Alberto Contador reportedly plans to use lie-detector evidence to support his case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne next week, when the tribunal convenes to hear the appeals of the UCI and World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) into the Spaniard’s acquital earlier this year by the Spanish national cycling federation, the RFEC, on charges relating to his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France.
A report on the website of Spanish national neswpaper El Pais says that Contador, who went on to win the race to take his third Tour de France overall victory, will call American lie-detection expert Dr Louis Rovner in support of his assertion that the presence of a minute amount of clenbuterol in his urine was due to a contaminated steak.
The much-delayed hearing, originally intended to be held before this year’s Tour de France in which Contador finished fifth, starts next Monday 21 November and is scheduled to continue for four days.
On its website, CAS says that “there will be no press conference before or after the hearing” and that it “will issue its decision with reasons as soon as possible but probably not sooner than several weeks following the completion of the hearing,” meaning that it likely to be the new year before the decision is announced.
A three-man panel of arbitrators will hear arguments on behalf of WADA, the UCI and Contador himself, who was cleared of all charges by the RFEC just a week after the federation had announced that he was likely to receive a one-year ban.
That decision gave rise to accusations of political inteference after both the Spanish prime minister and the leader of the opposition made public statements in support of Contador, who went on to win this year’s Giro d’Italia.
Those three members of the arbitration panel will decide the case on the balance of probabilities, in other words, as Contador’s lawyer Gorka Villar explained, “if the arbitrators believe that your argument has a 51 per cent probability of having happened, you’ve won.”
In all, reports El Pais, Contador is producing 13 witnesses, while the UCI and WADA, which have each brought a separate appeal, will have a combined total of 10 witnesses giving evidence on their behalf.
The amount of clenbuterol found in Contador’s sample, 50 picograms per millilitre, is well below the level found in some other athletes who have escaped sanction as a result of successfully employing the contaminated meat defence.
Those cases, however, have typically involved meat consumed in Mexico or China, the two countries where athletes are seen as being at the greatest risk of innocent ingestion of clenbuterol due to its illegal use in building mass in livestock.
Moreover, as WADA has consistently pointed out from the outset in the Contador case, clenbuterol is a substance for which no minimum threshold is required in order for an adverse analytical finding to be returned.
Witnesses appearing for Contador will include the 87-year-old British doping expert Professor Vivian James and the American Paul Scott, co-founder of the Agency for Cycling Ethics which several years ago devised out-of-competition testing programmes on behalf teams including High Road Sports and Slipstream-Chipotle.
The Spaniard reportedly also intends to call a German expert on plasticizers in the event that WADA seeks to pursue the angle that, as was reported after Contador’s positive test for clenbuterol was made public, traces of those were found in samples taken at the 2010 Tour, possibly suggesting that he had undergone an illegal blood transfusion.
The 28-year-old is also said to have lined up experts who will be able to provide evidence relating to his biological passport, as well as a private detective employed to try and trace the origin of the allegedly suspect steak.
According to El Pais, appearing on behalf of WADA in an attempt to highlight the remoteness of the possibility of contaminated beef being sold in Spain will be the butcher who sold that steak, as well as an official from the Spanish association of cattle farmers.
Other experts who will give testimony in support of WADA’s case are said to include the Australian Michael Ashenden, the body’s scientific director, Olivier Rabin, and Pierre Sottas, who helped draw up the biological passport programme.