I keep wanting to do an update on the Contador case ahead of the appeal hearing but the date keeps changing. Now the verdict is expected in January says the Court of Arbitration for Sport:
The hearing will take place in Lausanne from 21 November 2011 at 12:00 to 24 November 2011… …The CAS will issue its decision with reasons as soon as possible but probably not sooner than several weeks following the completion of the hearing. The hearing in this matter was supposed to take place in June 2011 but, at the request of all parties, was postponed to August 2011 and finally to November 2011.
We’re now at the stage where every party in the case has played for time. The UCI sat on the positive test and filed its appeal at the last possible moment. WADA also waited. The Spanish federation, the RFEC, went further and took longer than the rules stipulate to process the case. Contador’s defence team has asked for a postponement of the appeal hearing. And now the CAS will sit soon but it is said there will be no verdict until January 2012.
I welcome a thorough process but the longer things go on the more we see how complex this case is. I wonder if we’ll ever get to the truth of if the appeal will weigh up likely stories and side with the most probable outcome?
We’re all impatient for a resolution, Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme said “One can only regret the time lag between the sports and media, and that of justice.” In wider context, perhaps this is normal? If the UCI suppressed the news of the original positive tests it wasn’t done for fun, it was because of the gravity of the case and other delays have a similar explanation. There’s a lot to look at. Justice can’t be rushed. Look at any case going through the courts in, say, Spain, Switzerland or France and it can take years to review matters and come to a verdict. The newspapers in France often feature cases that take a decade to resolve, for example the crash of the Concorde plane or the explosion of a chemicals plant. A sporting event is trivial compared to these matters.
There’s also the sheer complication of the case and so much riding on the case on all sides, whichever way the verdict goes there will be some sort of fallout, whether for Contador and Saxobank or WADA and the UCI.
Yet at first glance it looked simple. The rules rely on the principle of strict liability and so any positive test equates to a ban and the rider in question can only reduce the ban by proving “to the comfortable satisfaction” that the banned substance, in this case clenbuterol, was ingested by accident. Not just possible but the most probable outcome.
But the appeal is going to be more broad-based. Joe Lindsey’s Boulder Report sets out the defence team which will include an expert in polygraph testing, also known as a lie detector. I hope this is kept to a minimum as it is largely bogus science, a moment of pointless courtroom theatre. Instead the real interest for me comes in the use of bio-statisticians. This is the field of Bayesian probability and as Lindsey points out, far from strict liability. Indeed the matter could be highly subjective with both sides able to present expert witnesses to make compelling arguments.
It reminds me of the Japanese film Rashomon (羅生門) directed by Kurosawa. Based on two novels the film recounts the death of a samurai from the perspective of several characters. The samurai himself recounts his death via a psychic medium (a step up from a polygraph?). Each scenario presents plausible accounts and motivations and after hearing the different accounts, the characters are left worried and confused. The truth is an elusive matter.
Alberto Contador’s CAS appeal gets further delays as the case proves more and more complex. Will we ever discover the truth? The CAS hearings will see four sides (Contador, RFEC, UCI, WADA) put their views but it could come down to probabilities and lawyers arguing over the meaning of “comfortable satisfaction”. Perhaps the appeal is about who has the best story rather than an investigation of the truth?