Alberto Contador’s fate will be considered just days after he’s set to conclude racing in the Giro d’Italia.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport confirmed Friday that a three-member panel will consider evidence in his ongoing clenbuterol case during a three-day session from June 6-8. That’s barely a week after the Giro ends in Milano.
CAS officials had previously announced it would resolve the controversial case before the end of June, meaning that the Contador case will be decided before the start of the 2011 Tour de France, which begins July 2.
The confirmation of the dates comes just as Contador is racing in the Giro, where he started Friday’s climbing stage wearing the pink jersey. There was no immediate reaction from Contador, who lined up with his Saxo Bank-Sungard teammates to take the start Friday ahead of three decisive climbing stages across the Dolomites.
Three arbitrators will set on a panel to measure evidence provided by Contador’s lawyers as well as legal teams from the UCI and WADA, which both appealed a mid-February decision by the Spanish cycling federation to clear Contador. Efraim Barak will serve as president of the panel, while Quentin Bryne-Sutton has been nominated by the UCI and WADA, and Ulrich Haas has been proposed by Contador’s legal team.
Contador has been cleared to race since that decision by the Spanish federation and has since won the Vuelta a Murcia, d the Volta a Catalunya and is still favored to win the Giro.
Contador could face a two-year ban and lose his 2010 Tour de France crown if the three-member panel does not support his argument that traces of clenbuterol discovered during last year’s Tour came from accidental contamination from eating meat. Even if the panel accepts the explanation, Contador could face some form of penalty, that would very likely include the revocation of his 2010 Tour results.
It’s hard to predict how the decision might go. In the past, CAS has been in firm in backing WADA rules of “strict liability,” the argument that athlete’s must be held responsible for anything discovered in their bodies regardless of its source. Recent clenbuterol cases linked to contaminated meat, namely in Mexico and China, has created some second-guessing among some anti-doping authorities that clenbuterol should be re-classified as a threshold substance.
It’s also unclear how CAS would rule if it decides to ban Contador. The sport high court has taken a wide view on when to begin bans and how to handle subsequent athletic accomplishments. Contador did not race from last year’s Tour, but returned to competition after he was cleared to race by the Spanish federation. CAS could set any possible ban to begin from the date of the final decision and let his results from mid-February stand.
CAS could also support Contador’s arguments, opening the door for his participation in the 2011 Tour.