Crucial moment for Alberto Contador’s career as anti-doping hearing begins today in CAS
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Crucial moment for Alberto Contador’s career as anti-doping hearing begins today in CAS

by Shane Stokes at 5:46 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Reasons for Clenbuterol positive to be investigated

Alberto ContadorSixteen months after he provided samples at the Tour de France which subsequently tested positive for Clenbuterol, the Alberto Contador case reaches a crucial point today with the start of a four day hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

The 28 year old is defending himself against an appeal lodged by WADA and the UCI, who are seeking to overturn a ruling in February by the Spanish federation RFEC. Despite WADA rules stating athletes have strict liability for whatever is in their bodies, the RFEC cleared Contador of all wrongdoing and said that he could immediately return to competition.

The outcome of the case will be wide-reaching for cycling and for sport itself. If Contador is cleared, he will retain the third Tour de France victory he picked up last year, as well as his second Giro d’Italia title won in May. His Grand Tour tally would remain at six.WADA’s list of prohibited substances may have to be rewritten, with the strict liability rules pertaining to Clenbuterol surely under threat if CAS rules he was not at fault.

However if the court sides with WADA and the UCI, it makes it highly likely those two Grand Tours will be stripped from his palmares, as well as other results he has achieved this season. These include stage wins and the overall classification in the Vuelta a Murcia and Volta a Catalunya, as well as fifth overall in the Tour de France.

In addition, depending on how CAS rules, he could face a suspension of up to two years.

The latter would only apply in the case of the court deciding that he had deliberate cheated. The UCI told VeloNation earlier this year that its case pertained to Contador’s claims of food contamination alone. More recently, though, Spanish newspaper El Pais suggested one week ago that WADA would pursue a case based on more serious charges.

If the paper’s information is correct, the previously-reported presence of plasticizers in samples from the rider could see WADA suggest that Clenbuterol got into his system after the rider underwent a banned transfusion during the Tour.

Neither the UCI nor WADA have commented recently on the case, with both saying that they are unable to speak on the matter.

However El Pais’ suggestions of the witnesses and experts on both sides suggest the likely approaches to be employed by the defence and those appealing.

Much testimony to be covered:

A total of 23 people are said to be appearing, with ten of these speaking for the appeal and the remaining thirteen representing Contador.

WADA’s group is reported as including the agency’s scientific director Olivier Rabin, Australian anti-doping expert Michael Ashenden, who is part of the UCI’s biological passport analysis body, Pierre Sottas, who worked to develop the passport and two lab analysts who carried out the sample analysis.

A biostatician will reportedly try to show that to return a positive test for clenbuterol, a very large amount of meat would need to be eaten to show traces in urine. A Spanish lawyer will be called to back up suggestions that this route is unlikely, as well as the butcher who sold the steak plus the manager of the Spanish association of cattle ranchers.

VeloNation has heard suggestions that a witness close to cycling could also appear, but no further details are known.

Meanwhile Contador will have 13 people speaking in his defence, including US lie detector expert Louis Rovner, who will reportedly use the polygraph analysis of a statement by Contador to try to show he’s telling the truth.

Also part of the line-up is Vivian James, an 87 year old anti-doping expert who was part of a UK Sport Expert Committee which reported in 2000 that some Nandralone cases were caused by contamination and that minimum thresholds should be set, as well as Paul Scott, who in the past ran out-of-competition testing for teams now called HTC Highroad and Garmin-Cervélo.

It will also include the Italian hematologist Giuseppe Banfi, who was part of his case before the Spanish federation, a British biostatician who will question the UCI’s biological passport and a German expert in plasticizers. The latter will be called if WADA does indeed pursue blood transfusion charges. A civil guard [Spanish policeman] plus a private detective who tried to trace the origin of the meat reportedly bought in Irún are also said to be appearing.

There are suggestions that Contador’s then-Astana team-mates Benjamín Noval, Jesús Hernández and Paolo Tiralongo may also take the stand, vouching that they too ate the steak that Contador states was the source of the Clenbuterol. Their testimony is of uncertain value, though, as they were not tested and so it is impossible to say that they too were affected.

There’s clearly a lot of ground to be covered between now and Thursday. According to CAS Secretary General Matthieu Reeb, there should be sufficient time to hear all the witnesses and experts. “The programme of the hearing has been established after consultation with the parties,” he told VeloNation last week. “It should be fine.”

In terms of a final outcome, he said the decision would be over a month from now. “The panel will do its best to deliver a final decision as soon as possible,” he said. “But, realistically, I doubt that it will be before Christmas, due to the size of the file and general complexity of the case.”

Once that time has elapsed, the outcome of this long drawn-out case will finally be known, and the winner of the 2010 Tour de France can be finally declared.

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