Alberto Contador has won the Tour de France 2007 with Cadel Evans coming in 2nd and Levi Leipheimer in 3rd place. Tom Boonen gets the green jersey (best sprinter), Soler the red-peas jersey (king of the mountains). Wim Vansevenant is the Lanterne Rouge, making him the third man in the history to win it in two consecutive Tours.
Contador wins, but does not convince the public
An article appeared in Le Monde, the French newspaper yesterday entitled “Alberto Contador, yellow jersey miracle of Operation Puerto” referring to the Spanish doping case involving a Spanish doctor (Fuentes). The article says Contador appeared before Spanish judge Antonio Serrano and denied having known Fuentes. However, Contador refused to submit to an inquiry to determine whether certain vials of blood found in the doctor’s apartment were meant for him.
The readers’ reactions to the Contador “miracle” are not just mistrustful and cynical:
“Like Armstrong, miraculous.”
“He’s part of the Discovery Team of Lance Armstrong, which people know got “medical help” (tests on 1999 samples showed EPO), and he’s a former protege of Manolo Saiz. In summary, the probability that he did not do any doping is almost zero.”
“14 Spanish riders in the top 30, 0 Italians, 2 French at 27th and 3th place. The Puerto affair goes on.”
While the Tour de France goes on pretending that the clean guy (Contador) won over the tainted guy (Rasmussen), people are just not buying it. The Tour de France has to convince people that Contador is clean and that’s not going to happen unless a full investigation is done into the Contador affair. Not this “oh well, he was taken off the list” business. He was allegedly taken off the list because he’s a witness — not because he was proven to have done nothing. I say allegedly because nothing is clear about Contador’s participation in the Puerto scandal. This is a guy who miraculously (that word again) survived a brain hemorrhage and voila, ends up Tour winner. It’s a heartwarming story that makes blockbuster Hollywood movies but people are just not buying it. And this could be a shame if he is really innocent but right now it does not help at all that he’s a member of the Discovery team, Lance Armstrong’s old team. Outside the US where Armstrong worship is at a low, people do not believe he was clean. The snickering that’s been going on among European Tour fans about Armstrong’s sudden appearance in yesterday’s stage has been almost unbearable (note: Armstrong was in the Discovery team vehicle with Johan Bruyneel, the team manager, following Contador and encouraging him — some people asked whether the “encouragement” was purely via the headphones or the veins).
I am sure Contador is a superb rider, perhaps even Tour champion material, but when the Tour champion is under so much suspicion by the audience and the press, and when fans are wondering why the Tour officials are so quick to “bless” Contador and condemn Rasmussen, who was controlled for doping on a daily basis, the Tour has zero credibility.
This is the Tour’s (and professional cycling’s) problem. They (the UCI and the ASO) can scream all they want about the strict procedures they put in place, about how doping control is really working because they caught a lot of people this year, but it will take time before the controversy dies out. I don’t think they can do much about it right now, especially so long as there is no transparency over what really happened between Contador and Dr. Frankenstein.