The Court of Arbitration for Sport has said that the decision in the Alberto Contador case, due to have been announced this week, will not now be made until the week of 31 January, more than two months after November's hearing in Lausanne. CAS blamed the delay on the effect of recent press speculation regarding proceedings at that hearing, and says it gave the parties an opportunity to challenge the three-man panel that will decide the case, an invitation that was declined.
In a statement published this afternoon, CAS said: "The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has noted with great disappointment that some media have reported certain rumours in relation to the arbitration procedure involving the International Cycling Union (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Alberto Contador and the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC).
"The CAS will not comment on these allegations. However, the CAS has requested the parties to clarify whether, at this stage, any of them wanted to challenge the composition of the arbitral panel. As all answers were negative, the Panel will now be able to resume its mission. Unfortunately, this regrettable incident has slightly delayed the work of the Panel and the publication of the final decision should now take place during the week of 31 January 2012."
Today's news represents yet another delay in the appeal by the UCI and WADA against Contador's acquittal in February last year by the Spanish national cycling federation, the RFEC, on doping charges relating to his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France, which he won.
The appeal is due to be decided by a three-member arbitration panel including German professor of law, Ulrich Haas, who was appointed by Contador and the RFEC, and UK-born Geneva-based lawyer Quentin Byrne-Sutton, appointed by the UCI and WADA.
The panel is chaired by Israeli national Efraim Barak, who last week attracted controversy due to visiting Contador’s native Spain twice for conferences in the weeks ahead of the four-day CAS hearing last November.
The fact that Contador’s Saxo Bank team recently chose Israel as the location of a two-week training camp provided fuel for those looking for confirmation of some kind of conspiracy theory, with concerns also voiced by RadioShack-Nissan-Trek owner Flavio Becca.
Last week, it was also reported that WADA's legal team had threatened to walk out of the hearing in November after the CAS panel decided that one of its key witnesses, the Australian doping expert Dr Michael Ashenden, could not give evidence relating to plasticizers that WADA are said to believe may have provided evidence of an illegal blood transfusion.
Contador himself, who has never contested the fact that he did test positive, has always insisted that the positve test was due to his 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.