The historic Tour de France began on Saturday with perhaps the most attention on doping in the event’s history. Currently, three-time champion Alberto Contador still awaits judgment from the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) on an appeal from a failed drug test last year. It is expected, then, that the race will start without a judgment yet to be had, thereby shrouding the whole race in a mess of doping controversy and international arbitration frustration.
Although Contador was exonerated earlier, both the International Cycling Union (UCI) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appealed. The CAS will not be making its final decision until August, which could lead to the stripping of two of Contador’s titles. The clamor over Contador is only compounded by a story that ran on CBS’s 60 Minutes earlier in the year, where it was at the very least strongly suggested that Lance Armstrong, the face of the sport, engaged in some form of doping during his streak of seven victories.
Contador might have an easier go-around in this year’s Tour, yet he still faces challenges unlike other cyclists. Last year’s third-place finisher will not be competing this year, though there always seems to be a fresh crop of athletes rearing to take the spot at the top of the podium. At the same time, Contador deals with intense media scrutiny and boos or hisses from the crowd not experienced by his fellow riders.
Still, Contador is the favorite in this year’s Tour de France. Whether he emerges with four victories under his belt, three after a loss, or maybe even a smaller number, will largely depend on the international arbitration decisions of the CAS.