CYCLING: Alberto Contador fails to respond to doping questions
After years of doping scandals and shady cover-ups, you might expect riders and officials in the world of cycling to be keen to show the sport is now as open and transparent as possible.
The Lance Armstrong affair sent shockwaves across the globe and tarnished the sport’s reputation to such an extent that it may never fully recover, writes Marvin France...
But cycling has been grappling with performance-enhancing drugs for decades and over the past few years has made huge strides to deal with the issue - as Armstrong himself alluded to in his interview with Oprah Winfrey. You’d think those involved would jump at the chance to highlight the progress being made.
At least that’s what 7DAYS thought when we caught up with two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, who was in Dubai on a promotional tour with his team, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank.
What we got, however, was a wall of silence, as the Spaniard refused to answer questions on Armstrong, doping and his own links to performance enhancing drugs, which he has consistently denied. Contador, the 2007 and 2009 Tour de France champion, won a third Le Tour in 2010 only to have his crown stripped away and replaced with a two-year ban after he tested positive for the banned substance, clenbuterol.
The 30-year-old, who returned to racing midway through last year, has always professed his innocence - claiming his positive test resulted from him eating a contaminated piece of steak.
However, all of that, and everything else related to doping, was off-limits for Contador yesterday. Cycling has a history of burying its head in the sand when it comes to the issue and it seems that is still very much the case judging by yesterday’s events. During the press conference, one reporter asked Contador for his thoughts on Armstrong, a former team-mate. Cue an intervention from a PR representative, who asked journalists to ‘focus on cycling questions’.
And in a one-on-one interview with 7DAYS, questions on whether the loss of his 2010 Le Tour title had provided Contador with extra motivation for this year’s event - or if cycling had turned the corner following Armstrong’s admission - remained unanswered.
So we left our meeting with Contador none the wiser as to whether he was confident the sport is now clean. We haven’t a clue as to what he thinks should happen to ensure cycling stays one step ahead of the cheats. And we can only guess at what he thinks should be the right punishment for riders found guilty of doping.
Contador was speaking through a translator and, in fairness to him, he would have doubtless been questioned on his shady past and Armstrong hundreds of times previously. He may have simply chosen to move on - which is his right to do so. But in the wake of so much talk about a bold, new and, hopefully, clean future for cycling, of possible Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, it’s a shame that someone who would have much insight to offer, chose to bite his lip.
In the wake of the Armstrong revelations, “no comment” hardly seems like an appropriate response to questions on doping. It hardly bodes well for the future of the sport.