Delays in Alberto Contador hearing likely. Could he race the Tour de France?

SAN PELLEGRINO, Italy (VN) — Apparent delays in Alberto Contador's hearing in his ongoing doping case could open the door for him to race this year's Tour de France despite having the risk of disqualification from last year's victory.

SAN PELLEGRINO, Italy (VN) — Apparent delays in Alberto Contador’s hearing in his ongoing doping case could open the door for him to race this year’s Tour de France despite having the risk of disqualification from last year’s victory.

Contador has a valid UCI license and is currently leading the Giro d’Italia despite facing the possibility of a two-year ban and the loss of his Tour crown from last year.

Attorneys with the Spanish cycling federation told the Spanish daily AS that a hearing set for early June will all but certainly be delayed, possibly to as late as August or September. Contador officials also confirmed to journalists at the Giro d’Italia on Thursday that an official hearing date is likely to be moved back.

That was confirmed later in the day, when the Court issued an announcement to that effect as well:

Following the agreement between the Appellants and the Respondents, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has accepted to postpone the hearing in this matter in order to give to all parties concerned reasonable time to prepare for such hearing and to guarantee the participation in person of witnesses and experts. Accordingly, the CAS Panel has decided to cancel the hearing initially scheduled for 6-7-8 June 2011. New hearing dates will be fixed as soon as possible.

Attorneys from the Spanish cycling federation are set to meet the major parties next Monday to discuss dates for hearings before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. CAS officials had earlier promised a decision before the Tour starts in early July, but the apparent complexity of the Contador case is forcing delays.

Contador was cleared by the Spanish federation in mid-February and immediately returned to competition. According to UCI rules, Contador could start this year’s Tour, just as he did the Giro and other races since the Spanish federation’s controversial decision.

Tour de France officials have publicly stated that they would like to have a resolution in the Contador case before the start of this year’s edition. Tour officials told VeloNews on Thursday via an e-mail that they “would not comment on the Contador case until its resolution.”

Contador, meanwhile, did not comment on the latest development but has stated previously that he’s concentrating on the Giro while his lawyers handle his clenbuterol case.

There was no immediate word from Saxo Bank-Sungard officials if Contador would start the Tour without having a resolution to his doping case. That uncertainty hasn’t stopped him from racing so far this season since he was cleared in mid-February.

Contador tested for traces of clenbuterol during the second rest day en route to winning last year’s Tour. He’s vehemently denied cheating and said the banned product entered his system after he dined on steaks brought to France from Spain. After the Spanish federation cleared him, both the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency filed separate appeals to CAS.

Cyclists at the Giro d’Italia say they are trying not to be distracted by the Contador case.

“We’re not really thinking about it. It’s symbolic of cycling as a whole. If he wins this and then gets banned, it just sums up what needs to be changed in the sport,” said Garmin-Cervélo’s David Millar. “Let’s hope that he wins and he’s vindicated, because otherwise it would be a real big mess. The bottom line is that he’s the best rider here.”