Some questions about Alberto Contador that I need answers for

Is this a credible explanation or a plausible explanation?

Where I have questions is over whether this is credible – worthy of being believed – or only plausible – having the appearance of truth.

My default setting is to trust an athlete’s defence until I’m proved otherwise. The problem with the strict liability of the WADA rules is that it treats everything as binary which influences the way that offences are seen: guilty/not guilty.

A good defence is one that sounds true. A good defence needn’t say everything. Indeed, it’s often the case that a good defence omits much of the truth in favour of the one most convincing argument.

For Contador there is no way back now that Clenbuterol has been found, there is legitimate doubt over his propriety. His smartest move was not to deny the validity of the test results but to question what they tell us.

So, is Contador’s “try the veal” story a good defence?

Well it’s plausible that the clenbuterol came from an accidental source. The expert opinion seems coherent in its conclusions. What is less plausible is the nature of the source.

Is it believable that a friend of the team happens to be visiting the hotel with enough meat for a family meal?

I’ve been trying to find out which hotel Astana were staying in on those days. I vaguely recall that they weren’t staying in Pau and at least one good source seems to think they might have been lodged across the border in Spain.

What seems odd is Vinokourov eats early and that the spanish contingent eat later and separately to the rest of the team. Well it’s not that odd given the stories we’ve heard about relationships within cycling teams.

A cycling team is logistically like a military company with corps devoted to specific functions and platoon-like units that work as a part of the whole. They may not have much contact usually but on a rest day, at a key point in the race, this seems a triffle odd.

They were staying at that hotel for at least two nights and it seems on the first night the meat wasn’t up to scratch so the chef was tasked with finding a better source.

Now I’ve worked a few kitchens in my time and I certainly wouldn’t wait on a mate turning up with some chops for the evening. I’d be phoning round all the butchers in the area trying to source something early in the day. How could he have know Bert and friends wouldn’t eat until late and run the risk that their dinner hadn’t arrived?

So it might be plausible that Contador ate contaminated meat but the explanation of how it came to be only his sample that showed evidence of it does not seem entirely believable when I hear it retold.

Structurally it is all sound, but it all seems to lack any snags, the sort of thing that makes it human. Is that a matter of translation or that Contador wanted to be clear with his facts?

The notion that a professional cycling team would leave the nutrition of their star rider so open to chance as the elements of the story imply – bad meat, replacement meat travelling a distance – pushes against credibility.

So which tests contained what?

My reading of the ARD information, as laid out in the Velonation article German journalist claims UCI denied Alberto Contador positive test, says rider may have received transfusions, is that it was Contador’s test on stage 19 – the day he took the yellow jersey – which contained the plasticizers.

That would make the claim that he took a transfusion on the morning of the stage into Pau, not the rest day. The Clenbuterol comes in the rest day test and is still present the next day (Pau-Tourmalet).

This point is made in the article but it is worth stressing: Exogenous plasticizers at an abnormal level occur separately to the appearance of exogenous Clenbuterol.

Seppelt seems to be trying to refute the “try the veal” defence by introducing something entirely new.

I’m pretty sure good evidence that Contador was at the blood bags like a binge-drinking Dracula makes a much bigger story that trace of clenbuterol. After all, Damien Ressiot didn’t play his hand in Le Mensonge Armstrong with an opening gambit of the dubious TUE.

I’ll chip away at the edifice as the evidence appears but, to paraphrase Benjo Maso, author of The Sweat of the Gods: Myths and Legends of Bicycle Racing the worst thing we can do is to presume that the achievements of the modern era are not being achieved honestly.

So, yes I’ve got quite a few questions I’d like to know the answers to before I turn the page on this story. If you can give answers for any of them, I’d really like to hear them.

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