Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Alberto Contador could face a $6 million bill after losing a legal battle to save his 2010 Tour de France title.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport yesterday rejected the Spanish cyclist’s claim that he failed a drug test because he consumed a contaminated steak, and banned him for two years. The tribunal said it will make a separate decision on a request by cycling ruling body Union Cycliste Internationale to fine Contador at least 2.5 million euros ($3.3 million) and “70 percent of the variable part of his image contract.”
Contador, 29, may already have racked up 2 million euros in legal fees in defending himself, according to Daniel Malbranque, former general secretary of the professional riders union, who has direct knowledge of doping cases.
“The money runs out very quickly in these cases,” Malbranque said by telephone. “He’s been paying lawyers non-stop for 18 months.”
Contador becomes the second Tour de France rider to be stripped of his crown following Floyd Landis, who said in 2007 he’d spent more than $1 million in legal fees in the nine months following his failed test the previous year.
The case has cost both sides “millions” of euros in legal fees, UCI president Pat McQuaid said in a Jan. 25 interview in his office in Aigle, Switzerland. The court has several options about how to split the costs, McQuaid added. WADA’s legal costs ran to $300,000, the agency’s spokesman Terence O’Rorke said in Lausanne, Switzerland today.
Contador was represented by eight lawyers at the hearing last November and he also hired a detective company and lie-detector expert to help in his defense, according to the 98-page court ruling. The World Anti-Doping Agency, which along with the UCI had appealed the Spanish cycling federation’s decision to acquit Contador, had four lawyers present.
Most of Contador’s earnings come from his team salary, according to his spokesman Jacinto Vidarte. Contador, who also won the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009, earns 5 million euros with the Saxo Bank team, French newspaper L’Equipe reported. The team said yesterday in a statement it was studying the decision.
A deal to supply him with clothes at public appearances was withdrawn by Hugo Boss AG when rumors of his failed test first emerged, according to Till Pohlmann, head of sports sponsorship at the Metzingen, Germany-based luxury clothier. His other backers include Spanish jeweler Cristian Lay S.A.
Contador is scheduled to hold a news conference today in Madrid at 7.30 p.m. local time.
The case began when a laboratory in Cologne found 50 picograms per milliliter of clenbuterol in a urine sample Contador gave to anti-doping officials on the last rest day of the 2010 Tour de France, an amount the UCI called “very small” and scientists said would not have improved his performance. A picogram is one trillionth of a gram.
The Spanish cycling federation acquitted Contador last year after the rider argued that there is a history of farmers using clenbuterol, a muscle-building stimulant, to bulk up cattle. The UCI and WADA appealed that decision.
The Lausanne, Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled yesterday that it was “highly unlikely” a steak Contador ate was contaminated and said submissions by the UCI and WADA that Contador might have re-infused his own blood to boost performance, leaving traces of clenbuterol, were “equally unlikely.”
The court said it was more likely the clenbuterol came from a contaminated food supplement. WADA rules say an athlete is responsible for what he ingests.
“We welcome the decision, it demonstrates clearly the robust nature of our code,” WADA President John Fahey told reporters in Lausanne. “The onus is on athletes to ensure they do not take” banned substances, he added.
Contador’s ban was backdated and he can race again from Aug. 5. The Vuelta a Espana, cycling’s biggest stage race after the Tour and Giro d’Italia, starts Aug. 18.
“He can still come back and perform at a good level,” Malbranque said. “But this is very expensive for him.”
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