MADRID, Spain (VN) – Spanish politicians are rallying around Alberto Contador on the eve of a long-awaited final verdict on his ongoing doping case that could come as soon as Tuesday.
There’s nothing new about politicians voicing support for beleaguered national heroes, especially when it comes time to polishing their images among constituents, but the vigorous support of high-level Spanish officials for Contador’s case is sure to raise questions of propriety.
Last week, Spanish Prime Minister José Luís Zapatero made headlines when he posted a message on Twitter saying that there is “no legal reason to sanction him (Contador).”
Not to be left out, opposition party leader Mariano Rajoy chimed in over the weekend, saying that after studying the report of the preliminary ruling from the four-member competition committee charged with making a decision on the Contador case, he believed the Spanish cycling star should not be penalized.
“I don’t see enough substance for a ban so strong as one year,” Rajoy told Spanish journalists Sunday. “Of course, I respect what the competent bodies will say, but justice should be measured.”
Other high-ranking officials within the Spanish sport community have publicly supported Contador’s claims that traces of clenbuterol found in his system during last year’s Tour de France came from eating contaminated beef brought to France.
Alejandro Blanco, president of the Spanish Olympic committee (COE), is one of the most influential sports figures in Spain and he’s also strongly backed Contador’s arguments that he did not intentionally dope.
“Medicine proves that this is a not a case of doping,” Blanco told El Mundo. “Contador has always kept the same line in his defense and he’s given extensive medical reasons that prove that he hasn’t doped, as long as we understand doping as the voluntary ingestion of products with the objective of improving performance.”
There’s been some media speculation in light of such strong public support for Contador that the four-member “comite de competición” might cave to pressure and clear Contador of all doping allegations to give him the green light to return to competition.
Spanish cycling federation officials told VeloNews that the governing body is structured to minimize outside influence and assure a “fair and impartial” decision when considering doping sanctions for suspected athletes.
“The ‘comite’ has no direct contact with the Spanish cycling federation. They make independent decisions that are not influenced by anyone within the federation,” an official said. “It’s structured that way so that they can remain unbiased.”
It remains to be seen how much influence the high-level political support will have on the committee of the Spanish cycling federation that will eventually decide Contador’s fate.
The final verdict of their originally proposed ban of one year could come Tuesday.