What’s next in Alberto Contador doping case?

Four-member panel now mulling tainted-meat argument

Four-member panel now mulling tainted-meat argument

LEON, Spain (VN) _ Alberto Contador arrived at Fuerteventura on Sunday to join his new Saxo Bank-Sungard teammates with his future far from secure.

Riis and Contador at the August announcement that the Tour winner signed with Saxo.
Riis and Contador now await the ruling of the review panel.

While he tries to remain optimistic and trains with the hope of competing next season, his fate lies in the hands of four Spanish lawyers who will decide if he should receive a racing ban after testing positive for traces of clenbuterol in a rest-day control during the 2010 Tour de France.

Contador’s case is now before the Spanish cycling federation’s comité de competición y disciplina deportiva, which will review lengthy and detailed evidence. Contador is facing up to a two-year ban and the disqualification of his 2010 Tour de France victory.

Spanish cycling federation officials told VeloNews that they cannot publicly comment on any disciplinary case and said the federation has no direct contact with the competition committee, in part to assure a level of objectivity in the legal process.

The four lawyers — Fernando Uruburu, Javier Leguina, Juan Ignacio Sobrino and Carmen Victoria López — act as an autonomous legal body and will ultimately decide Contador’s fate.

Despite some suggestions that the Spanish cycling federation will wash its hands of the Contador case, federation president Juan Carlos Castaño has promised a fair process and a thorough review of the evidence.

“There will be no special treatment of the athlete,” Castaño told the Spanish wires. “The committee is an independent body that will take its decision based on the evidence available.”

Who are these lawyers? According to online searches, all are experienced lawyers, but none seem to have a high level of expertise in doping cases.

Uruburu, the president of the panel, specializes in car insurance cases and only joined the federation this year. Ignacio Sobrino is a professor of civil law at the Madrid Autonomous University and joined the panel two years ago.

Victoria López, also two years on the panel, works for a major Spanish legal firm and successfully reduced a racing ban to nine months for Spanish sprinter Fran Ventoso after testing positive for furosemide, a banned diuretic. Leguina, whose clients include Barclays bank, is the most veteran of the panel, with 11 years on the federation.

Despite hopes by Contador’s team for a quick resolution, rules dictate that the panel has up to three months to reach a decision after officially receiving notification from the UCI earlier this month — meaning that Contador’s fate could remain in limbo until February 8.

On Friday, Contador joined his lawyers in Madrid to present documentation, expert testimony and other evidence to the Spanish cycling federation that they said supports Contador’s claims that clenbuterol entered his system from eating tainted meat.

It’s difficult to predict when a decision might be made, but with the upcoming holiday season and the complexity of the case, it’s hard to imagine a ruling before the end of the year.

CAS appeal still possible

Regardless of what decision the committee makes, that would likely not be the end of the story. All three involved parties — the UCI, the World Anti-Doping Agency and Contador — have the right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

WADA officials recently told El País they are monitoring the case closely and said they will act on their right to appeal if they are not satisfied with the Spanish ruling.

Any appeal would drag the process well into 2011, meaning the case could remain unresolved by the start of the 2011 Tour de France on July 2.

Although Contador is temporarily banned from competition, he received the green light from the UCI to join his new teammates on the Spanish island of Fuerteventura this week for the squad’s first meeting going into next season.

Contador declined to comment to Spanish journalists awaiting his arrival at the airport on Sunday and team boss Bjarne Riis said the two-week camp was not open to the media. Contador was spotted by local journalists training in his Astana jersey on the roads of Fuerteventura.

Andrew-HoodEditor’s Note: Andrew Hood cut his journalistic teeth at Colorado dailies before the web boom opened the door to European cycling in the mid-1990s. Hood’s covered every Tour since 1996 and has been VeloNews’ European correspondent since 2002. He lives in Leon, Spain, when he’s not chasing bike races.