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Contador calls for more rider involvement, believes WADA will change Clenbuterol regulations

Contador meets reporters before the group ride. Photo: Robertson/VeloDramatic

TIBURON, Calif. (VN) — Embattled three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador met fans and the media Tuesday in Sausalito and Tiburon and called for more involvement in anti-doping regulation for riders. Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) said he was confident that the Court of Arbitration for Sport would rule in his favor over a 2010 clenbuterol charge next month and that the World Anti-Doping Agency would soon implement new standards for the drug in its code.

In a 40-minute question and answer session with a small group of journalists in the small Bay Area town, Contador was relaxed, flanked by his brother Fran and Specialized Racing road team manager Simone Toccafondi. After back-to-back group rides out of nearby Sausalito — the second seeing more than 100 riders meet at Mike’s Bikes and follow the Spaniard for a hard, sometimes harrowing loop in Marin County — the three-time Tour de France champion answered a run of questions about his 2012 race plans, the new Specialized Tarmac SL4 and his ongoing clenbuterol case. Toccafondi translated.

Contador said he’s confident in his chances to overcome appeals from the UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency when his case is heard by the International Court for Arbitration of Sport November 22. That date comes more than four months after Contador’s initial hearing of June 6 and a day over 16 months after he registered an adverse analytical finding for clenbuterol on the second rest day of the 2010 Tour de France.

Despite his confidence, Contador said he was thinking more about the case now that his offseason had begun.

In May CAS delayed the Spaniard’s hearing to August, saying in a release that the decision was made “to give all parties concerned reasonable time to prepare.” This allowed Contador, winner of the Giro d’Italia, to ride the Tour de France, where he finished fifth overall. The Court approved a second extension in late July, granting a request by WADA aimed at allowing an additional round of written submissions by Contador, the UCI and WADA.

“Yes. I’m very confident because of all the (doping) controls; the scientific facts are supporting my case and I’m confident also because of all the experts that are supporting my case,” Contador said before turning to Toccafondi for a moment of side discussion.

“I believe that it’s going to be a favorable resolution to me.”

Remove national feds from the equation?

President Pat McQuaid announced at the road world championships last month that the UCI would seek to move primary control of anti-doping cases from national federations to independent tribunals.

A big crowd met Contador at the bike shop. Photo: Robertson/VeloDramatic
A big crowd met Contador at the bike shop. Photo: Robertson/VeloDramatic

McQuaid told The Age’s Rupert Guinness that, “The UCI is looking at … (an) international tribunal, about taking these cases away from the national federations.”

After his initial suspension in January, the Spanish federation, RFEC, cleared Contador for competition. It is that ruling that the UCI and WADA are contesting.

When asked whether the move away from national-level control was appropriate, Contador welcomed the change, so long as it came with increased objectivity, transparency and speed.

“If there is a high level of objectivity, that could be really good because it could be faster, more under control, but there is still a need for an external organization to control that everything is done in the appropriate way,” he said.

Would his situation be different had the RFEC not had the primary jurisdiction in his case? Contador looked down in thought, scratched his chin and smiled.

“I don’t know. I can’t answer this question,” he said. “There are many factors. For sure I believe what the UCI is trying to do could definitely speed up the process, but I don’t know if my situation would have been solved or taken care of faster.”

The winner of six grand tours called for increased involvement in anti-doping regulation for parties other than the UCI. He did not elaborate on who those parties should be, but said that too much of the burden falls on the athletes’ shoulders on the prosecution side of doping offenses, without enough voice on the regulation side. When asked about the burden, Contador laughed and paused, starting an answer before turning to Toccafondi and then Fran for clarification.

“I believe that the problem for me is mainly that there should be more organizations involved in trying to clean up the sport and not only in cycling. We should have more involvement and participation in this fight. If that would be the case, the load shouldn’t only be on the athletes, and mainly in cycling,” he said.

“Mainly, when it’s time to take a decision or make a procedure, we should allow more people to have a say on how things should be run — that’s just to define an anti-doping rule — it shouldn’t be only the UCI. It should be more organizations, and the same across all the sports.”

A number of athletes in world sport have battled clenbuterol charges in recent years, including five Mexican soccer players and Dutch mountain biker Rudi van Houts. The Dutch federation cleared Van Houts in March after he argued that tainted meat in Mexico was responsible for his positive test. Countries including Mexico and China see widespread use of clenbuterol in beef production. Contador has argued the same, claiming that beef brought across the border from Spain was to blame for his adverse result.

Contador did say that he expected WADA to implement minimum acceptable levels for clenbuterol. The agency last week released its 2012 list of banned substances. After hinting earlier that clenbuterol may carry a minimum-level requirement for a positive test next year, the agency left its regulation alone.

“I don’t believe that this decision is going to effect my case … I strongly believe there will be a change in the levels for clenbuterol in the future,” said Contador.

When asked when that would happen, he answered: “Right after my case.”

Is that frustrating for the Spaniard?

“There’s a lot of things that are frustrating,” he said, smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

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