Blazin' Saddles

Dog’s dinner

Blazin' Saddles

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This cycling blogger choked on his corn flakes when he read on Sunday that a Spanish farmer has come out in defence of Alberto Contador by claiming that the Clenbuterol-contaminated meat the Spaniard allegedly ingested on the second rest-day of last year's Tour de France may, after all, have come from South America.

The latest development in an on-going saga almost as tedious as the seemingly never-ending Police Academy series comes days after the World Anti-Doping Agency announced that meat tested from the butcher's shop in Irun in northern Spain where Contador's steak was bought found no traces of the slimming drug.

In fact, WADA cited a European study carried out in 2008 which turned up just one trace of Clenbuterol in 300,000 samples of European meat: almost as bad odds as Bradley Wiggins winning next year's Tour.

Of course, like all good meat, this has to be taken with a pinch of salt - because only the Bernie Kohl of farmers would slaughter their livestock before allowing for a 20-day window for the last dose of Clenbuterol to disappear.

But still, the results aren't ideal for Bertie's camp, who nevertheless remain defiant, releasing a statement stressing it was still "not possible to determine that the meat was not contaminated".

It's perhaps the certainty of Contador and his people that is arguably the most damning in this whole episode. There seems to be absolutely no evidence whatsoever that points to contaminated steak - and yet in their eyes that is the only explanation possible.

And thus we have the latest twist: a former cyclist-cum-farmer who has spoken out in defence of the three-times Tour champ by stressing that his tainted steak could have come from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay or Uruguay.

"It's more than possible," said Ramon Riestra, clearly mistaking 21st November for 1st April. "Look, one of the ports where most of this (South American) meat is unloaded is Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a French city that's very close to Irun. It's not strange that some butcher shop in Irun provided this meat."

No, it's not strange - it's arguably very handy. So, the gauntlet has now been thrown down: WADA have to prove the scope of the 'W' in their title and send their testers across the Atlantic - or at least to Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

Of course, the irony of the whole thing is that the reason why Contador got his friend Jose Luis Lopez to pick up some steak from his homeland in the first place was because he didn't trust the local fare in Pau.

Who would think that the innocent slices of meat picked up in a regional Basque butcher's actually came all the way from South America, via a French port, in the first place? Talk about poor food miles.

Regardless of the outcome, the whole debacle has become a real dog's dinner of a saga. Talking of dogs, last week Saddles was humoured to read that a dog named Scooby had created legal history in France by appearing as a witness in a murder case in France.

How different would the cycling world be if the likes of Tugboat, Piti and Brillo had been able to give evidence? And what about that Saint Bernard dog that Contador won back during the 2009 Tour?

NEWS FELTCH: In non-canine/bovine-related news this week, Frank and Andy Schleck have both been nominated for the prestigious award of Luxembourg's male athlete of the year award - which is a bit like Sharky and George being nominated as best Crime Busters of the Sea (do you know of any others?).

Philippe Gilbert, who both Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx reckon could develop into a Grand Tour rider, must beat a 400m runner and a show-jumping horse-rider if he is to become Belgium's sportsman of the year.

Lance Armstrong, who has seemingly changed his name to Juan Pelota in a bid to be hip, will turn his hand at triathlons once he retires from cycling. Following his last international race at the Tour Down Under, the American will take part in a two-day event in New Zealand.

And Italy's Alessandro Petacchi claims he is "at peace with his conscience" as his ongoing doping investigation drags on. The 2010 Tour green jersey says he still hopes to race all three Grand Tours in 2011, the odds of which are probably the same as finding traces of Clenbuterol in, say, 300,000 European steaks.

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