Zero tolerance prevails after all

Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 by Travis Cody in

What do you tolerance actually does mean zero tolerance.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport decided that professional cyclist Alberto Contador was guilty of testing positive for clenbuterol, which is a banned substance with a zero tolerance policy attached to it.  CAS responded to an appeal from the International Cycling Union and World Anti-Doping Agency after the Spanish Cycling Federation exonerated Contador last year.

The zero tolerance policy was at issue here.  The SCF ruling that Contador should not be banned from competing implied that it was OK because the drug was accidentally ingested at the 2010 Tour de France.  They accepted the rider's contention that he ate a tainted steak.

The ICU and WADA stood behind the zero tolerance policy for the substance, clearly contending that it didn't matter how Contador ingested it.  They favored holding the athlete responsible for what goes into his system and refused to budge from penalizing Contador to the full extent of the rule.

CAS agreed with ICU and WADA.  The Court announced last week that Alberto Contador would be stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title and banned retroactively for 2 years.  The Court rejected the cyclist's defense, firmly upholding the zero tolerance policy for clenbuterol.  Contador's defense never denied that the drug was in his system, so he essentially admitted that he was guilty, although he maintained that it was accidental guilt.

Maybe Contador was only guilty of being stupid to eat a steak on a rest day at the Tour de France and not know where the meat came from or to make certain that nothing in the meat was suspect.  But at some point you have to take personal responsibility to pay attention to what is happening 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? 

I think that is what this CAS ruling implies to all athletes.  And I agree with it.  Athletes should be aware.  They can't go around willy nilly and then fall back on the "Gee, I didn't know what it was or how it got there" defense.  It can't always be the trainer's fault.  Athletes must be held accountable and responsible. 

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Alberto Contador is responsible for the clenbuterol in his system.  It applied the zero tolerance policy for that drug and banned Contador for two years.  It's a retroactive ban, which means he has already served more than a year of it.  He loses the 2010 Tour de France title and cannot compete in this year's Giro d'Italia, Tour de France, or London Olympics.  The ban ends on 6 August 2012.

I support this decision.  I think it reminds athletes that zero tolerance does mean zero tolerance.  I think it tells them that you don't get a pass for a zero tolerance substance.  You don't get an excuse.  It just doesn't matter how a zero tolerance substance gets in your system.  If it is found, you will be penalized according to the rules.

I say that's a good thing.


  1. Ivanhoe says:

    It is a little complicated for me to understand, but you made it much easier. Yes, every single athlete should be responsible for his/her actions.
    Happy Valentine's Day, Trav! :)

  1. Jean says:

    There's a point where you need to back up thought with action and this was it. I agree. I'm glad they stuck with their rule.

  1. Taking responsibility is good advice for everyone, really.

  1. Cherie says:

    Hallelujah! As long as this has been an issue (far before 2010), the "someone gave me something that helped me win against my knowledge or consent" excuse can no longer be valid. Good to see that the monitoring bodies followed through.

  1. Unless it's truly zero tolerance, it's way too easy to cheat.

  1. Debra says:

    Athletes being held accountable these days is a rare thing. Maybe it will catch on!

  1. Now the question is, will the reigning <LB NL MVP be stripped of his title? Baseball has a true test case on their hands.