Between a rock and a hard place

The rumours that have been swirling around the internet are true, the Spanish Cycling Federation has handed Alberto Contador a one-year ban.  Subject to the outcome of any appeal, this means he’ll be stripped of last year’s Tour win and won’t be able to ride again competitively until 24 August 2011.

The problem for Contador is what to do next? He did say he would retire if he received any sort of ban. Was this a hollow threat? Will he really retire? I think this depends on how much money he’s already made. He comes from a very humble background and he may have already made enough money to look after his family. After all, you don’t see him flashing the cash on fast cars and flashy watches, but somehow I doubt it.

So if he’s not going to retire, should he appeal the ban? If he doesn’t, will AMA and UCI appeal the ban, feeling that 12 months is too lenient? They might do as they’ve never appeared all that convinced by the contaminated meat story. However, from a political perspective, the UCI will not want this story to drag on and obscure the 2011 season. Should they take a reasonable or outraged stance? There’s little way of knowing.

Here’s Contador’s quandary. If he doesn’t appeal but UCI/AMA do, he runs the risk that the ban might be lifted to two years. If he doesn’t appeal, then maybe neither will UCI/AMA. It’s a tricky one and I’ve no doubt that while on the Saxo Bank-Sungard training camp in Majorca he’s having his ear bent. He won’t, and doesn’t need to, do anything hasty. Alberto’s not a gambler, he’s much more calculating. He’ll take the full amount of time to consider his options, weigh up the risks and talk it through with those whose opinions he values.

Given Pat McQuaid’s initial sensitivity to this issue, I would definitely try to have an off the cuff discussion to gauge which way the wind is blowing. The best for all concerned might well be to accept the one-year ban. 

Only Alberto knows what really happened. If the contaminated meat story is true, it seems an unreasonably harsh outcome. If the contaminated meat story isn’t true and the clenbuterol, however small, got there by way of more nefarious methods, then a one-year ban isn’t a bad result. Either way, we’ll never know.

Friday postscript: In today’s press conference, Alberto claims that he will appeal the proposed ban and is prepared to fight to clear his name. Of course, the cynics may say that they’ve heard it all before and cite the case of Landis who protested his innocence before finally admitting he did indeed dope. This is a brave move on the part of Alberto who claims that he has never, ever doped. If that’s truly the case Alberto, I wish you the best of luck in your defence.