Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, has urged for a speedy resolution to the Alberto Contador case following the UCI’s announcement yesterday that it has appealed the decision of the Spanish federation, the RFEC, to clear the cyclist of doping charges last month. The news came as UCI President Pat McQuaid revealed that the governing body had been concerned about perceived political interference in the race, while Contador expressed his faith in his lawyers.
The three-time winner of the race tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol on his way to clinching overall victory last year, and with only three and a half months until this year’s edition gets under way, there is every chance that he could take part in the race and even win it with the case, which now heads to the Court of Arbitration still unresolved.
“What concerns us is that there should be a full stop, an epilogue to this affair," said Prudhomme, as reported in French sports daily L'Equipe." We’re anxious that there should be a definitive decision. CAS is the highest sporting jurisdiction. We don’t want a response, we want THE response. We’ve already been waiting too long. I cannot imagine that we won’t have a response before the départ of the Tour.”
That may be a case of wishful thinking, however, since in order for the issue to be resolved by then, all parties would need to agree to an accelerated process. Assuming the UCI letter of appeal was sent yesterday and received today by the relevant personnel at CAS, the court will have exactly four months to examine the case and issue its decision.
That date, quite by coincidence, is the day after the Tour de France arrives in Paris, possibly with the Saxo Bank-SunGard rider in yellow. The damage to the Tour, and cycling in general, of Contador winning this year's race to be stripped of the title the following day, as well as last year's, is obvious. Moreover, the looming decision would be sure to cast a huge cloud over the race.
“I’m one of those people who thinks that things happen for a reason,” said Contador following Stage 4 of the Tour of Catalonia, which he is currently leading, reports L'Equipe. “Perhaps it’s necessary to go to CAS so that my innocence can be made even more clear. I have full confidence in the arguments my lawyers have provided.”
Pat McQuaid, President of the UCI, said that the body had no choice but to appeal, pointing out that statements made in the cyclist’s defence by Spanish politicians had raised suspicions over the Spanish federation’s apparent change of mind not to
"The only way to ensure that we get a credible and just and fair result is to take it to a higher authority, which for us is CAS, that has credibility, that has the capacity to deal with this case and which the sports family will accept," he told AFP.
"I'm aware he (Contador) is going to make a strong (defence) case... but the way the proceedings went in Spain meant that we really had no option to do what we did.
"They (Spanish cycling federation) also received a huge amount of pressure from political sources, including the Prime Minister, saying he shouldn't be sanctioned.
"Obviously he's an athlete of very high standing in Spain. But when you get the Spanish Prime Minister and the president of the Spanish Olympic Committee intervening and making statements when they don't know the facts of the case, it's just not right."
McQuaid added: "Even though the Spanish federation told us that (political pressure) had no effect on their decision (to clear Contador), we will never really know that. And the public and the cycling fans and cycling family will never really know."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.