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Cycling News and Opinions
Unfair and Unbalanced
February, 2012

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories

Story of the Giro d'Italia, volume 1

February 13: Two recent news stories gave me a bad case of cognitive dissonance.

Story one: Bicycle Retailer and Industry News reported that bicycle imports fell by 4.1 million units last year. In all my years in the bike trade, I've found bicycle sales to be a good bellwether of the economy. A new bike, like a men's suit, can usually be postponed. So when the world economy slows, bike sales go along for the ride.

Story Two: Bike Europe posted a story that almost all shipping agencies have, all at once, posted a near doubling of the container shipping charges from Asia to Europe. Increases of at least $500 per 40-foot container for freight going to the U.S. are also being sought. Over the last couple of years shipping rates had plunged as the freight companies faced with lower shipping volumes battled to keep their containers moving. Now, against what appear to be normal market forces, shipping prices are suddenly spiking. According to Bike Europe, EVO, the association of logistics and transport companies, says "all signs are there that indicate illegal price fixing".

Illegal or not, if the price increases stick, your next bike and everything else imported will cost more.

February 8: The Wall Street Journal has an interesting story on how the Lance Armstrong prosecution was dropped. Writer Reed Albergotti has done some terrific reporting on this story. Here's the link. I don't know how long non-subscribers can view this page.

The final event of the Challenge Ciclista Mallorca, the Challenge Serra de Tramuntana, has been cancelled because of snow on the major climbs scheduled for the day.

February 6: Alberto Contador has been handed a two year suspension by the Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS) following his positive for the banned drug clenbuterol. The suspension will date from the time of the positive test, July 21 of 2010. That means Contador will lose his 2010 Tour and 2011 Giro victories. Andy Schleck is now the 2010 TDF champion and Michele Scarponi will be the winner of the 2011 Giro.

Contador will not be allowed to ride in 2012's Tour and Giro, but will in all likelihood be allowed to compete in this year's Vuelta.

Contador's positive was for a sample given during the 2010 Tour's rest day at Pau. The rider argued that he must have eaten contaminated meat and that he never took the drug. This is the second Tour de France championship to be decided by the CAS. Floyd Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour title, also after a lengthy battle.

Here is the UCI's press release on the matter followed by the statement from Riis Cycling, the owner of the Saxo Bank team that Contador rides for:

UCI statement:


The UCI acknowledges the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to impose a suspension of 2 years on the rider Alberto Contador following the UCI’s appeal, brought in conjunction with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), in the case concerning the Spanish cyclist. 

In rejecting the defence argument, in particular that the presence of clenbuterol in Alberto Contador's urine sample came from the consumption of contaminated meat, today's ruling confirms the UCI's position. 

However, the UCI has not derived a sense of satisfaction from the CAS ruling, but rather welcomes the news as the end of a long-running affair that has been extremely painful for cycling. 

Without wanting to enter into the details of the ruling, UCI President Pat McQuaid said: "This is a sad day for our sport. Some may think of it as a victory, but that is not at all the case. There are no winners when it comes to the issue of doping: every case, irrespective of its characteristics, is always a case too many."

The UCI will not issue any further comments on the matter."

Riis Cycling statement:

"Press Release concerning Alberto Contador

[06.02 16:57] The Court of Arbitration for Sport has decided to finally hand Alberto Contador a ban.

Today Riis Cycling received the result of the final ruling of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the case concerning Alberto Contador.

During the 2010 Tour de France Alberto Contador, while riding for Astana, returned an adverse analytical finding for clenbuterol following the analysis of urine samples taken on July 21st, the second rest day of the Tour de France.
In February 2011 The Spanish Cycling Federation cleared Alberto Contador in the case, but today CAS has partially upheld an appeal by Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

CAS's conclusion is that the most likely cause for the adverse analytical finding is ingestion of a contaminated food supplement.

CAS has handed Alberto Contador a two year ban. However, the period of ineligibility starts retroactively, meaning that the suspension of Alberto Contador will end on August 5th 2012.

"After what has been a very tough situation for our team, today we have finally received the result of the CAS hearing in the case regarding Alberto Contador.
The result was obviously not, what we had hoped for, but for now our management team is still in the process of reviewing the ruling and the documentation so we can better understand the decision," team owner Bjarne Riis says.

The team and Alberto Contador will hold a press conference tomorrow, Tuesday February 7th at 19.30. Both Bjarne Riis and Alberto Contador will be present.

The press conference will take place at:
Hotel Las Artes
Paseo de las Artes, 15
28320 Pinto

Until the press conference the team will refrain from commenting further on the case. " 

February 5: The quiet close of the nearly two-year investigation into Lance Armstrong announced on Friday (as Joe Lindsey noted, after 5 PM on Super Bowl weekend) came as a shock to nearly everyone. That Armstrong's fans were pleased is an understatement if the reader comments on the various websites is any indication. Most of Armstrong's supporters seem to believe the investigation's end amounts to a vindication for their man, proving the allegation that Armstrong doped were false.

Those who wanted Armstrong to be forced to defend himself in court and face his several accusers were profoundly disappointed, some saying that it was a failure of the American legal system that let Armstrong skate.

Both beliefs are wrong if leaks about the investigation and the charges contemplated against Armstrong are anywhere near true.

The question being investigated as I understand it was: Did Lance Armstrong and his team use U.S. Postal Service sponsorship money to finance a doping program? That was how prosecutors were planning to make acts committed in France a U.S. crime.

It was always going to be a stretch, even though they had several eyewitnesses (such as former teammates Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis). There were statute of limitation problems with the case as well as serious questions as to whether the law was being stretched to apply in Armstrong's case. The politics of prosecuting Armstrong were formidable as well. Between the Barry Bonds case bogging down, creating a hostile public attitude towards another like prosecution, and Armstrong's own substantial resources, getting a conviction would have been difficult, to say the least.

So, there was no failure of the justice system. Not all cases can or should be tried. And there was no exoneration of Armstrong. He just won't be tried on federal charges of committing a financial crime. The raft of evidence including the retrospective testing of Armstrong's 1999 Tour de France urine samples that showed EPO use as well as teammates who claim to have witnessed Armstrong's using banned performance enhancing modalities won't go away.

So now each of us will filter the information we have through our own confirmation bias. As with everything else, we'll accept the information about Armstrong that that confirms our pre-determined beliefs and reject the rest. We'll pat ourselves on the back, pleased with our own wise objectivity and be frustrated with those with whom we disagree, be they haters, trolls or Lance-o-matics.

If Armstrong did dope, and I believe the case he did was well made long ago, given the ubiquity of drugs in professional racing during his era (remember racers dying in their sleep?), it hardly matters.