Speculation grows over Contador "blood doping" and UCI's delay

German journalist accuses UCI of seeking to cover up Spanish star's test

by Simon_MacMichael   October 1, 2010  

Alberto Contador Press Conference in Yellow © PhotoSport International.jpg

An award-winning German journalist who specialises in doping stories has said that the traces of clenbuterol found in Alberto Contador’s urine following a drugs test during July’s Tour de France may have been the result of a blood transfusion and not, as the Astana rider claims, due to his having eaten contaminated meat.

The allegations emerged since the UCI confirmed in the early hours of yesterday morning that the Astana rider had tested positive for the banned substance on the second rest day of July’s Tour de France. The Spaniard has been provisionally suspended while a full investigation is carried out by the UCI and the World Anti-doping Authority (WADA).

The journalist, Hans Joachim Seppelt, from the German TV station ARD, also claims that the UCI initially denied that Contador was under investigation when he contacted its President, Pat McQuaid on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

According to the Velonation website, Seppelt told ARD’s Mittags Magazin show yesterday: “We have been on this case for weeks and we knew a few days ago. “We tried to contact the UCI yesterday [on Wednesday], but they said they won't give a comment. We then called Pat McQuaid. He said 'I don't even know what you are talking about'."Then later the press release came out. So the UCI was lying yesterday.”

As it turned out, the UCI’s hand was forced after Contador’s press agent broke the news, with its official communication coming out shortly afterwards. Seppelt believes that there may be sinister reasons behind the delay in the UCI making the news public.

“The UCI has had many problems with credibility in the last few years, like in the case of Lance Armstrong, he said, adding that in the case of Contador, “the A and B sample were already taken, the procedure was done and still the public wasn't informed. It appears they want to keep this case under the covers or give Alberto Contador the opportunity to find arguments for his innocence. This should not happen. To me it appears to be a cartel from those who want to conceal.”

Even now that Contador’s test result has been made official, with investigations continuing, McQuaid is understandably reluctant to comment on the situation. The UCI presiden, who who is attending the Road World Championships and the UCI Congress in Australia, told Associated Press that he was “completely limited" in what he was able to say about the issue, adding “I'm saying nothing."

Potentially more damaging for Contador is the allegation that the traces of clenbuterol could be linked to an illegal blood transfusion.

“ARD has obtained the exact values from Spain,” claimed Seppelt. “This shows that it is not very likely that we are dealing with contaminated foods, especially in light of the fact that in Europe, it is highly unlikely that foods, such as meat, are contaminated with clenbuterol. It happens in Asian countries, but it is strictly prohibited in Europe. Also, there were no other positive test cases with contaminated meat, so the statement from Contador is not credible.

“There are other, very, very incriminating suspicious facts against Contador,” he continued. “Other values have appeared that are ten times over the higher value from so-called plasticizers [such as di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) – ed.] which are used in blood bags. These values were measured one day before the positive dope control. These blood bag softener values could indicate that autologous blood doping may have been performed.”

“The UCI completely kept this under the covers,” he added. “They didn't say anything to this yesterday. Again the question about the credibility of the UCI comes up.”

Seppelt compared the case to that of Floyd Landis, stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title after failing a drugs test, and suggested that Contador could suffer a similar fate.

“If the other incriminating factors are added, if potential autologous blood doping was used and if it can be proved - which is currently strongly debated - then there is the question if Alberto Contador can keep his yellow jersey. I am pretty certain that just like Floyd Landis, the title will be taken away from him in the foreseeable future. It is not only the Tour winner who looks to stand in a shady light, but especially the UCI, which couldn't prove its credibility.”

French sports daily L’Equipe is also pursuing the angle that the traces of plastic supposedly found in Contador’s urine may be evidence of his having undergone a tranfusion, saying that the particles were of the type that would come from a plastic sachet used to store blood prior to transfusion. It adds that a laboratory in Barcelona is developing a plastic traces test as an indicator of auto transfusion, but the test procedure has not been fully validated.

Meanwhile, with yesterdays news regarding Contador accompanies by announcements of positive drugs tests during last month’s Vuelta for the Xacobeo-Galicia riders Ezequiel Mosquera and David Garcia, as well as further allegations against the Italian rider Riccardo Ricco, there is speculation about the wider damage being done to the sport.

According to a report on the sports website bettor.com, the German press is reporting that two of the country's TV stations, ARD and ZDF are considering pulling the plug on their Tour de France coverage. The amount of airtime devoted to the race has already been scaled back in recent years as a result of doping scandals involving German riders.

