Everyone’s got a view on Alberto Contador today. But they’re not thinking about the rules that govern sport and in particular, anti-doping. Here’s the relevant part of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Code:
2.1 Presence of a Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers in an Athlete’s Sample
2.1.1 It is each Athlete’s personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters his or her body. Athletes are responsible for any Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers found to be present in their Samples. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing Use on the Athlete’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an antidoping violation under Article 2.1.
Comment to Article 2.1.1: ….If the positive Sample came from an In-Competition test, then the results of that Competition are automatically invalidated (Article 9 (Automatic Disqualification of Individual Results)). However, the Athlete then has the possibility to avoid or reduce sanctions if the Athlete can demonstrate that he or she was not at fault or significant fault (Article 10.5 (Elimination or Reduction of Period of Ineligibility Based on Exceptional Circumstances)) or in certain circumstances did not intend to enhance his or her sport performance (Article 10.4 (Elimination or Reduction of the Period of Ineligibility for Specified Substances under Specific Circumstances)).
In summary Article 2.1 says a positive test is positive test, no matter how the molecules get there. Contador cannot escape this. But the comment attached to the article, designed to help interpret the rules, says “the Athlete then has the possibility to avoid or reduce sanctions if the Athlete can demonstrate that he or she was not at fault or significant fault“. Put another way, Contador has to prove the tiny dose wasn’t caused by knowingly taking anything. But that’s not easy and further rules on the matter only make his case harder. Here’s the relevant rule on “No Significant Fault or Negligence”:
10.5.2 No Significant Fault or Negligence
If an Athlete or other Person establishes in an individual case that he or she bears No Significant Fault or Negligence, then the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility may be reduced, but the reduced period of Ineligibility may not be less than one-half of the period of Ineligibility otherwise applicable. If the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility is a lifetime, the reduced period under this Article may be no less than eight (8) years. When a Prohibited Substance or its Markers or Metabolites is detected in an Athlete’s Sample in violation of Article 2.1 (Presence of a Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers), the Athlete must also establish how the Prohibited Substance entered his or her system in order to have the period of Ineligibility reduced.
First 10.5.2 says if Contador can show he wasn’t really at fault, then the ban can be reduced. But note that’s a reduction in the ban, it does not exempt him from the positive test. A one year ban is possible. But, and this is a big but, notice the last sentence, “the Athlete must also establish how the Prohibited Substance entered his or her system“. This is going to be incredibly hard to establish.
So what happens?
The rules state that it doesn’t matter how small the dose is. The only certainty is that some lawyers will be billing big. Beyond this, we can only guess, forecast and speculate.
It’s up to Contador’s defence team to prove where the contamination come from and then to prove this was accidental and not-performance enhancing. In return, a ban could be avoided or reduced.
Either way a ban is almost inevitable. The onus is on Contador to prove his innocence and even the most overwhelming evidence in his favour can only be used to mitigate the ban. He will be stripped of his 2010 Tour de France win.