I can understand why cycling fans, especially Spanish cycling fans, defend the innocence of cyclist Alberto Contador, who was yesterday banned for two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for doping.
But I think the blinkered support from the Spanish media is out of place and even reveals a patronising attitude to the masses. That or they’re scared out of their journalist principles of being accused of being unpatriotic.
It has been a long and drawn out saga. Contador tested postive for a banned substance, clenbuterol, after a stage of the 2010 Tour de France. A deal was originally cut for Contador to have a one year ban, but he did not accept it as he wanted to prove his innocence and clear his name.
In its hearing last year, the Spanish Cycling Federation accepted Contador’s explanation that the traces of clenbuterol found in his blood were the result of having eaten contaminated meat, a piece of steak to be precise, and Contador was let off. This decision was yesterday overruled by the CAS.
Apparently, according to international anti-doping law, the matter is quite straightforward. In these cases, the onus is on the athletes to prove their innocence. Not, as in most other legal spheres, the other way round.
This is where, though, the waters got muddied.
At around the time of the Spanish federation’s hearing, the now ex-president of Spain, Rodriguez Zapatero, came out and said that Contador should not be banned because it was a general legal principle that you were innocent until proven guilty.
Zapatero, who had studied law before going into politics, had no place to make any comment on the matter, and it was irresponsible of him to do so. Not least because the comment he did make was ill-informed as this legal principle does not apply here.
And this is the argument that the Spanish press are blindly clinging to now. Just as they clung to all the other arguments in the early stages of the case that you’d normally only expect to hear from desperate fans in defence of their hero, in denial that he could do anything wrong.
It’s fine when fans do it, but you’d expect more from the mainstream media.
At the height of the saga, when I was still half interested in it, I remember that I was very happy to find a lot of objective coverage and debate on Spanish blogs.
In this instance, the fans, or the general public at least, were a cut above the professional media, from whom you were hard pushed to find an article that didn’t just bandy about arguments in Contador’s defence. The TV news was a lot worse.
In general, the Spanish media are actually pretty good, but when it comes to sport, they are probably a little bit too one-eyed.