you're on the podium for the 2011 Giro d'Italia. Congratulations!" It would be hollow at the most and mean nothing at the least.  There should be a more professional way of doing this. On all sides.

It's easy to say that Bert cheated and there for boo on him. But when you take into account Floyd Landis (The other tour winner who had his title stripped.) and that he admits to cheating, but never taking testosterone (Which is what he was busted for.) during the tour. It makes me wonder about the legitimacy of the tests themselves. Especially the tiny amount of clenbuterol that was found in Ol'Berty boy.

The fact though is that the burden of proving innocents lays in the hands of the defendant. Versus the court proving guilt. But that is a common theme when you look at the history of doping cases of the last decade or so. It's almost impossible to show without a shadow of a doubt that Contador didn't dope. And ultimately that's where he failed.

So lets digress into the age old drama of Lancy-poo.

"Burn my dust! Eat my rubber!"
The US Attorney's Office has officially closed the case against Lance.


The large "duh" bomb is dropped by Captain Obvious.

I think everyone knew that Lance was never going to be found guilty of anything with in this huge investigation. Weather he was guilt or not.  If there is one thing that the US court system has proven time and time again is that the guy with the best lawyers wins. Period. End of statement.

I know that a vast majority of the general public only has a faining interest in the case. Even at the beginning. And that the insular world of cycling has been polarized on this subject from the very beginning (In fact I'm sure I'll get a couple comments or emails about writing this piece regardless of how neutral or subjective I am about it.).

Saint Lance!

He's so swell!

Lance is the deble!

"That boy is the deble!!!"
But I do think the most interesting part of it is how, evidently, one person at the US Attorney's Office can shut it down. It feels like a scene in a movie where the head of some super secret spy group tells everyone to shut it down. And everyone just disappears into the ether.

With the sudden closer of the case. A great number of people begin to ask why. And that's legitimate. I'll have a link at the bottom of this post to an NPR correspondent talking about both cases. But in particular the seemingly overwhelming amount evidence against Lance. And why the US Attorney's decided that there wasn't enough to pursue it in court.

When you hear the water cooler talk of who testified. What they saw him do. Or take or whatever. And then just have it dropped like that is intriguing to say the least.

My guess is that there was no real smoking gun to nail him with. Something beyond a couple of witnesses that could be shown to have an axe to grind in court. But who knows... I doubt any of us really will ever know what truly went down.

Lance and his camp came out and proclaimed the victory. Which it really was. The government was really the only player in this whole huge saga that had any real power.

The USADA can pick up the ball and continue the investigation. Of course without all the information or witness testimony. Because once the official government case was closed all that great stuff is sealed forever. So I'm sure with the huge budget that the USADA has, they will jump right on that and make Lance give back all his jerseys. Pfff... What a crock.

And really even if they had all the evidence and money in the world what good would it do? People can wax on about justice and the correct thing to do. But the problems with the system run far deeper than Mr. Armstrong. We have un-professionalism and corruption on every level. We have groups and persons doing and saying things they shouldn't at every turn of the process.

If it were my toy to play with I think I would cut everything down but the races and racers and start over...

But of course there is even more to the story. With whispers of cover up and back room deals are rampant on Twitter and the interwebs.  So the fariswheel will continue around and around for the foreseeable future.  I will be curious if it finally stops or blows up in spectacular fashion. Stay tuned...

Thanks for reading. Sorry it's been awhile (Broken record, I know.). I've got a few things brewing. So you should see more activity on here. Along with the fact that the race season (Mine and the PROs.) is starting to pick up again.

Rubber side down,

Big E

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