Three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador yesterday delivered an impassioned 15-minute speech to the three members of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) who will decide his future as the four-day appeal hearing into his acquittal on doping charges earlier this year by the Spanish national cycling federation, the RFEC, came to an end.
Since Monday, some 20 witnesses ranging from world-renowned experts in doping to the butcher who sold the steak that Contador has always said was responsible for his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France had appeared at the hearing at the Chateau di Bethusy in Lausanne.
Now, everything rests with the three man arbitration panel, presided over by Efraim Barak alongside Contador nominee Ulrich Haas and Quentin Byrne Sutton, selected by the appellants, the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) and the UCI.
They have the unenviable task not only of sifting through that testimony but also ten archive boxes full of documents, estimated by Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport to contain 20-25,000 pages of evidence.
Their final decision in the much-delayed case is expected sometime between Christmas and early January.
Paolo Tiralongo, a team mate of Contador at the Astana team he was then riding for, told the newspaper that the Spaniard had displayed “the character of a champion.
“In your place, I’d have been going mad,” Tiralongo told him. “I’m certain of his innocence,” he added.
The appeal by WADA and the UCI is seeking to overturn that surprise decision of the RFEC announced in February this year to exonerate Contador; a week earlier, the federation had announced that it was likely to ban him for a year.
WADA’s case reportedly rests on its attempting to establish that the presence of clenbuterol in the cyclist’s urine was not the result of innocent consumption of contaminated meat, but was the result of an illegal blood transfusion.
As the athlete at the centre of the case, it fell to Contador to deliver the final address of the hearing, the Gazzetta dello Sport reporting that he was on the verge of tears as he did so.
Should the case go against him, reports the newspaper, the result will be devastating, and not only from a sporting point of view; at risk is €10 million representing the salary from his two-year contract with Saxo Bank, a potential €3.5 million fine from the UCI, and €1 million in legal fees – in all, the Gazzetta estimates that it could cost him €20 million.
The decision itself of CAS cannot be appealed, although there is a potential avenue of appeal to Swiss supreme court, but only relating to matters such as procedural irregularities.
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