Little will in sports to nab cheats
Sadly, the drugs cheats are still winning in sport.
Three-time Tour de France cycling champion Alberto Contador was last week let off a one-year ban for returning a positive test.
It was revealed that the 28-year-old Spaniard had taken the banned drug clenbuterol, which enhances musclebuilding.
The Spanish cycling federation examined the case – why do I have images of Nelson, with the telescope up to his blind eye? – decided that Contador was the unfortunate victim of eating tainted meat, and exonerated him.
Is it any wonder people are so cynical about the drugs cheats who are a blight on sport?
The Spanish cycling authorities were under immense pressure. Even Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had waded into the debate, saying: ‘‘There is no legal reason to justify sanctioning Contador.’’
The Spaniards aren’t the only ones who have let cheats go, just the latest.
A New Zealand games official boasted to me once about how he’d managed to help a discus thrower evade a drugs test.
He was in no way abashed; rather he was proud.
In 1988, the Americans ignored several positive tests returned by super-athlete Carl Lewis, enabling him to compete in the Seoul Olympics.
It would be nice to think the world had moved on since those days, but if the Contador case is a guide, apparently not. Contador is not yet in the clear.
The International Cycling Union probably, and, the World Anti-Doping Agency certainly, will appeal.
However, the Spanish decision is yet another example of how little will there is in some areas of sport to nab the cheats.
I’ve been surprised New Zealand cycling officials have been so keen to embrace declared cheat Floyd Landis, who has competed in the Tour of Southland in the past two years.
Landis won the Tour de France in 2006, returned a positive test and vowed he was clean.
When the proof was too overwhelming to be denied – and with his book coming out soon after – he admitted that OK, he had cheated.
In the spirit of openness, he then dobbed in other big-name cyclists, including Lance Armstrong.
Unfortunately, by then Landis’ credibility was zero. Still, he was warmly welcomed in Southland.
Armstrong has finally retired, at the age of 39. He had a fabulous career, including seven Tour de France victories.
Unfortunately for the American, he is constantly surrounded by accusations of drug-cheating. Another high-level probe is under way in the United States.
Armstrong stresses he never failed a drugs test, but that means little to me. A drug test can be meaningful only when the tester knows what to look for.
American Florence Griffith-Joyner never failed a drugs test either. Yet very few athletics followers believe she was a clean athlete. She ran fabulous times for the 100 metre and 200m in 1988, setting records that may last half a century, then suddenly retired. There were suggestions she’d been told to retire – or else.
Otherwise, why would such a glamorous and brilliant athlete retire at the peak of her powers, just when she was poised to cash in on her record-breaking sprinting?
As with Armstrong, Griffith-Joyner will always have an asterisk beside her name in the record books.