For a sport fraught by controversy and suspicion as long as I can remember, the fall from grace of Alberto Contador, the one-time golden boy of European cycling comes as no surprise. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has finally brought a conclusion to the saga by banning the 29 year old Spaniard for two year, ruling him out of contention for both the 2012 Tour de France and the London Olympics.
Contador, one of only five cyclists to ever win all three Grand Tours, rose to prominence with Tour de France victories in 2007 and 2009 but will now be excluded from professional competition until 5 August 2012, peculiarity explained by the fact his suspension has been spent retrospectively from 25 January 2011 alongside a further five months served during the 2010-2011 season.
Despite ruling him out of the Olympic Games, it is arguable that CAS hasn’t been strong enough in their condemnation of doping. The list of professional cyclists marred in scandal reads as a directory of the sport and includes high profile athletes such as Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso and Britain’s own David Millar all having their careers and reputations tainted by their decision to cheat.
The Contador case, whilst a hammer blow for a sport already teetering on the edge of respectability, should have served as an opportunity for CAS to finally hand out a lifetime ban, possibly eradicating the inherent culture of doping. Instead, by maintaining the status quo and handing out another two-year ban, the success that doping may bring still outweighs the risk and eventual punishment if caught, hardly a disincentive for an athlete in such a competitive discipline.
Contador meanwhile has vowed to fight on and prove his innocence, hinting that he believes he is in a position to appeal the decision of the Swiss-based court (usually considered the final authority) providing he does so within 30 days. Regrettably, his reputation is probably irreparably damaged. In a sport so reliant upon teamwork and trust, realistically, there can be no way back for Alberto Contador.