Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thunder and hail

Well, it is obvious that Pat McQuaid is not the only one who's upset with the Spanish Federation. No sooner had Alberto Contador set out in the Tour of Algarve or all hell broke loose in Northern California. A surprise hailstorm lashed the blossoming cherry and plum trees and covered the earth with ice for a brief moment. Clearly the weather gods are angry about what is happening to the purity of the sport and to show it they covered the earth with a dusting of pure white.

Hail, I'm sure the plum tree is not happy.
But like McQuaid, who said he may not appeal the Spanish verdict, the gods are confused and soon enough the sun broke through and added luster to the white landscape. The battle between storm clouds and sun is ongoing at this time, and I hope it gets resolved sooner than your average doping case.

Then the sun came out
One thing, McQuaid is not confused about is headphones. Despite protests he is insistent, headphones are out. He said as much in Oman earlier today. Following in the footsteps of the local leaders, McQuaid said, "The riders deserve a voice and we have heard that voice. We made a decision and we will execute that decision." Whether McQuaid will be more successful than said leaders in calming the popular revolt remains to be seen.

We do know that the riders and their teams are sensitive to the large amounts of cash being dispensed in the Gulf so they have agreed not to wreck the party and disappoint the non-existent supporters. But it is anyone's guess what could happen when they return to supporter-rich, but financially-strapped Europe later in the year.

The social media (read facebook and twitter) reactions to the Contador story have been varied. Most people, especially those who earlier expressed their disdain for the Spaniard, kept quiet. Others are furious that a doper is getting away with murder -figuratively that is, only football players get away with real murder in this country. 

But there were some voices of moderation. Some pointed out that cheating is human nature and that it happens in all sports. They stated that most people cheat when given the opportunity, and that Alberto very likely did not cheat any more than the others around him. Some compared doping in riders to tax evasion and politicians, or speeding in California (or red light running in New York). One guy pointed out that removing Alberto from competition would diminish the value of other people's victories in races such as the Tour.

Iljo Keisse said, "I wish Contador much success." Lance on the other hand just stated he was innocent of doping and that he once again decided to leave the cycling world, although he added, "Never say never," and then later "No, no, it is just a joke."

One thing is for sure. The system is badly broken and in need of overhaul. I think UCI should move away from forbidden substances altogether. The approach smacks of magical thinking. It invites workarounds and does not provide the right incentives.

But if they do insist on keeping a list they should at the very least establish a minimum value for each substance. We live in an era of science, not magic. Pharmaceuticals only work if given in adequate doses. It makes no sense to suspend people for ineffective or homeopathic doses, especially when a substance is a known food contaminant.

In the meantime I am happy to see that non other than Philippe Gilbert won the first stage of the Tour of Algarve. That is to say, he won for now. Because we really have to wait for the lab results to see if his victory will stand. As this could take a few years, let's just cherish the moment and call him the winner for now.

And finally, the results of yesterday's 20 minute power test. 325W for 20 minutes, body weight 77 kg, for a value of 4.2 W/kg.

4.2 W/kg, it's in the Cat 2 range

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