Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The sky's the limit

When it comes to dining, you can count on the Belgians to come up with creative solutions. One such solution, now in 32 countries including Las Vegas, is Dinner in the Sky. This is to be taken quite literally as you and your companions, together with a handful of waiters, go up some 50 m (165 ft) in the air to take in the views while eating. Although you are wearing a four point seatbelt -and going to the bathroom is out- you are reminded not to drop your fork or any other item that is particularly dear to you.

There they are suspended by a crane

Don't drop your fork, or your cellphone...
The Dining in the Sky business has since expanded its reach not just to other countries, but also to other events such as meeting in the sky, showbizz (sic) in the sky and of course marriage in the sky. I do note that mafioso events such as firing co-workers in the sky are out- at least as far as I can tell.

Firing in the sky (Scarface)

Speaking of executions, the Spanish Federation is letting Alberto walk. This move is sure to evoke wide-spread condemnations and appeals to the purity of the sport, and a setback in the fight against doping. Expect the UCI and WADA to appeal or to ignore the Spanish or if all else fails, to enforce a ban against him outside Spain. Regardless of what these organizations do, the organizers of the Tour will want to add their 2 cents too. Expect a ban to compete here. It will be Alberto's second ban after ASO snubbed Astana (with Contador) earlier on.

I can't believe it. This can't be happening!

The Contador saga is is a repeat -with two subtle twists- of the Iljo Keisse story that I covered earlier on. The twists being that Keisse was only temporarily rescued and he was rescued by a Belgian court whereas Alberto is declared innocent and that was done by the Spanish Cycling Federation.

Sporza immediately commented that Alberto's guilt remains unproven but so does his innocence. In many ways the verdict is not unexpected and we will probably see many repeats of such scenarios in the future. Now that we have a precedent, expect future accused and their lawyers to respond.

Regardless of how one feels about Alberto and doping, the right course of action is simple: if one cannot prove guilt, the suspect has to walk. Remember OJ? Deviating from this course will only cause more trouble for the sport and the sporting federations. Our entire legal system is based on people presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Although UCI and WADA have the freedom to set rules, they also need to show common sense. Clenbuterol is a known food contaminant. Maybe the doses were off, or maybe its presence here was indicative of a transfusion or other misdeed, but unless they can prove it, they need to stay silent. They also need to show flexibility with respect to "any level." This is simply not good science.

Proclaiming that riders are responsible for what goes into their bodies is no longer feasible in 2011, where extensively prepared food is the rule. Nobody knows what they put into their system and those who claim they do are just plain ignorant. All you need to do is look at the volume of recalls FDA handles. Furthermore you can rest assured that this is just the tip of the iceberg. FDA simply does not have the personnel to investigate all claims of contamination. Innocent people go to McDonalds and Burger King and end up dying of E.Coli. Do we blame them for what they put into their system?

Meanwhile the cycling world is turning its eyes to the Middle East, where more upsets are expected. Just today a Dutch rider, Theo Bos, bested Mark the missile man Cavendish in the first stage of the Tour of Oman. Long term ruler Tom Boonen was unable to sprint. Although he was in an ideal position, half a kilometer out, that changed as the final dash started. Tom also blamed his hip after a crash in Qatar.