Alberto Contador probably won’t challenge an anti-doping rule that led to the loss of one of his three Tour de France titles because it would take several years, two people familiar with the situation said.
World Anti-Doping Agency rules put the burden on athletes to prove their innocence. While sport’s top court found the Spanish rider guilty of having a banned substance, clenbuterol, in his system, the Feb. 6 ruling said he most likely ate a food supplement contaminated with substance during the 2010 Tour. Because Contador couldn’t prove how the stimulant got into his system, he was stripped of the title and got a two-year ban.
In criminal cases, the prosecution must prove the athlete’s guilt. While the Spaniard told reporters in Madrid a day after the ruling that he and his legal team would “carry on fighting until the end,” challenging the decision may not be worth the effort, according to Rodrigo Garcia, a lawyer at Laffer Abogados in Madrid who has represented athletes at the sports court.
“There is a good argument for questioning the anti-doping rule but it would take years and be very expensive,” Garcia said in an interview. “Contador has already spent a lot of time and money” on his defense, Garcia said.
Contador may have racked up as much as 2 million euros ($2.6 million) in legal fees over the last 18 months, according to Daniel Malbranque, former general secretary of the professional cyclists’ union who has direct knowledge of doping cases. The Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency spent $300,000 in legal fees in winning the case against Contador, WADA spokesman Terence O’Rorke said Feb. 7.
Contador’s lawyers are considering mounting an appeal to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland within the next 30 days, according to the people who weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Such an appeal would be swifter, although to be successful it would require finding a procedural error with the process by Lausanne, Switzerland-based CAS, according to Garcia.
“A few cases have been overturned before but I don’t think there is a case for annulling this one,” Garcia said.
Contador’s spokesman Jacinto Vidarte couldn’t be reached by telephone today and didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment on his legal options.
The case began when a laboratory in Cologne, Germany, found 50 picograms per milliliter of clenbuterol in a urine sample Contador gave to anti-doping officials in Pau, France, on the last rest day of the 2010 Tour, an amount that scientists said would not have improved his performance. A picogram is one trillionth of a gram.
The Lausanne court rejected Contador’s argument that the clenbuterol had come from eating a contaminated steak and said a suggestion by WADA that the drug might have come from an illegal blood transfusion by Contador to boost his performance was “equally unlikely.” Athletes have been known to re-infuse their own blood to increase the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in their body and boost stamina.
Cycling’s ruling body is looking into whether the Saxo Bank team will retain its place in the elite World Tour series following Contador’s suspension.
“If the points obtained by Alberto Contador, representing approximately 68 percent of the Saxo Bank-Sungard team’s total points, are disregarded, his team would no longer be considered to fulfill the sporting criterion required for the UCI World Tour,” Union Cycliste Internationale said today in an e-mailed statement.
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