Road

Down to the wire in ‘caso Contador’

BANYOLES, Spain (VN) — It’s coming down to the wire on whether or not the UCI will decide to appeal the Spanish federation’s decision to clear Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) on doping charges in his long-running clenbuterol case.

Danish clenbuterol decision gives hope ahead of UCI appeal deadline

2011 Tour of Catalunya, stage 1, Alberto Contador
Contador on Monday at the Catalunya start

BANYOLES, Spain (VN) — It’s coming down to the wire on whether or not the UCI will decide to appeal the Spanish federation’s decision to clear Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) on doping charges in his long-running clenbuterol case.

Thursday is the UCI’s deadline to reveal its decision and so far no one really seems to know what to expect. UCI president Pat McQuaid told VeloNews late last week that lawyers are still digging through the Contador dossier and suggested that a decision has not yet been made.

Contador’s inner circle is walking on egg shells this week as Contador races at the seven-stage Volta a Catalunya in northern Spain. Contador is lining up for his third race since the Spanish cycling federation made a stunning turn-around and reversed its previous recommendation of a one-year ban to clear Contador in February that opened the door for his return to competition.

“Right now I am focusing on racing and letting others who are working on my case to follow the progress,” said Contador, who is poised for a run at the overall title.

Officials at Contador’s Saxo Bank-Sungard team said everyone is in a holding pattern. Contador is intent on racing the Giro d’Italia in May, but there could some question on whether or not he’ll continue racing if there is an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“We don’t have an indication of what the UCI will decide to do,” said Saxo Bank spokesman Anders Damgaard. “We just have to wait and see if there’s an appeal, then we can make the decisions we have to make.”

Another rider cleared

There is quiet optimism that the UCI might not decide to appeal the case, especially following the recent decisions by national sports federations to clear riders.

On Tuesday, the Danish cycling federation absolved Philip Nielsen on clenbuterol charges dating back to a case last spring when he tested positive for traces of clenbuterol while racing at the Tour of Mexico. Like Contador, Nielsen argued that the banned drug entered his system from eating contaminated meat.

“The (Danish Olympic Committee) board found that the substance came from food intake, and that Philip Nielsen was in no fault and was not negligent,” a statement read from the Danish cycling federation.

“Philip Nielsen didn’t know it then, in April 2010, that there was a danger from eating meat at the team hotel,” said Danish cycling federation president Torben Jessen. “He was acting in good faith, so it makes no sense to ban him.”

That ruling comes on the heels of a decision last week by Dutch officials to clear a mountain biker on similar charges. In Germany, officials cleared a table tennis player in a similar case from China.

WADA option

It remains to be seen whether those recent cases will influence the UCI, but whatever the cycling federation decides, the World Anti-Doping Agency still has another three weeks to file an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if the UCI does not.

When contacted by VeloNews, WADA officials confirmed its right to act independently on the case.

“WADA has received the file pertaining to the Contador case and is currently reviewing the documents,” WADA’s Catherine Coley wrote VeloNews in an e-mail. “Once the UCI has reached a decision, WADA has another 21 days to determine whether or not to use its independent right of appeal to the CAS.”