Quite independently of Lance, with whom I wrote two books, for a long, long time I’ve had serious doubts about the motives, efficiency and wisdom of these “doping” investigations. In the Balco affair, all the wrong people were prosecuted. It’s the only so-called drug investigation in which the manufacturers and the distributors were given plea deals in order to throw the book at the users. What that told us was that it was big-game hunting, not justice. It was careerist investigators trying to put athletes’ antlers on their walls. Meanwhile, the Fourth Amendment became a muddy, stomped-on, kicked-aside doormat.
So forget Lance. I have so many problems with USADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) — which is supposed to be where athletes can appeal, only they never, ever win — that it’s hard to know where to begin. American athletes have lost 58 of 60 cases before the CAS. Would you want to go before that court?
Anyone who thinks an athlete has a fair shot in front of CAS should review the Alberto Contador case. Contador was found to have a minuscule, insignificant amount of clenbuterol in his urine during the 2010 Tour de France. After hearing 4,000 pages of testimony and debate, CAS acknowledged that the substance was too small to have been performance-enhancing and that its ingestion was almost certainly unintentional.
Therefore he was guilty. He received a two-year ban.
CAS’s rationale? “There is no reason to exonerate the athlete so the ban is two years,” one member of the panel said.
Would you want to go before that court?
The decision was so appalling that even the Tour runner-up, Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, couldn’t swallow it and refused to accept the title of winner. “There is no reason to be happy now,” Schleck said. “First of all, I felt bad for Alberto. I always believed in his innocence. . . . I battled with Contador in that race and I lost.”
The former prime minister of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, had openly declared his belief that Contador was innocent. When the CAS ruling came down, Zapatero expressed “bewilderment” and suggested it was so irrational it gave “sufficient reasons to open a debate about their fairness.”
The response of WADA President John Fahey? A rant in which he suggested that Contador was given a two-year ban instead of one because Zapatero had dared to open his mouth. Let me repeat: The president of WADA actually suggested publicly that an athlete’s penalty was made harsher because his prime minister had the nerve to challenge WADA’s authority.