Alberto Contador looks set to defend his Tour de France title next month after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) confirmed that the appeal against the decision of the Spanish national cycling decision, the RFEC, not to sanction him following his positive test for clenbuterol in last year’s race will not be heard until August 1-3, a week after this year’s edition of cycling’s biggest race finishes.
The Spaniard, who raced for Astana last year, has always insisted that traces of clenbuterol – a substance for which no minimum threshold is required in order for a positive result to be returned – found in his urine were present as a result of his having eaten contaminated beef.
While the RFEC was initially reported to have been planning to ban Contador for a year, it ended up clearing him altogether, with concern expressed in some quarters that it had performed its apparent about-turn following political pressure in Spain, with the country’s prime minister and leader of the opposition both expressing their support for the cyclist.
World cycling’s governing body, the UCI, and the World Anti-doping Agency have both lodged separate appeals with CAS against the RFEC’s decision. ASO, the organisers of the Tour de France, had always pressed for the case to be heard before this year’s edition of the race got under way.
The appeal was initially due to be heard next week, but last month it was reported that Contador’s lawyers had succeeded in having the hearing postponed.
ASO could potentially seek to exclude the rider from the race, in line with action it has taken in the past against certain teams and individuals. However, with Contador having been cleared to race by his national federation, such a decision would probably result in yet further legal action on the cyclist’s part.
Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, seemed resigned to Contador’s participation in the race, however, telling French sports daily L’Equipe: “We have said and repeated that we hoped for a ruling ahead of the 2011 edition. This was no more than common sense but it was no doubt too much to ask. We can only regret the time difference between that used by sport and the media, and that of justice.”
On Sunday, the SunGard-Saxo Bank rider was crowned the 2011 Giro d’Italia champion in Milan after dominating the race, and he will be seeking to become the first man since the late Marco Pantani in 1998 to win both the Italian and French grand tours in the same year.
Meanwhile, UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani confirmed that should the appeal go against Contador, the rider faced been stripped of not only his 2010 Tour de France title but also last month’s Giro win as well as any other results he has achieved since last July.
"We will ask for disqualification of all the results since the day of the (doping) control," Carpani told The Associated Press.
"However, the UCI is open to any decision taken by the CAS and will accept it without any problem," he added.
During the Giro d’Italia, Contador at times faced protests from fans contesting his participation in the race, including one who memorably dangled a steak from a fishing rod.
However, Carpani urged fans to wait for the resolution of the legal process, saying “We invite everyone to accept this. We know that some people could be a little bit disappointed."
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