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Tour Champion Contador Uses German Athlete’s Case in Defense

Cyclist Alberto Contador
Alberto Contador grimaces his face as he answers questions from the media during his press conference pleading his innocence after being tested positive for clenbuterol, a fat-burning and muscle-building drug, during this year's Tour de France, on Sept. 30, 2010 in Pinto, Spain. Photographer: Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Tour de France champion Alberto Contador is using the case of a table tennis player in his defense against doping, his lawyer Andy Ramos said.

The Spanish rider tested positive for what cycling ruling body, Union Cycliste Internationale, called “very small” traces of clenbuterol in a urine sample given days before winning his third Tour de France on July 25. He blames the irregularity on contaminated beef he ate.

Contador’s legal team will today hand over written arguments to a Spanish cycling federation panel investigating the case, his spokesman Jacinto Vidarte said. Ramos said in an interview the defense is partly based on the case of Dimitrij Ovtcharov, who was cleared by the German table tennis federation on Oct. 14 after arguing his positive test for clenbuterol was down to eating tainted meat in China.

The Ukraine-born German had tested positive for an “extremely low” concentration of 75 picograms per milliliter, according to the German federation. Contador’s reading was 50 picograms, according to the UCI. Both tests were done at the same laboratory in Cologne, Germany. A picogram is one trillionth of a gram.

Clenbuterol is a drug used to treat respiratory disorders such as asthma and can increase aerobic capacity by improving the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream. Farmers sometimes use the stimulant illegally to bulk up cattle.

Convincing Argument

If found guilty, Contador could be stripped of his third Tour de France victory and banned for two years.

“Our arguments are very convincing,” Contador told Television Espanola yesterday. “They will give the people who make the decisions a lot to think about.”

The Spanish federation on Nov. 8 received hundreds of pages of arguments by the Aigle, Switzerland-based UCI, which launched a preliminary investigation with the World Anti-Doping Agency after the test result first emerged in August.

In the documents, the UCI says it found no evidence of blood doping by Contador, according to Ramos. L’Equipe newspaper reported Oct. 1 that the Cologne laboratory that examined his urine sample also found high levels of a plasticizer which could have come from blood bags used in a transfusion.

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