There is something that has always bothered me about the Alberto Contador case. It bothered me at the time and it bothers me now. In fact it bothers me more now than ever before as it seems to have been quietly and somewhat conveniently forgotten amongst all the collective wailing and gnashing of teeth today.
Cast your mind back to when this story broke in 2010 -- granted some of you may not have been out of nappies at that point. If so, please consult an elderly relative who will wearily fill you in on what the fuss is all about. The story officially got under way at the end of September although Contador himself had tested positive for a sample given on the 21st of July. Why did it take so long for news of this to reach us, we asked?
When asked, Contador said that he had personally been informed of the positive tests on August 24th by the UCI and that Pat McQuaid had asked him to keep quiet about it. Speaking to TV2 Sport the Spaniard said;
“The UCI has always asked me not to tell this to anyone. [The reason was] so it could be resolved in the best way. For it was not a positive event, but a very detailed matter that requires very detailed analysis." "
It seemed that everything was in order and that it would be resolved internally. Because of the confidentiality which the UCI has asked me to show and which I have lived up to, I have not said anything to Riis. Several times I thought about saying it to my parents. And in the same way I'd like to say it to Riis. All the time I considered whether it was best to say it or not. So I decided to keep quiet."
In the protracted mess that subsequently ensued over the next 15 months this claim has quietly, and understandably, been forgotten.
But should it? Is it now time to re-examine the facts and investigate exactly what happened between the 21st of July and the 30th of September where Alberto Contador held a press conference to announce his provisional suspension from the sport?
Contador says he was told on August the 24th. How long did the UCI know before informing the rider? Even if the answer to that is a matter of minutes, why did McQuaid not feel obliged to contact Contador's new boss, Bjarne Riis, in a similar way that he seems to have been disposed towards the rider? The UCI's actions were troubling, partisan and duplicitous. Yet nothing was done. Or is now safe to disregard Contador's assertion of a cover-up at the UCI as the ravings of a liar and a proven cheat and consign him to the Floyd Landis Home For The Terminally Ostracised?
Morality of these actions and the poor governance it suggests are one thing -- and there is absolutely no prevailing ombudsman to investigate and potentially sanction the UCI over this and the multitude of allegations it has faced -- but it is especially troubling for Team Saxo Bank given that they must now face the UCI's Licensing Commission as the sanctioned Spaniard made up 68% of the points that ensured their inclusion in World Tour races.
At the time, Bjarne Riis was said to be furious at not knowing what was going on. Given he formally announced the signing of Contador on the 3rd of August 2010, he and his financial backers really need to know the exact timing of these events in order to ensure that no one was keeping details of positive tests from them when they were negotiating the services of a 3-time Tour de France winner.
Some claim that the 2-year retrospective ban issued to Alberto Contador today proves that there is justice in the cycling world. If that were indeed true, Bjarne Riis would have some recourse for the €3 million per year 'pig-in-a-poke' that he bought in 2010 that could see his Saxo Bank team unable to race at all in 2012.