Contador: what next?

There are reports now that the UCI is set to open a disciplinary procedure against Alberto Contador for a doping offence. This is not to say he is guilty yet, rather than the facts are now going to be reviewed in the context of a potential sanction.

Nevertheless it is almost inconceivable that the UCI would request the start of such a hearing if it did not believe there were grounds to prosecute. I can’t think of case when the UCI has referred a case to a national federation only for the rider to escape a ban. So here are some potential outcomes:

Bueno: A straight two year ban
Normally this procedure ends with a two year ban. The positive A and B samples means an athlete has to be banned under the strict WADA code, which the UCI upholds to the letter in its own rules. This has to be the most likely outcome.

Reduced by the facts
The only escape route is for the athlete to present evidence that they were knowingly tricked, that they were not at fault. We’ve seen this claim made with the “rogue beef” hypothesis put forward by Contador’s entourage but as yet there’s been no follow-up, certainly there’s been no public health alert in Spain for contaminated meat, nor arrests of suspect farmers.

A settlement?
Another potential exit route would be some managed settlement. I am speculating but it is possible that an agreement is reached where Contador agrees to shortened ban on condition of no appeal. I’ve already raised the prospect of a costly legal battle and this is one way to prevent this. But this would leave a lot of question marks. It’s unlikely.

Mañana, mañana
Another possible but unlikely outcome is Spanish intransigence. We saw glacial progress and at times, straight refusal, to act over Alejandro Valverde’s involvement with Operation Puerto. It could be that the Spanish authorities clear Contador or refuse to prosecute. But this would result in a prompt action from WADA and could end in a political spat where Spain would risk potential suspension from all cycling events, indeed from other sporting events if WADA could get the IOC on board.

Another likely outcome is that Contador walks away from the sport after a two year ban. His “son of Pinto” image will take a big knock, he is now likely to join the ranks of “swarthy cheats” who cut corners on their way to victory.

Is anyone smiling now?

9 thoughts on “Contador: what next?”

  1. Good analysis as usual. However, I think it highly possible we will in fact see a re-run of the Valverde situation. Spain is still Spain. The Spanish Cyclng Federation will do everything in its power to protect Contador and ignore evidence. Factor that attitude in with a long Valverde style war of appeals and counter-suits and we're looking at Contador riding another few years will it's all sorted out. The only question I have is Alberto as mentally strong as Valverde? COuld he ride with a dark black cloud over his head for that long?

  2. WADA confirms that he is suspect of doping

    UCI are happy that WADA backed them and pass the buck to the Spanish Federation to make a decision that they will not be responsible for, but can appeal it to yet another organization, CAS…this is a little like musical chairs.

    I think it is obvious that there should be no country organizations involved in these decisions.

    To have four different organizations involved with no one wanting to put their finger on the button or ass on the line is just silly.

  3. Good points, I always enjoy your blog. I agree with Matt that the Spanish Cycling Federation will drag their feet as much as possible.

    This is off topic but I've been thinking about older riders who have admitted to doping later, like Riis. Riis admitted he cheated to win the 1996 TdF but no action was taken against him. As I understand it, no action was taken against him. Is there a statute of limitations in these cases? I understand Contador's situation is very different.

  4. The process is that the disciplinary part is handed to the local federation. In this case the Spaniards now have to conduct a fair hearing.

    Given everyone has had plenty of time to review the matter it should be a quick matter. But I say "should" and the fear is that this will drag on and on and on and on…

  5. I agree it's unlikely to be resolved neatly and tidily, not when reputations and money on this scale are at stake. We can only hope for a clean and quick resolution one way or the other, but I agree with you that the UCI must now be pretty confident their case against Contador holds water.

    I have referenced & summarised this post on my own site, and included a link back. I hope you don't mind, as this was such a great summary of the possible outcomes of the case. Please let me know if not.

  6. There's not really a lot of motivation for the Spanish to convict Conti. He's a golden child, a source of pride for the country. I can see them doing as little as possible to try and convict him.

  7. Armchair: thanks for the comments and like you, I suspect this marks a big problem for Contador.

    Gillis: that's something to suspect after the Valverde case but I'm not sure if they can try that again. To put it in a strange way, perhaps Contador is now too big a name not to punish.

  8. There is another intriguing possibility, especially now that Contador's team have seen the UCI/WADA brief and still seem optimistic.

    There will be an adverse finding (A&B postive), but only a 6-9 month suspension in view of level so low as to only be consistent with contamination.

    Allows UCI/ WADA/ Spanish to see justice done, and gets Contador back for Paris-Nice or at least the Dauphine and able to claim vindication.

    Who knows, the contamination story could even be true!? I wouldn't rely on testing of random beef samples any more than I would on out-of-competition drug testing of Jamaican sprinters (when there's no WADA lab in Kingston…). Abuse of pharmaceuticals in the livestock industries is systematic, & testing probably is not.

    WRT plasticisers in blood – apart from all the ethical considerations of using a non-validated test then leaking the results – you would think there would be a whole lot more of the riders who would be concerned – even if they were going to claim they just took a "rehydration drip" or similar.

    Even the EPO tests of Lance's '99 TdF samples did use a test that had been validated, even if Lance didn't give his permission 🙂

    BTW when is everybody going to remember that Lance's "steroid cream" script was post-dated? The prescription was only produced days after ASO & UCI informed Postal of the positive test and was not covered by a TUE certificate at the time of the test. So yes, LANCE DID HAVE A POSITIVE TEST FOR A BANNED PERFORMANCE ENHANCING SUBSTANCE. It's just that if your Lance, or his entourage, you can change reality by repeating denials & alternative versions of the truth.

    But I digress….



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