The sight of Alberto Contador's seven-fingered celebration as he crossed the line in Madrid on Sunday to win his fifth Grand Tour (yes, fifth) should distress cycling fans.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

For Contador to openly flaunt the authority of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in such a way is significant in demonstrating the lack of cultural change in cycling with respect to doping.

Contador was of course stripped of two Grand Tours, the 2010 Tour de France, and the 2011 Giro d'Italia, after testing positive for clebuterol in July 2010.

After serving a back-dated ban from competition beginning in February, when the CAS ruled against him in one of the longest running, and damaging cases to the sport of cycling, he returned in August at the Eneco Tour.

A month later, he was standing on the top step of the podium at the Vuelta a Espana in Madrid.

For Contador to be able to return so quickly puzzled some fans, but only if you take his time off the bike on face value. In reality, the Spaniard's ban began in August of 2010, with - and this is important - all results in the intervening period declared null and void.

That created a sheer quarry of wins and podiums that needed to be re-awarded. Despite confusing and dividing fans further, the re-awarding of results was both necessary and important. Contador shouldn't have been racing in this period.

And yet speaking of the gesture on Sunday, Contador said:

"What's written down on paper could be one thing or another.

"But in the end what counts is your own feeling, and the memory that remains imprinted on the retinas of the fans. What's on paper is secondary."

Those comments are not in themselves surprising considering, Contador never admitted to the use of clenbuterol, pushing his now famous "contaminated beef" defence from very early on, and even after the ruling, professing his innocence.

The CAS case was also ambiguous in its ruling, the final summation by the tribunal dismissing both Contador's own explanation as well as WADA's suggestion of the remnants of a blood transfusion and pointed to a third possibility that neither party had argued for or rejected.

"The panel concluded that both the meat contamination scenario and the blood transfusion scenario were, in theory, possible explanations for the adverse analytical findings, but were however equally unlikely.

"In the panel's opinion on the basis of the evidence adduced, the presence of clenbuterol was more likely caused by the ingestion of a contaminated food supplement."

But with Contador unable to explain the presence of clenbuterol in his system, as is required by athletes who sign up to the World Anti-Doping Code, the CAS slapped a ban on him.

Complexities of the case aside, Contador should be treated no differently to any other rider or athlete that goes before the CAS, and the court's authority, if we are to accept its legitimacy, should not be questioned.

Contador went on.

"According to my lawyers, it made no sense to appeal the case, as it would have ended up again at the CAS anyway. Meanwhile, I have lost all faith in sports law," told Spanish newspaper El Mundo in April.

This sort of logic is all the more galling in the context of the past six months. A litany of doping admissions, the uncovering of a blighted past, and Lance Armstrong's own capitulation to the USADA. Add to that the positive of Frank Schleck, the allegations from Tyler Hamilton in to Bjarne Riis and others and these are dark days indeed.

To treat the CAS's ruling essentially as a joke is either inappropriate or wildly arrogant.

Perhaps more frustrating was the similarity to Armstrong's own comments on his stripped titles only a few weeks ago.

"USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles," the American said. "I know who won those seven Tours, my team-mates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours."

Let me be clear. I have no issues with the manner of Alberto Contador's 2012 Vuelta win, nor do I have an issues with a rider having doped and making a return.

But it's hard to countenance talk of widespread cultural change in cycling when tainted athletes refuse to accept the implications of doping on their palmares and on the sport.

While Contador still treats his ban as a joke I think it's obvious we've still got a long way to go.