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Soup of This Day #134: There’ll Be Time Enough For Countin’ When The Dealin’s Done

February 8, 2012

Swiss Braunvieh Cow
A Swiss Braunvieh cow in the Engadin, Switzerland. Natural alpine climbers, such cows do well in the Tour de France, although there have been allegations of doping – Photo: Daniel Schwen, 2007. Daniel Schwen is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Spain’s Alberto Contador, considered by many to be the premier road cyclist of his generation, has been found guilty of using a banned substance and has been wheeled away from the sport for 2 years. The verdict, based upon a test conducted during the 2010 Tour De France that detected the steroid clenbuterol, has been backdated and includes the rider being stripped of 12 titles, including the 2010 Tour (General Classification, AKA GC) and the 2011 Giro d’Italia (GC and Points).

This saga has been dragging on for some time – Alberto almost missed the 2011 Tour de France but got a stay of execution when the case was adjourned. Prior to that it looked like the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) were to give him a 1 year ban but under political pressure from the Spanish government Contador was cleared entirely. This then led the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to become involved and it was their subsequent judgement that has left Alberto free-wheeling the wrong way down the mountain.

Contador, likely to remain a national hero in Spain come what may, claims that he must have got the trace via tainted meat, specifically a large steak he ate the night before. This, according to experts, is possible but unlikely – It also raises a key question: If Daisy the cow was doping, why? Was it to help her outrun the herd and maybe the abattoir staff? If the latter then I’d posit that the evidence of the steak suggests she failed. This would then in turn put Contador’s 2 year suspension into perspective – Daisy has a slightly more onerous ban from competition. And breathing.

Yep, for a number of reasons Daisy’s cycling career is over.

However the impurity got into Alberto’s temple, he had a prohibited substance in his system at the time of competition. Fairness would suggest that he should step aside from those titles he won, including the 2010 Tour de France and the 2011 Giro d’Italia.

In golf there is such an ethos – That if you derive an unfair advantage from, say, the lie of the ball, then you should disqualify yourself from the competition and the dessert bar in the clubhouse. And players observe this, no matter the stakes in play and even when their transgression goes unnoticed. Which is an extraordinary show of principle and not just because those dessert bars are surely a wonder to behold.

J.P. Hayes is a case in point. In 2008 the pro was playing in a PGA Tour qualifying event in Texas when his caddy tossed him a ball to tee off with. Hayes drove the ball down the 12th at Deerwood Country Club in Kingwood and ended up chipping onto the green.

Then he noticed that it was not the ball he’d started his round with.

This is a no-no so he called over an official and was informed of a 2-stroke penalty, which he duly took. He ended with a 74, which coupled with a 1st round 71 meant he was in decent shape to qualify for the final stage of Tour qualification. This was a good thing because he had finished 176th on the money order the previous season and had no other way of getting his ticket back. Thus he put all of this at risk for an innocent mistake that he himself highlighted – Still he had served his punishment and was back on track.

Until his conscience derailed him.

Relaxing in the hotel post-round, possibly at the dessert bar, it occurred to him that the ball he had used for that 1 hole was not on the approved list. He’d used a prototype ball that was yet to be submitted for official use on a Par 3 which he’d taken a 2 shot penalty for anyway. Any reasonable judge would surely write that up as having been squared away with no further action required.

Not J.P. Hayes.

He disqualified himself, in the process, doing himself out of a job and a whole host of clubhouse sugary goodies.

Give that man a medal or a trophy or something.

Sure, he had $7m in career winnings to that point so nobody in the Hayes’ house was going to need handouts but he voluntarily stepped aside from the pinnacle of his sport for the kind of infringement that most of us would have laughed off. He even refused to blame anyone bar himself, including his caddy. Karma did come back around to the Hayes’ side of things though – He won his card back for 2010 and remained on the circuit through 2011.

And just in case such an example, coupled with Daisy’s unfortunate contribution, is not enough to persuade Bert to relinquish his 2010 Tour de France victory it’s worth reminding him that he won the GC for that Tour by just 39 seconds over Andy Schleck. In Stage 15, nearing the top of the hors categorie Port de Balès Contador attacked Schleck just as the Luxenbourger’s chain slipped. Cycling etiquette dictated that the attack should have been halted and the time gain redressed, however Contador chose to not do so. Later he did apologise and explain that he was not aware at the time of his rival’s misfortune, which may well have been true immediately around the moment that it occurred, however he should have known about it shortly thereafter or at the least before the completion of the stage – The riders do have radio comms with their teams and a pretty good sense of situational awareness. Nonetheless Contador did not redress the situation and his gain that day was 39 seconds.

At least Contador’s excuse, however unlikely, isn’t rip-snortingly hilarious. Australian cricketing legend Shane Warne was banned from the 2003 Cricket World Cup and a further year of cricket after he tested positive to a banned diuretic. He didn’t deny it – Merely pointing out that he’d been embarrassed at his weight and had taken a pill that his mother had supplied him. Since he was 33 at the time you kinda have to wonder at what point ‘Mummy gave it to me’ is not ok as an excuse. Ironically, had he gone with the tainted steak excuse it would have had a lot more credence – Most people could see Warne eating not just a steak, but the whole damn Daisy to boot.

Meanwhile, a belated congratulations to an, admittedly reluctant, Andy Schleck for winning the 2010 Tour de France. He might not have got there in a self-satisfying way but he is now a deserving champion, with his own honour and that of his sport intact.

Maybe hold off on a steak dinner in celebration though Andy. Just a thought.

There’ll Be Time Enough For Countin’ When The Dealin’s Done

  1. The reasons for the drug test findings just get better and better with age, don’t they? LIke a fine…”whine.”

    • A fine whine – I like that – It suits the sad sight of a former superstar pathetically trying to justify the cheating.

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