Newspaper outlines theory surrounding self-transfusion

French sports daily L’Equipe has today reported that suggestions of blood doping, based on the detection of plasticizers in his test sample, may form a central part of the UCI’s case against Alberto Contador. Yesterday, the sport’s governing body appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the Spaniard’s acquittal last month by the Spanish federation, the RFEC, following his positive test for clenbuterol in last year’s Tour de France.

After news of Contador’s positive test broke last year, L’Equipe claimed that the laboratory in Cologne that tested his urine had also found traces in a separate sample of plasticizers that could suggest an illegal blood transfusion due to their use in blood bags.

While another World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory in Barcelona has developed a test for those plasticizers, that test has not yet been approved. Nevertheless, the findings can be used as evidence in support of separate allegations of doping, as applies here.

However, the issue was not addressed by the RFEC in its investigation into Contador’s positive test, with its decision to clear the cyclists now officially being challenged by the UCI. WADA is expected also to appeal the ruling, and has a month to do so.

According to L’Equipe, heightened levels of plasticizers were found in a sample taken from the then Astana rider the day before his positive test for clenbuterol. An illegal blood transfusion is one of the possibilities, reports the newspaper.

L’Equipe says that while Contador’s biological passport was perfectly in order during the Tour, there had been fluctuations in his haemoglobin levels in the preceding months, which could be explained by use of EPO or illegal blood transfusions.

The sequence of events that UCI and WADA experts could put forward, according to L’Equipe, is as follows: on the eve of the positive test for clenbuterol, Contador administered a blood transfusion.

Several hours later, noticing that his blood values had changed and mindful that he faced further testing, he would have transfused blood serum to bring the values into line with his biological passport. It was this serum, surmises L’Equipe, that contained the traces of clenbuterol.

Contador, currently leading the Tour of Catalonia, and his advisers are likely to argue that all of this is supposition, and that his biological passport shows that he wasn’t doping during the race, should the UCI and WADA pursue that angle.

Meanwhile, the central thread of his defence, successful before the RFEC’s disciplinary committee, will be that he ingested the clenbuterol innocently due to having eaten a contaminated steak.

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.