"It wasn't us!" UCI condemns leaks in Alberto Contador case

Governing body denies its staff had anything to do with reports of WADA witness exclusion

by Simon_MacMichael   January 13, 2012  

UCI logo on white

World cycling’s governing body, the UCI, has roundly condemned this week’s leak of information regarding events said to have taking place at the hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in November in the Alberto Contador case, and said none of its staff was responsible.

In a report published by media worldwide on Wednesday, news agency AP said anonymous sources present at the hearing had said that lawyers for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) nearly walked out of the hearing after the CAS panel refused to let Australian doping expert Michael Ashenden testify for WADA regarding an alleged illegal blood transfusion on Contador’s part.

WADA, together with the UCI is appealing the decision of the Spanish national cycling federation, the RFEC, to acquit Contador in February on charges relating to his positive test for clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France, which he won.

CAS has previously said that its decision should be given between 15 and 20 January – some time between Sunday and next Friday.

In a statement released this morning, the governing body distanced itself from the leak, saying: “The International Cycling Union (UCI) condemns the publication this week of information concerning the Alberto Contador hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

“The UCI formally declares that none of its representatives have been involved in any way in this action which it deems incompatible with the good order of court proceedings.      

"The UCI confirms that it will continue to respect due confidentiality and the legal rights of all parties. Further the UCI reiterates its confidence in the integrity and independence of the Court of Arbitration for Sport and all the members of the panel.

“The case of Alberto Contador is now in the hands of the CAS Panel. The UCI calls upon the sporting community to await the result of the deliberations of the panel with serenity and due respect for the judicial process,” it concluded.

The AP report said that the persons providing information regarding the alleged events at the hearing had done so on condition of anonymity because they did not want to prejudice the panel’s decision.

While we reported on the news here at road.cc, we can certainly guarantee it wasn’t us either – the press was excluded from the behind-closed-doors hearing, which is one reason the rumour mill has gone into overdrive in the first place.

10 user comments

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Another delay imminent?

antonio

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posted by antonio [899 posts]
13th January 2012 - 10:36

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Yeah - cos the big story is who leaked the info rather than the disgraceful behaviour of the CAS panel ....

posted by mad_scot_rider [518 posts]
13th January 2012 - 10:44

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Maybe mad_scot_rider could tell us what was the disgraceful behaviour is of the CAS panel. As the case is being held behind closed doors no one knows why WADA's witness was disallowed. However it may have something to do with the fact that Dr Michael Ashenden is the Project coordinator of SIAB Research Australia. SIAB receives financial support from WADA amongst others so is not an independent witness. Also there is still no accepted test for when athletes transfuse their blood. The test for the plasticzer DEHP is not officialy recognised even by WADA (although they are currently trying to introduce a test) and even if it were it would not "prove" a transfusion had taken place but only support other evidence. So if Dr Michael Ashenden evidence was to support the WADA/UCI DEHP augument the CAS panel may have decided that the evidence was inadmissable for this or a similar reason.
Cycling like all sports has a problem with doping but to cure the problem you need clear science based unambiguous rules. Making the rules up as you go along to save face, like the UCI and WADA only helps the cheats.

Paul W

posted by PaulVWatts [111 posts]
13th January 2012 - 11:22

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PaulVWatts wrote:
Maybe mad_scot_rider could tell us what was the disgraceful behaviour is of the CAS panel. As the case is being held behind closed doors no one knows why WADA's witness was disallowed. However it may have something to do with the fact that Dr Michael Ashenden is the Project coordinator of SIAB Research Australia. SIAB receives financial support from WADA amongst others so is not an independent witness. Also there is still no accepted test for when athletes transfuse their blood. The test for the plasticzer DEHP is not officialy recognised even by WADA (although they are currently trying to introduce a test) and even if it were it would not "prove" a transfusion had taken place but only support other evidence. So if Dr Michael Ashenden evidence was to support the WADA/UCI DEHP augument the CAS panel may have decided that the evidence was inadmissable for this or a similar reason.
Cycling like all sports has a problem with doping but to cure the problem you need clear science based unambiguous rules. Making the rules up as you go along to save face, like the UCI and WADA only helps the cheats.

But surely the CAS panel is capable of assessing the scientific weight of any evidence? And so, unless the evidence is irrelevant (which it isn't) then it should be allowed, and Contador's lawyers should be able to submit evidence that refutes Ashenden's evidence.

posted by step-hent [638 posts]
13th January 2012 - 15:16

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Someone's missing a point here, CAS panel, Contador pre season camp in Israel,other reports point to a conflict of intersts.

antonio

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posted by antonio [899 posts]
13th January 2012 - 15:33

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I can't see anything wrong with Contador training in Israel, nor Barak's visit to the Spanish Football Federation. I think you're clutching at straws, if you have anything more specific Antonio, let's hear it.

The plasticiser test was, and indeed still is unapproved, I'm not at all surprised it was inadmissable. Imagine if the police tried to procecute someone for drink driving using a technique which had not been verified for use. The case would be thrown out!

posted by alun [44 posts]
13th January 2012 - 16:45

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From sky's coverage at the start of the proceedings:

"Israeli lawyer Efraim Barak will preside over the three-man arbitration panel. Switzerland's Quentin Byrne-Sutton was nominated to the panel by the UCI and WADA while German Ulrich Haas was nominated by Contador and the RFEC."

