Blazin' Saddles

Clenbuterolled over

Blazin' Saddles

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And
so there we have it: poor Bertie's one-year ban has been more or less
confirmed; but instead of taking it on the chin - after all, the Spaniard only
had another six months on the sidelines to sit out - Alberto Contador will
appeal the decision in a bid to defend his honour and name
.

It
is, of course, a tactic that may backfire; a one-year ban which many already
see as too lenient may well be doubled, leaving only enforced retirement or a
contract with Katusha as viable options for the three-(or-is-that-two?)-times Tour
de France champion.

Wearing
a white shirt with a grey collar, and at times near to tears, an emotional
Contador delivered his Friday afternoon press conference in Mallorca without
any notes, clearly speaking from the heart, and only stopping occasionally to
sip water from a wine glass, or to deliver a stare that would make Derek
Zoolander proud.

It
has to be said, his unscripted delivery was superbly executed, at times
obtaining the kind of emotional pull as that scene in ET when our friendly
alien is found, white as a sheet, near to death in the woodland brook.

Cynics
might say it was a vintage piece of acting - but then method acting isn't
exactly hard when you're portraying yourself and your own desperate plight.

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Cyclist Alberto Contador speaks during a news conference in Puigpunyent, near Palma de Mallorca, Spain Friday Jan. 28, 2011. Contador says he will ap
"I have
never doped,"
he stressed. "I consider myself example of cleanliness.
The only mistake I made is to eat meat that contained Clenbuterol. I have had
some 500 drug controls in my life that have been in my house, on birthdays,
they have even taken me out of the cinema... and I accepted this because I always
trusted this test system. But now I do not believe in it. The system is
obsolete and outdated."

He sounded
utterly convincing - but then again, so did Floyd Landis back in 2006.

Regardless
of his guilt or innocence though, Contador is right on many things. His
"public trial" has been totally "shameful" and at every
moment there have been leaks to the press before any official announcements
were made.

And
assuming that Contador didn't knowingly ingest clenbuterol (or have a
homologous transfusion, or whatever he's rumoured to have done) then you can
understand why he feels so aggrieved.

The
28-year-old says he'll fight to the end, but as he stressed the problem is that
there's nothing much else he can do to demonstrate his innocence.

Already,
there have been 13 scientific reports to back up his contaminated meat theory -
and the Spanish Cycling Federation itself must at least believe Contador's
explanation, for if they did deem him guilty, then a two-year ban would have
been mandatory.

Saddles
tried to contact the Federation's president
Juan Carlos Castano for a quote, but apparently he
was sitting on the fence somewhere and couldn't return the call.

The
upshot of a one-year ban is that Contador would be spared a 3.1 million euro
salary penalty, which is imposed on riders who cop a two-year sentence.

He
could also, possibly, ride the Vuelta in August. At the moment everyone
presumes Contador's ban will finish on 24th August 2011, exactly one
year on from the date he was informed of his "false positive".

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Photo 1 - Tour De France Winner Alberto Contador From Spain Celebrating His AFP/Getty Images
But
if Contador's ban is set to start from the date of the offence - and should his
2010 Tour victory be scrapped this should really be the case - then the Pinto
native would be free to take to the start in Benidorm on 20th August
(and what a coup that would be for the organisers of a race often seen as the least
interesting of the Grand Tours).

There's
also the World Championships, too. How ironic it would be if at the end of a
season that Contador largely sits out, the Spaniard secures the rainbow jersey
as a fitting memento.

Even
with his appeal, the chances of Contador lining up for Saxo Bank in Noirmoutier
on 2nd July this summer are as slim as Andy Schleck's biceps. Bertie
even admits that he's more interested in clearing his name than resuming his
friendly rivalry with the Luxembourger.

But
this ban means Contador will miss the Tour for the third time in six years, for
three separate reasons all linked - in some way of another, directly or
indirectly - to doping.

Many
will say there's no smoke without fire. But many others - the fans who Contador
thanked unreservedly for their continued support - will feel that this
fresh-faced, talented sportsman is at the centre of the biggest stitch up since
a group of Queen Matilda's ladies-in-waiting got together in Bayeux in the 1070s
and decided to make a tapestry to commemorate William the Conqueror.

WEIGHTY QUESTIONS WE NEED TO ASK

 - Just what are going to become of Contador's
Saxo Bank team-mates Daniel Navarro, Jesús
Hernández and Benjamin Noval, who joined the Spaniard from Astana in the
summer? Rumours abound that Navarro has a job in a circus lined up, but the
prospects of the other two are less certain.

 - How
long until Simon Cowell approaches Contador, Alessandro Colo and Li Fuyu and asks them to
form a boy band called Tainted Meat?

 - Supposing Saddles was a pro sportsman from
the Basque town of Irun (a big ask), would it be safe for him to buy his meat
from the local butcher or should he stick to vegetables and energy gels?

 - For Andy Schleck, is Floyd Landis still the
winner of the 2006 Tour?

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Photo 1 - (FILES) Photo Taken On July 25, 2010 Of Yellow Jersey Of Overall Leader, Spain's Alberto Contador (R) Riding With White AFP/Getty Images

 - Why could it be that Schleck still believes
Contador to be the winner of last year's Tour when you never would have caught
Carl Lewis muttering "For me Ben Johnson is still the winner of the 1988
Olympic 100m"?

 - How long will it be before Denis Menchov
asks Geox to let him join Saxo Bank (provided he hasn't already)?

 - How will Schleck cope in the 2011 Tour
without his pace-setter? What will be the psychological impact on him to lose
his best friend and inseparable riding partner? Will team Luxembourg Leopard
employ Contador as a mascot until his ban ends?

 - Will Lance Armstrong come out of second
retirement now his big rival is out of the picture?

 - Will Contador follow Oscar Pereiro's lead
and become a professional footballer at third-tier Spanish club Coruxo FC?

 - If Alberto gets one year, how many does the
butcher get? And the cows?

 - Would it be right to presume that he who
drinks water from a wine glass sees himself as a rather Godly being?

 - How much did the Vuelta organisers pay the
Spanish Cycling Federation?

 - If Glen Hoddle was there, would he say that
Bjarne Riis is belatedly paying for his own previous misdemeanours?

 - Does the 5 star Sonnet Grad Hotel Mallorca
have steak on the menu?

 - What film was Alberto watching in the cinema
when the dope control people came a knocking? If it was the fourth episode in
the Indiana Jones saga, they clearly did him a favour...

QUOTES OF THE WEEK:  

"For
the moment my opinion is not the important thing here. I am not in a position
where I can change anything. It's all up to Alberto and his legal team. So far
it's still speculation because we're still awaiting the final rulings. Of
course, I have a plan with Alberto and a plan for without him - but for the
moment I'll keep that to myself."  -
Bjarne Riis, sporting a fetching
tweed jacket, keeps his cards closed to his chest.

"This time last year, I was at the bottom
of the pile and now I have one of the best teams where I could potentially be
the leader for the biggest race in the world. I'm not overjoyed by it. It's not
a nice time for our team, even though Contador wasn't with the team when it
happened. But it's a massive opportunity for me."  - Saxo's Richie
Porte
sees the bright side of a tricky situation.

"I have
my arm on his shoulder, but I am not doing anything. It was Alberto's way of
saying, look, we are friends. But he knows what I think of him, and he knows
that if we find ourselves in the Tour, I won't wait for mechanical
trouble." - Andy Scheck's
version of the past conveniently takes a shift in perspective this week.

Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the week on www.twitter.com/saddleblaze.

 

 

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