Contador races Mallorca, returns home to await fate

Contador races, shuns reporters and heads home

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (VN) – Nearly 100 journalists showed up Sunday to hear what Alberto Contador had to say on the eve of what’s expected to be Monday’s decision in his long-running clenbuterol case.

Contador, however, didn’t have much to say. In fact, he didn’t say anything at all.

Court of Arbitration for Sport officials said a decision is expected Monday, most likely by noon European time.

If Contador was worried or had some inside information about what might happen, he certainly wasn’t giving anything away. Besides some pleasantries with race officials and a few of his peloton colleagues, including an awkward start-line pose alongside Andy Schleck, Contador remained mum just 24 hours ahead of a decision that will forever change his life, no matter happens.

And it was the same after the end of Sunday’s opening round of the four-day Mallorca Challenge. Contador disappeared without speaking to the media and was scheduled to fly to Madrid later this afternoon to await his fate.

Many of those same journalists, including representatives from Belgium, France and Italy, were scrambling to catch their own flights to Madrid to be nearby in case Contador decides to give a press conference Monday afternoon.

Race officials confirmed that Contador was contractually bound to appear at least one day with his Saxo Bank team at the Mallorca Challenge, which annually opens the Spanish racing calendar.

Contador held up his end of the bargain, finishing in the main pack behind race-winner Andrew Finn (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), and discreetly headed toward home.

Contador wants to huddle with family and friends as he awaits the CAS ruling. At stake is Contador’s reputation and future as a cyclist. He has vehemently denied doping and said that minute traces of clenbuterol entered his system after eating contaminated steaks from Spain during the second rest day at the 2010 Tour.

The Saxo Bank rider could face up to two years and disqualification of his 2010 Tour victory. UCI and WADA officials are also pushing to have Contador’s results in 2011 erased, including his victories in the Giro d’Italia and overall victories in the Murcia and Catalonia tours.

WADA officials strongly pushed their argument that clenbuterol entered Contador’s system after undergoing a banned blood transfusion. The case has been mired in controversy since its inception. The latest rabble centers on allegations of favoritism among the three-member panel charged with rendering a decision in the case.

Speculation is running high on what will happen in the seemingly never-ending caso Contador, but most of it was mere gossip and hearsay among the bored press corps, who still had to fill pages the next day with little to go on.

So far, there have been no credible leaks within the media. That vacuum is being filled by speculation, with a general consensus among the press corps that Contador could see a reduced, but not a full, two-year ban.