Contador claims doping rules are stuck in the 1960s
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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Contador claims doping rules are stuck in the 1960s

by Shane Stokes at 8:32 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Rider reiterates changes need to be made and thresholds set

Alberto ContadorCalling on thresholds to be established for banned substances in light of advancement in testing sensitivities, Alberto Contador has reiterated that he believes he is being unfairly treated. He is currently awaiting official confirmation of what sanction he will face from the Spanish federation RFEC.

In the meantime, the Saxo Bank-SunGard rider has released an open letter pointing out that the current rules ban substances known to have a boosting effect. He acknowledges that if these substances are found are of a sufficient quantity to improve performance, and are sufficiently high to show that voluntary ingestion was needed to reach those levels, then it is clear that the aim was to gain an advantage.

“Therefore, for particular substances there exists a threshold, the surpassing of which constitutes an offence and is punishable on a sporting level,” he states in the release, which appears on the Contador Notebook website. However he argues that any amount less than this is clearly not deliberate cheating.

“Today, advances in science are able to detect minute amounts of some banned substances which neither further athletic performance nor can possibly be taken voluntarily, except if they enter our bodies through ingested food; this is my case with clenbuterol,” he asserts. “But whereas scientific advances have arrived in the year 2011, the rule remains stuck in the 60’s, hence my “crime” and possible sanction.

“Only by combining scientific advances with modifications to the anti-doping rules will it be possible to talk about honest and fair sport, as I have always practiced it.”

Contador tested positive during the Tour de France, with analysis of his urine sample from the second rest day revealing the presence of 50 picograms of Clenbuterol. Current anti-doping rules state that there is no allowable level of the chemical, as, unlike other substances such as testosterone, it doesn’t occur naturally in the body.

Low threshold and other considerations:

The RFEC are currently deliberating the case. It recently proposed a suspension of one year to Contador but this was not a definitive ruling, and the rider had the chance to present further arguments against this sanction. He has said that he won’t accept any ban whatsoever, and so is likely to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if one is given.

Equally, WADA or the UCI have also indicated that they will consider a CAS appeal if they are not happy with the extent of the sanction. Whether it is a large or small sanction, the RFEC decision is therefore likely to be appealed by one side or another.

An appeal to CAS is likely to consider some of the following issues:

Points argued as part of Contador’s defence:

- The Cologne lab which tested Contador’s samples had a much higher sensitivity than other laboratories. The sample most likely would not have shown up positive at all if it was tested in many other WADA-accredited labs.

- Some contamination has been shown to occur from eating contaminated food substances. The rider claims that tainted meat was the source for his positive.

- While it is possible for an athlete to avoid using supplements, or to get a sample of the substance checked for purity before using a certain batch, it is impossible to analyse every piece of food to eliminate possible contamination.

- Because of this, it is unreasonable to sanction him as there was no intention to dope and no way to avoid food contamination.

Factors which may have been considered in building anti-doping case:

- The reason why no minimum threshold exists is both because Clenbuterol is not a naturally occurring substance. Current WADA rules state that an athlete is responsible for whatever is in his or her body, meaning that they are ultimately liable if a foreign substance is detected.

- While Clenbuterol is known to be used by farmers in South America and China, it is banned in Europe and tests have shown extremely low incidences of its use. Statistically speaking, there is a low probability that meat bought in Spain was contaminated.

- Low or non-existent thresholds for such substances are in place because they enable anti-doping scientists to catch athletes who may have been using banned substances at an earlier point. Low traces don’t necessarily mean that the sportsperson couldn’t have derived any benefit, but rather that the amount of the substance left in the body had dwindled over time.

Note: as regards the latter point, in Contador’s case the absence of Clenbuterol in earlier samples taken during the Tour would appear to rule out the possibility that he deliberately took the chemical during the race itself. However, anti-doping researchers are likely to have considered the known practice of some riders of using transfusions during Grand Tours, and whether blood containing residual traces could have been a possible source.

Contador has denied undergoing transfusions and taking any banned substances during his career. He has pledged to take the case further if he is banned by CAS.


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