LEON, Spain (VN) _ Alberto Contador’s hopes of escaping a possible racing ban suffered a setback this week when the World Anti-Doping Agency took steps to appeal a similar case involving a German table tennis player who also claims he tested positive for clenbuterol after digesting contaminated meat.
WADA officials have taken procedural steps to retain its option of challenging a decision not to sanction Dimitrij Ovtcharov, a Ukrainian-born athlete who won a silver medal in the Beijing Summer Olympics.
WADA spokesman Frédéric Donzé confirmed to VeloNews on Thursday that WADA is still investigating the case and wants to keep its legal options open.
“Following its review of the file, WADA has determined that it was necessary to clarify a number of matters. WADA is seeking a number of clarifications from the German Table Tennis Federation about its decision,” Donzé wrote in an e-mail. “In the meantime, WADA has taken the initiative to appeal the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in order to preserve its right of appeal within the CAS deadlines.”
Ovtcharov’s case has drawn comparison to Contador’s case because both claim that traces of clenbuterol that triggered positive tests in anti-doping controls entered their bodies after digesting contaminated meat.
Ovtcharov tested positive on August 23 in an out-of-competition control at his home. The testing procedure was conducted in Cologne, Germany, by the same lab that analyzed Contador’s sample in July.
Like Contador, Ovtcharov says clenbuterol entered his system after eating meat; in this case while on a trip to China in mid-August. Ovtcharov also provided hair samples, which experts said would reveal high concentrations of the banned drug if it was taken over a long period of time to produce performance-enhancing benefits.
“Experts explained to me that in China there is a kind of meat which can make for positive doping test. I like meat very much and I eat it every day, and the hotel in which I ate was good,” Ovtcharov said in an interview with German television.
In mid-October, the German table tennis federation decided not to ban Ovtcharov and he was immediately cleared to return to competition.
That case provided a ray of light for Contador, who is arguing that he ingested steaks brought in from Spain on a rest-day meal in the Pyrénées.
The decision by WADA to further investigate the Ovtcharov case could prove troubling to Contador, who is facing a two-year and disqualification from this 2010 Tour de France victory. The Spanish cycling federation is currently reviewing his case and has until early February to reach a decision.
Even if the Spanish cycling federation clears Contador, it looks more likely that WADA would appeal that decision to the Court of Arbitration in Sport.
Contador is currently training with his new Saxo Bank-Sungard teammates on the Spanish island of Fuerteventura. While temporarily banned from racing, the UCI gave the green light to allow Contador to join his team for a two-week training camp.
Editor’s Note: Andrew Hood cut his journalistic teeth at Colorado dailies before the web boom opened the door to European cycling in the mid-1990s. Hood’s covered every Tour since 1996 and has been VeloNews’ European correspondent since 2002. He lives in Leon, Spain, when he’s not chasing bike races.