Seems independent enough to me.

If your refering to Efraim Barak have the honesty to say so. The "other reports" refer to the remarks by Flavio Becca which have already been condemmed by the UCI and WADA and denied by CAS.

Paul W

posted by PaulVWatts [111 posts]
13th January 2012 - 16:52

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Highest profile doping case in years, involving a sportsman who is a huge star in his home country, and the chairman of the panel in the weeks before the hearing attends not one, but two conferences in that country (admittedly ones where representatives of *both* sides are present.)

Irrespective of whether there is or isn't bias, that is an error of judgment in my book, as was Saxo Bank's decision to go to Israel, precisely because they do give rise to accusations of lack of impartiality.

If Barak hadn't gone to Spain, if Saxo Bank hadn't gone to Israel, we wouldn't be talking about this.

But how on earth could they have expected that those trips wouldn't give rise to accusations of bias, irrespective of whether the trips were 100 per cent innocent?

Plasticizers.

With the caveat that at this stage we do not know the full details of what happened during the hearing, it should be remembered that WADA/UCI do not need to prove Conrador doped.

Clenbuterol was in his system, he tested positive, there's no minimum threshold.

He acknowledged there was a positive test, and says it was down to a tainted steak.

The onus is on him to show, on the balance of probabilities, that it was in his system innocently.

Better for him if the meat came from Mexico or China than if it originated in Spain, I should imagine.

Short of his lawyer performing some magical Heimlich manoeuvre on him and Contador somehow coughing up the offending steak 18 months later into the panel’s laps, that’s not easy – I imagine he needs to establish a chain all the way back to the beef herd, and somehow establish there was a good chance of it being contaminated.

WADA, on the other hand, from as much as we know, have sought to show that there may have been another reason clenbuterol was in his system - an illegal transfusion. Plasticizers can be evidence of that.

Now, there's no approved test for them, and you can't be sanctioned for the presence of plasticizers alone, but apparently their argument was that the two together made the tainted steak defence less likely.

What they don't need to do, though, is actually prove he underwent an illegal transfusion. They just need to cast a sufficient element of doubt on his defence. Contador, we understand, had his own experts to counter the plasticizer claims.

One thing about the case. Had RFEC actually gone ahead and banned him for a year, as it had said it would do, we'd now be looking forward to Contador returning to the sport next month, assuming he hadn't appealed.

WADA and UCI may not have been happy with a one-year ban instead of two, but I think they would have accepted it and moved on.

Instead of which, if it goes against him, he could be facing a two year ban, being stripped of results obtained since then, and a fine heading towards seven figures.

What I would be very interested to see - and there's no way of knowing at this stage whether it was discussed at CAS - is precisely what it was that made RFEC change its decision?

It's going to be an interesting week ahead, and whatever the decision, some people will be unhappy.

But if nothing else, I hope lessons are learnt from the way this case has been handled from the very start, because all the way through there have been questions raised by people outside the process that have not yet been answered.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7484 posts]
13th January 2012 - 18:28

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And if the Swiss or German Jurist had gone to Spain or Saxo Bank trained in Germany or Switzerland would you make the same comments? I think your anti Israeli sentiments have more to do with you conclusions about impartiality than logic here. As to the plasticizer DHP proving anything? well search the web about food contamination due to its use in cling film and the small plastic seals used at the top of food jars and see if you still think that an amount so small that it can only be detected by one lab, as the amount in Contador's sample was, proves anything.

Paul W

posted by PaulVWatts [111 posts]
13th January 2012 - 23:44

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Paul, nothing I have said is in the slightest part "anti-Israeli," so let's clear that one up straight away. Nor am I questioning his impartiality.

The fact is, Barak happens to be Israeli, and Saxo Bank happened to go to Israel - the first time a top-level team has ever done that for a two-week training camp.

Were he Moroccan and they'd gone there, or Indonesian and he'd gone there, the point still stands - it should have been foreseeable that the trip, and the timing of it, between the hearing and the decision, would give rise to accusations that something wasn't right.

If they'd gone to Mallorca, say, as many other teams do, this wouldn't even be at issue.

You're correct that perhaps there wouldn't be this fuss if Saxo Bank had gone to Switzerland or Germany, but then those are countries with strong links to pro cycling. Again, it calls into question why Saxo Bank chose specifically to go to Israel, right now?

As for the Spanish trip, irrespective of a panel member's nationality, I do think it's an error of judgment, given Contador's nationality, to go there so close to the hearing, particularly when other people involved in the case would be there too.

DHP - WADA thought it relevant enough to seek to introduce the evidence. Again, read my post - traces of it alone aren't evidence of doping, partly because as you say there may be other reasons for its presence. But WADA don't need to prove doping - just that there may have been an explanation other than the steak.

There's the saying that justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.

The behind-closed-doors nature of the hearing makes that difficult enough.

If Contador's acquittal is upheld, there will always be some people who believe that Barak's trip to Spain or Saxo Bank's visit to Israel helped influence the final decision.

That won't be because of "anti-Israeli sentiment," and it will be immaterial whether there actually was bias or not - Barak and Saxo Bank have provided critics with plenty of ammunition to accuse them that there was.

Whichever way the decision goes, there will be people who view it as unfair and who will look for reasons to back up their opinion.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7484 posts]
14th January 2012 - 11:38

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