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Friday, July 20, 2007
12. Tour de France 2006
by Rebecca Bell

On July 1, 2006, the Tour de France began, in spite of a situation so destructive it seemed like cycling was doomed.

As a firestorm of doping controversy erupted, nine riders were not allowed to start the race. The repercussions affected everyone in the sport, and the public. The aftershocks continue.

It’s a long story; sad, frustrating, and full of grief. There are many sources for interested readers. But there’s little satisfaction to be gotten from reading it.

Lumped together and flippantly referred to as The Puerto Nine, the riders in question were accused, either explicitly or with no explanation, of association with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes. Fuentes, a sports doctor with many clients in cycling and other sports, has played the role of chief villain in the Tour 2006 doping drama.

Among these nine individuals--nine men with nine different backgrounds, needs, and aspirations--was Alberto Contador.

Although he was immediately cleared of any implications, Contador and his family have had no choice but to endure the mudslinging of Operacion Puerto.

Entries to the Notebook for the next few days will show some of the frustration and heartache he experienced as a result of the multi-layered and massively screwed-up situation that came to a head at the beginning of last year’s Tour. They’re presented here as a testament to Alberto’s maturity and character.

I also wanted to include these entries because by giving a window into one individual’s experience, we might be inclined to look more objectively into the cases of others. Contador is one of many who’ve had to put up with injustices, arbitrariness, and suspicion. They all deserve individual justice. They can’t all be measured with the same ruler. Cyclists thrill the public and line the pockets of race organizers and sponsors. Yet, blame for doping scandals is placed on their shoulders.

Hypocrisy exists at all levels of pro cycling. When all echelons of the sport accept responsibility for the doping issue and work together, only then will solutions be found. Solving problems through cooperation is hard work. It’s a painstaking process that should be put under the supervision of a committed and fair-minded arbitrator. It takes time. It can’t be delivered with a sucker punch or advocated in the unsavory bluster of blogs.

People are suffering.

Alberto Contador
Alberto Contador in the Alps
2005 Dauphiné Libéré
Copyright © Pete Geyer
Race organizers, without real solutions to the
problem of doping but with plenty of hypocrisy,
panicked on the eve of the 2006 Tour in the wake
of the Operacion Puerto scandal.  It cost climbing
sensation Contador and his team a place in the
race.  Contador was then cleared of any
involvement in the scandal but the damage was done.

Race Report, Stage 12
Montpellier - Castres, 178.5km

“I don’t expect to lose much time on the top riders in the GC.”

That was Alberto’s wish on the eve of the all-important time trial at Albi. Discovery Channel’s highest-placed rider arrives Saturday in fine fettle, once again staying free of trouble in today’s sprint finish.

“Today got off to a very fast start until the 65-kilometer mark. It was very windy, and it got quite difficult. Then we had a dangerous descent of the Category 2 climb, but it worked out fine, and we got to the sprint without any mishaps.”

Tomorrow Alberto will view the parcours in the morning, “but only to look at it. I don’t think we’ll test any of it on bikes. It’s a bit of a mystery what  the outcome will be for me. But in any case, I’d rather the time trial was now than in the first week. I don’t expect to lose much time on the top riders in the GC.”

Alberto takes heart because of his current ranking, and is optimistic. “Before taking the start in London, I didn’t think about this. I was only thinking about doing a good Tour. If someone had said to me it was going to be like this, I’d have voted for it. It’s true that I’ve lost some seconds because of that puncture, but in spite of everything I was not expecting to be so high in the GC.”

Alberto’s Results:

Stage 12     43rd     s.t. Boonen
Young rider      10th    s.t.

GC         5th     3:08
Young rider     1st, 57:40.18

Translations by Christine Kahane

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Alberto Contador banner design: Nicky Orr   Banner photo: Christine Kahane

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Alberto Contador Wallpaper

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