Sports and Ethical Questions


Who is watching Tour de France this year?

If you aren’t watching, you missed some pretty exciting drama yesterday in Stage 15 of the race.

Some quick background: Lance Armstrong isn’t in the running for first place anymore. Too many crashes at the beginning of the Tour cost him too much time. The original story was Lance vs. Alberto Contador–his old teammate that stabbed him in the back in the last Tour de France.

That seems to be Contador’s MO: back-stabbing, less than ethical behavior in order to be THE WINNER.

Andy Schleck vowed to take revenge over Alberto Contador after finishing behind the defending champion following a mechanical problem in the 15th stage.”

Contador

Since Lance is out of contention and just riding the rest of the Tour de France in support of his other teammates, the new “war” was Andy Schleck vs. Alberto Contador.

Yesterday towards the end of the insane mountain climb in the Pyrenees, Andy Schleck was in the lead and would have beat Contador had his chain not fallen off his bike. In the 13 seconds it took for him to stop, fix the chain and hop back on the bike, Contador passed him and kept climbing without a second glance.

This proposes an interesting debate: was Contador in the wrong for passing him and beating Schleck?

Andy Schleck

At first I thought “oh well that’s kind of how the game is played.” Basically, it sucks that the chain fell off, but it’s not like the whole race should stop while he fixed his bike. Especially since that doesn’t happen when people crash–the Tour goes on.

Then I started to change my mind. I said, “Who wants to win a race because of a mechanical malfunction? If it was me, I’d want to beat my opponent FAIR AND SQUARE and because of athletic abilities NOT a fluke.”

Michael explained to me the concept of “Fair Play” and he believes Contador broke the code of “Fair Play” (even if he didn’t break any rules).

The general consensus on the chat boards were in favor of Schleck.  “HE CAN’T BEAT ANDY HEAD TO HEAD,  so he ATTACKS him when he has a mechanical [problem]” but then there’s the side that says Contador Did No Wrong.

So that brings me to this question:

Do you think Contador cheated to beat Andy Schleck? Do you think he broke the “Fair Play” rule? Or do you think there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of the situation?

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14 responses to “Sports and Ethical Questions

  1. I saw that, and my heart totally broke for Andy Schleck when his chain popped. I mean, how much does that suck?

    Sure, Contador could have taken it easy on the rest of the stage, but when he first took off? He had no idea that Schleck was having a mechanical problem. I’m not a hard-core cyclist, so I have no idea what the cultural convention is. However, I do know one thing: had I been Contador, hauling my ass up the side of the mountain and my main competitor suddenly dropped off the back? I would have gone for it.

    I think he was within his rights – mechanical problems are part of bike racing, after all. Just ask Lance – the reason he’s out of contention is not because of his fitness, but because of bad luck with mechanical problems and crashes. It sucks, but it happens.

    Had Schleck had a strong teammate in the pack with him, it might have been different. He would have had someone there to try and keep everyone else under control, pace-wise, while he got his stuff together. But he didn’t. It was him, Contador, and a few other people. It sucks, but those are all super-competitive guys and, yeah, they’re going to take the opening.

    Was Contador right in taking the opening? Maybe not, but I can’t condemn him because I would have done the same thing. Is Shleck right to be pissed off? Oh, totally. He caught a bad break and it stinks.

    There’s still plenty of racing left, and plenty of opportunities for Schleck to make up some time. He’s only 8 seconds back, so I think the next few days will be very, very interesting.

    • You make some excellent points and you are totally right: if Schleck had one of his teammates with him the situation may have been completely different. He was away from his pack and on his own. I do think it was totally cool how Andy Schleck hauled ASS to catch Contador!

  2. It’s such a great question, and as a non-competitor I don’t have a lot to draw on. I think I have to completely agree with Dawn on this one. Them’s the breaks, and you can either make up for a bit of bad luck with prowess or you can’t.

  3. From what I can tell reading about this whole controversy, he did violate the etiquette of cycling culture. I didn’t know this but apparently it’s common to slow down when your opponent has mechanical difficulties or when the race leader stops to use the bathroom.

    If that’s how it is in cycling, then yeah it was probably a cheap win, but I think that’s kind of a silly tradition. If I was in a running race, and a competitor’s shoe came untied, I wouldn’t sit and wait for them to re-tie. Getting your equipment in order is part of the race, and so is plain bad luck and mechanical failures. Contador seems like a real jerk though so I hate to be on his side!

  4. Cycling is kind of funny with the gentlemanly stuff they do at times. It is a hard call, but I certainly would not want to wear the yellow jersey under those circumstances. Did you hear the boos and whistles when he put it on?

    He knew exactly what he was doing – don’t give me that “I didn’t know” crap.

    Then again, in football if 2 people are running for the ball and one trips, you certainly don’t expect the other one to stop and help them up.

  5. greensandjeans

    Historically, if a top conteder or the guy in yellow has a small crash or a mechanical issue, everyone waits. I think that has been the big issue. Yeah, contador wants to win, but I’m sure he would rather win outright and not because of some flukey thing!

  6. At the time of the incident Schleck was in front of Vinokourov and then Contador was behind him. Schleck’s chain slipped, then Vino accelerated. When Vino got to Schleck and realized what had happened, he slowed down. This is when Contador blasted past both of them. Vino looked up and saw that Contador was making a move and he then rode in support of Contador (his teammate).

    You shouldn’t slow down per se, but you shouldn’t be accelerating when something like this happens. It’s totally against the fair play code of ethics in cycling.

    Tons of people hate Contador for what he did last year to Armstrong and team Astana; his actions this year have only worsened his reputation.

  7. This may help with some of the background and history: http://thearmchairsportsfan.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/the-day-sportsmanship-died/

    It’s all a bit of a grey area, really. There is no absolute right or absolute wrong, but generally it is considered a ‘good thing’ to extend the courtesy of waiting – or at the very least not attacking. The water is muddied somewhat by the fact that Schleck had just attacked himself.

    For many, the biggest crime is that Contador said afterwards that he had no idea Schleck was in mechanical difficulties. Schleck had his mechanical some 30-40 metres in front of Contador – he had a good view of what was going in. And even if he didn’t, you can be sure his team told him over his radio earpiece.

    It would have been better if Contador had just said “I made a split-second decision to keep racing” and stuck to his guns. To try to bend the truth when the TV footage so clearly contradicts him was silly. He has since apologised both via YouTube and publicly, but it’s a shame he allowed it to get to that stage.

  8. Con-tador gained 8 seconds to Schleck then got 10 seconds ahead? couldn’t be more disrespectful of the sport. that’s Spain for you. taking advantage of a mechanical error is pathetic for people of this calibur

  9. Contador could NOT have been any further out of line.

    He gained 40 seconds by cheating, and he “won” by 32.

    He stole the Tour from a man he considers to be his friend.

    It’s all fine and good to apologize now, because he’s already gotten what he wanted. It’s like saying, “Sorry I ate the last piece of cake…”, or “Sorry I married your girl while you were overseas in the army…”, because the apology is hollow and pointless. It can’t take back the damage that’s already been done, nor can it take your ill-gotten gain away from you.

    This utter fool literally stole the victory from his friend…in the biggest race in the world. The prize money is the tip of the iceberg, too, especially when you consider the immortality with having your name in the list of winners of the Tour. Not only that, but the money Andy might have made from additional product endorsements could well add up to tens of millions of dollars.

    Just how enormous this reprehensible deed is…just how inexcusable it is…can hardly be overstated. A man’s true colors come out when he is in a TOUGH situation, and Contador showed that his character…is lacking.

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