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Waiting game begins as Court of Arbitration for Sport panel weighs evidence in Alberto Contador’s clenbuterol case

The waiting game begins as a Court of Arbitration panel weighs the mountains of evidence in the Alberto Contador case. A decision is not expected until early 2012.

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2011 CAS hearing on Contador case
Alberto Contador leaves after the final day of a CAS hearing on his clenbuterol positive from the 2010 Tour de France. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini | AFP

The waiting game now begins in Alberto Contador’s interminable clenbuterol case with the conclusion of four days of testimony on Thursday at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

CAS officials have said that a verdict likely won’t be released until early 2012, meaning that it will be at least another month before there’s a conclusion to the controversial, high-profile case, which dates back to July, 2010.

WADA and UCI officials pressed for a full two-year ban, arguing that the banned substance likely entered the Spaniard’s system via illicit blood transfusions.

Contador’s lawyers laid out their defense based on the “contaminated meat” theory, saying the clenbuterol piggy-backed on “solomillo” bought in Spain and brought to France for a rest-day meal of Spanish delicacies.

Lawyers from both sides left behind mountains of evidence and hours of expert testimony for a three-member panel to mull over in the coming weeks.

Contador is facing a two-year ban and disqualification from his 2010 Tour de France victory. The UCI and WADA also want Contador stripped of all results since his comeback in February.

It will be interesting to see how CAS handles that question if Contador is slapped with a ban.

After being cleared by the Spanish cycling federation in February, Contador raced more than 60 days this season, winning the Giro d’Italia.

Because Contador was active in 2011, one scenario is that CAS would disqualify the 2010 Tour win, but let the 2011 results stand because he was formally cleared by the Spanish federation, then peg a racing ban moving forward from the date the ban is released.

WADA is reportedly arguing that a ban should begin on the day a decision is released and that all of Contador’s results from the 2010 Tour and the 2011 season should be annulled.

That could mean that Contador could be sidelined until the 2014 season and require a major reshuffling on results sheets across Europe.

Here’s how Contador’s wins would look if CAS imposes an asterisk on various GCs: Andy Schleck would be named winner of the 2010 Tour; Michele Scarponi would be named winner of the points competition and take the overall titles in the 2011 Giro and the Volta a Catalunya; and Jerome Coppel would be named overall winner at Murcia.

Then there’s a question of money. Legal fees on both sides are reportedly topping 1 million euros.

UCI rules also provide for a fine to be imposed against Contador if he’s found guilty. Article 326 — a rule introduced in 2009 that outlines heavy fines for riders who test positive — could level a major financial penalty against Contador, whose salary is estimated to top 3 million euros a year. Contador’s legal team has already said it would challenge any call for a fine.

Contador has insisted on his innocence and spoke twice before the CAS tribunal, first for about 30 minutes on Wednesday and again briefly in Thursday’s closing arguments.

If cleared, Contador has said he would make the 2012 Tour his top priority for the season.

Right now, all eyes are on the three-member panel. The never-ending Contador case will have to drag on a little bit longer.