Alberto Contador has told French television that there is no place for dopers within the sport. He said: “For cycling, it should be zero tolerance, I express myself less certain but it is clear that there is no place for cheaters.”

Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank rider previously banned for two years having recorded a positive test for Clenbuterol and stripped of two grand tour titles (2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d’Italia).

Alberto Contador, the winner of Vuelta a España 2012
Alberto Contador won Vuelta a España 2012 after serving a doping ban.

I won’t speculate here if he’s a doper, or not. But if he’s not misunderstood, or if he was not trying to be ironic, I think he doesn’t have any idea about what “zero tolerance” is.

Let’s look at Team Sky zero-tolerance policy: Team sky asking their staff and riders to sign a declaration confirming that they have no past or present involvement in doping. Anyone who does not sign the declaration will leave the team, as will anyone who does sign but is subsequently found to be in breach of the policy. The team will also terminate contracts if individuals admit to any doping in their pasts.

So, what if every team in the peloton would apply this kind of policy? Contador and his manager, Bjarne Riis would leave the team and try to find a new job.

In fact, I do not think the zero-tolerance policy is so effective to clean the sport from doping. I agree with David Howman, the chief of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA):

“If it is destroying their lives then you have got to wonder if it is a sound idea, not many are going to fess up if they lose their jobs. Zero tolerance doesn’t make much sense in the overall effort to clean up the sport.

“In general we are concerned we are losing those who knew about the doping and what went on and we want them to feel free to come forward.

“If they are excluded because of a fear of losing their positions or other draconian processes it will once again lead to the omertà and that’s a regrettable loss of opportunity to clean the sport.”

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