I'll be honest - writing about doping in cycling is never easy, but I've been compelled by the recent controversies particularly those surrounding Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

I'll be honest with you - writing about doping in cycling is never easy,
but I've been compelled by the recent controversies particularly those
surrounding Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.

It seems
everybody has an opinion about the latest drama surrounding Contador
while if the comments from Cycling Central blog contributors are any
indication, there's a percentage who physically despise Armstrong for
(what they believe) getting away with "blue murder."

I was
brought up to believe a person is innocent until proven guilty so it
amazes me how so many so-called "cycling experts" are prepared to hang
both riders for allegedly using performance-enhancing substances without
a fair trial.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion but how anyone
can unequivocally call these guys drug cheats is beyond me.

Sure,
we can all make assumptions, and there's every possibility the Tour de
France winners may have dabbled in doping. But where's the proof? I
don't have any - do you?

So until the courts make the final
decision one way or the other and the investigations are completed,
nobody is qualified to be overly judgemental except for those close to
the action.

How anyone can point the finger at Contador and/or
Armstrong for their possible links to cheating when none of us really
know the full details of their individual situations?

I'll give
you an example about detail. While the internet rumour mill was aflame
with all sorts of theories about the perfidy of the Spanish Cycling
Federation's (RFEC) role in allowing Alberto Contador to get back in the
saddle, the reality may have been somewhat different - if you had the
facts of the case at your disposal.

Alasdair
Fotheringham
last week produced a simple but brilliant piece of
journalism in the Independent - he actually talked to Contador's lawyer,
Andy Ramos. And from my reading it's clear that in Contador's case a
reasonable doubt has been established.

"The [anti-doping]
legislation states that a rider is responsible for any banned substance
in his body," Ramos said to Fotheringham. "But there's a clause that
frees him of that responsibility if he can demonstrate there was no
intentional negligence.

"We proved that, and that was the key to
his defence. From day one his defence was based around that clause."

Ramos
also explained another aspect of the case that led to much confusion,
that of the one-year ban that was supposed to have been levied on
Contador and overturned by the RFEC.

"This was no more than a
prosecutor's proposal," said Ramos. "It was wrongly thought that a
year's ban was an actual sentence, and that the Spanish Cycling
Federation was then influenced by political pressure in Spain [to reduce
it]. But that proposal was not legally binding."

And lastly
Ramos fired a shot across the bow of those quick to pass
judgement without the facts. Read the World Anti-Doping Association
(WADA) code, he said.


"They should read the whole rulebook, not just the article [that states
that the case is cut-and-dried] and they would find there are exceptions
to that rule."

There's more there and the Fotheringham report is
well worth the read for those who keep an open mind. Clearly it's a
grey area, no black - no white.

Contador blames contaminated
beef for his positive return but has now be cleared pending review by
the International Cycling Union (UCI), WADA and no doubt the Court of
Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Armstrong never tested positive
despite undergoing countless dope tests in a career spanning some 20
years.

And although the rumour mongers and hardcore investigative
journalists have been out to get both (for decades in Armstrong's case)
- each are officially clean - whether we like it or not.

If
either or both are eventually proven to have cheated, only then do we
throw the book at them and discard them forever for misleading and
cheating on us for so long.

That being the case I feel we must
judge both on face value and that is; they are currently innocent and
therefore clean under the eyes of the law.

For now that's good
enough for me.