Can the UCI afford to prosecute Contador?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Loaded, and taking aim at the UCI?

It’s an idea relayed by the Carrément Vélo podcast where pundit Nicolas Perthuis mentions a conversation with FDJ team boss Marc Madiot. According to Madiot, the UCI is currently evaluating whether it can afford to prosecute Contador and if it can withstand any appeals made by the Spaniard’s substantial legal team.

This could well be a factor that explains the length of time being taken over the matter. It is worth exploring, even if it means speculating about Contador’s future.

The UCI’s accounts already show substantial provisions for litigation, in other words the UCI sets aside money each year in reserve to cover days in court and any adverse judgments. Only last week we saw Franco Pellizotti announcing he wants to sue the UCI for millions and as the Real Peloton podcast noted, cycling-related cases certainly seem to keep the CAS busy.

But with Contador the steaks stakes are much higher, something the UCI’s Pat McQuaid seems to acknowledge:

We don’t treat him differently than the others, but let’s be honest, the fact that it was Alberto Contador means that we have to be certain we take the right decision

Any ban of Contador is going to result in a big loss of earnings, a giant dent to his reputation and more. These things are measured in millions of Euros, perhaps tens of millions. Viewed against this, hiring an army of lawyers to lay siege to the UCI is almost small change. Especially since the presence of Clenbuterol can be explained by a variety of reasons and there are different case histories here. This isn’t a caught red-handed moment.

Of course it goes without saying that Contador must be allowed a fair hearing and were he to be punished then an appeal is his right. Nevertheless, we’ve seen past attempts to exhaust every possible legal avenue only for the athlete to later admit guilt. It cannot be the case that one side is allowed to outbid the other, this must be a matter of justice and not financial firepower. Note this argument works both ways.

WADA to the rescue?
It is reasonable to assume that if WADA were to lend its support to an eventual prosecution of Contador then it will also be willing to support any excessive legal fees involved in standing by this judgement.

curium November 1, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Capitalism. Justice is for the man with the fattest wallet!

Anonymous November 2, 2010 at 9:01 am

Interesting. Where does having a fair chance of appeal end and a legal war begin?

Alex (Perth, WA)

TheInnerRing November 2, 2010 at 9:22 am

Curium: I think anyone with power or wealth gets to throw their weight around regardless of the system.

Anonymous: welcome to the moral maze where sport turns into ethics, law, haematology and more. In some senses we already have the rules: positive A+B means a ban and previous results are stripped. It is up to the rider to present reasons as to why they might be innocent in order to shrink the ban. In other words, the law is very strict.

But it is also possible that the entire basis of the rules is challenged, to determine whether the burden of proof is sufficient to impose a ban, loss of earnings etc. That could get very messy.

Anonymous November 2, 2010 at 10:07 am

It is not new, look at the number of guys who go all the way to the CAS, only to later confess in full. It only makes the lawyers rich.

Anonymous November 2, 2010 at 10:25 am

Maybe Flavio Becca could help UCI with a little money.

TheInnerRing November 2, 2010 at 10:34 am

Anonymous I: there are a few cases, yes. A rider can stand to lose everything but ironically the lengthy legal case can impose much bigger legal costs, if that goes wrong then they stand to lose even more. By all means appeal if there is a solid argument or precedent.

Anonymous II: he has the money and [joking] he might even want to see Contador banned. But I think he'll stay well out of this.

The last thing the sport, and a new team, needs is a top rider and the governing body locked in a controversial legal spat.

Anonymous November 2, 2010 at 2:29 pm

looks like the news will be out soon. maybe it will only be the start of something instead of the case being closed.

TheInnerRing November 2, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Yes, that's one way to look at it but like I said in my comment above, the last thing the sport needs another marathon case before the Court for Arbitration in Sport.

But the UCI is cutting a trail here for others and I'd hope WADA will be ready with any needed support.

reg November 3, 2010 at 10:39 am

Always great commentary and blog. Cheers

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