Zero tolerance?

Posted: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 by Travis Cody in

I'm not passing any judgment on Alberto Contador.  Only he and his team know whether he cheated by ingesting the banned substance clenbuterol, or whether he accidentally ingested it when he ate tainted meat as he claims.

I merely wonder what zero tolerance means.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) claims a zero tolerance policy for clenbuteral in athletes because it builds muscle and burns fat, even in small doses.  It is a clear performance enhancing drug and WADA claims not to tolerate it...non, nada, nein!

So what is it?  Does zero tolerance mean that it doesn't matter how the banned substance got into an athlete's system?  If it's there, are you guilty no matter how you say it happened?  Or does it mean an athlete gets to claim "I dunno how it got there" and side step responsibility for it?

Contador claims he didn't know his steak was tainted with clenbuterol.  OK.  Maybe he's only guilty of being kind of stupid to eat a steak on a rest day and not know where the meat came from.  You'd think an elite athlete would pay better attention, particularly when that athlete knows he'll be tested.  And why would a cyclist want to eat beef on a rest day when proteins can be so difficult to digest anyway?

Personally, that has always been the suspect part of this whole business for me.  A cyclist eats a steak the day before spending 4-6 hours on a bike climbing mountains.  Sure he does.

I'm all for fairness in justice.  I believe in the principle of presumption of innocence.  

I also believe in taking responsibility for yourself, and for paying attention to what is going on around you.  If you're serious about your ethics, take control of your training and every aspect of your life.  It's your career after all, isn't it?

So what does WADA consider zero tolerance in this case?  If the Spanish Cycling Federation decides to clear Alberto Contador and lift the previously imposed one year suspension from the sport, will WADA appeal the decision to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport?  

I think it has to.  No one disputes that clenbuterol was found in Contador's sample.  It was a small amount, and scientists differ on what the amount proves about how it got there, or whether it was even enough to give Contador any kind of performance edge.

According to WADA's zero tolerance policy, how the substance got there and how much there was should be irrelevant.  It was there and it is a banned drug.  If they don't appeal, then I say zero tolerance is meaningless. 


  1. I concur. If they don't appeal, then the policy is meaningless.

  1. It's the politics of such things that often get me. guilty depends on so many things.

  1. Akelamalu says:

    You talk a lot of sense Trav.

  1. I agree long does this last...I am so sick of it all in all sports.

  1. I suppose we should expect little else from a society that tolerates child molestation or those who kill others while driving drunk.

  1. GGG: Might as well toss the policy.

    Charles: Indeed. I'd be OK with some flexibility, if those words "zero tolerance" weren't there.

    Akelamalu: I try.

    V: If WADA and UCI want to allow for provable accidental ingestion, then they should announce that this decision won't be appealed and they will change the language of the policy. If they want it to really be zero tolerance, then they must appeal this decision.

    Driller: I don't know that society tolerates those things. I certainly don't and I don't know anyone who does. But it's certain that both of those things exist, and just as certain that offenders should be punished.