The website adds that Saxo Bank, co-sponsor of the Bjarne Riis-owned team that Contador is due to join next season, may reconsider its sponsorship should the cyclist be banned.

 

14 user comments

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. I have no doubt that the UCI will cover this up, they can't credibly afford another tour winner stripped of his title. I would suspect that they're also behind Armstrong's 'drug free' status.

mr-andrew's picture

posted by mr-andrew [295 posts]
1st October 2010 - 11:49

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Question from a relative newbie.
Is anyone clean in cycling?
And I don't mean the soap dodgers from Southampton.

posted by Dog72 [108 posts]
1st October 2010 - 11:55

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Yes, there are lots of clean cyclists. It saddens me that in light of high profile CLEAN TEAMS, there are still those who are (allegedly) prepared to drag the sport down once more in the eyes of the general public, in particular. Let's hope people will still try to focus on the GOOD things about such an amazing sport and the amazing spectacle that is the Tour de France.

Cycling - not just a pastime or sport - free your soul on the open road.

timbola's picture

posted by timbola [207 posts]
1st October 2010 - 13:16

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Nothing but a series of allegations at the moment of course but I wonder if eventually we might come to see Wiggo's performance at the 2009 Tour as even better than it appeared at the time.

elbooch's picture

posted by elbooch [24 posts]
1st October 2010 - 13:34

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now i can understand why contador would want to dope. 38 seconds over three weeks is a pretty slender lead, and there's massive gains to be had for everyone involved.

But Li? why would he bother? like he says in that news asia piece, he's happy that the job he's got as as good as it gets for him, he's got no need of the incremental gains from doping and everything to lose by being caught. so why would he bother? it seems to me that his is the more likely to be a false positive. but if his positive is false - it's the same reading, by all accounts - it opens up the possibility that contador's is too.

cactuscat's picture

posted by cactuscat [302 posts]
1st October 2010 - 13:50

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Pro Cycling is the two wheeled verion of wrestling. The sport is no further forward than the Festina affair 12 years ago. It shambolically lurches from one drug crisis to the next.

The sport will never be clean whilst people from previous scandals are allowed to remain involved or return after a ban.

Life bans the only way to go. Put them out and keep them out.

demoff's picture

posted by demoff [344 posts]
1st October 2010 - 14:18

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demoff wrote:
Pro Cycling is the two wheeled verion of wrestling. The sport is no further forward than the Festina affair 12 years ago. It shambolically lurches from one drug crisis to the next.

The sport will never be clean whilst people from previous scandals are allowed to remain involved or return after a ban.

Life bans the only way to go. Put them out and keep them out.


+ 1

posted by Karbon Kev [670 posts]
1st October 2010 - 14:20

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Thank goodness our justice system is not run on a blog or a web site.
Speculation is exactly that.
Allegations are allegations, nobody can be tried via some anti cycling news paper or desperate hack who is trying only to sell his paper and his career. It never takes long before Lance Armstrong is brought back up, god change the record.
Let an enquiry take place and stop feeding the frenzy with unsubstantiated gossip.

Bud

posted by BUD [33 posts]
1st October 2010 - 16:21

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I remember cancelling my magazine subscriptions and totally drifting away from cycling in the wake of Festina back in 1998.

This time I am older (much!) and wiser and happy enough to keep doing what I am doing, i.e. enjoying my cycling, without setting too much stall by what the pros are doing.

Shame though as it would be nice to have a hero to look up to in the pro ranks. I just don't want to be let down... again.

jimmythecuckoo's picture

posted by jimmythecuckoo [1238 posts]
1st October 2010 - 16:34

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There's always Albert Timmer

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7295 posts]
1st October 2010 - 16:37

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It isn't just about selling papers - journalists do serve a role in investigating and revealing things that would often stay hidden. The parliamentary expenses scandal for one. They often have in-depth knowledge and opinions gained through access to parts of the sport that we don't always have. This isn't to say that they are always a: correct in their assertions, and b: unbiased, but often, as the old cliche goes, where there's smoke, there's fire.

mr-andrew's picture

posted by mr-andrew [295 posts]
1st October 2010 - 16:38

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I agree that life bans are now required. I do think the team doping culture such that existed in Festina is gone and therefore any clemency that new young cyclist following the team way is no long valid.
Maybe this will only happen when the UCI is embarrassed into it - perhaps a Vino win next year will do it?

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [810 posts]
1st October 2010 - 18:20

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Life bans. From everything to do with cycle sport. Or allow doping. End of.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [375 posts]
1st October 2010 - 20:43

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perhaps the UCI is trying to go down the same path as other sports and cover up doping?

posted by fiftyacorn [91 posts]
3rd October 2010 - 13:55

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