Can Contador defend his Tour title?

“Can you explain the rules to me?”; “Si, Senor”

As a follow-up to the news on Contador and the rules relating to the case, some are wondering if he will be able to defend his title next July. For example Cycling Weekly have said that the Spaniard is going to be listed as a Saxo-Sungard rider for the Tour of Murcia soon, a sign that he plans to be racing. I can’t see that happening unless he is totally absolved.

Right now Contador is suspended so he cannot race until officialdom acts. That’s the reality today but let’s now explore some of the potential outcomes:

Contador receives a reduced ban that ends before July
In this case he would be free to resume racing. But the rules are strict, Contador’s positive A and B test is already established and since the banned substance was discovered during the race he will probably be stripped of the 2010 Tour de France win. Therefore will not be defending his title but aiming for this third win.

Contador is banned and the UCI or WADA appeals
Should Contador get a ban but the sporting authorities take exception to the ruling, perhaps the length of the ban, then an appeal could be lodged. If this happens, Contador is free to ride whilst the appeal process is underway.

Contador proves it was accidental
Proof is a big word. But he’s free to race immediately yet it is still likely that Contador is stripped of his 2010 Tour de France win as the presence of a banned substance could have given him an advantage during the race. Here’s UCI rule:

290: If the anti-doping violation involves the presence, Use or Attempted Use of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method (articles 21.1 and 21.2) and the Rider establishes that he bears No Fault or Negligence, his individual results in the other Competitions shall not be disqualified except to the extent that they were likely to have been affected by the Rider’s anti-doping violation.

This one is up for debate as to whether the contamination provided sufficient quantities of clenbuterol. The presence of a bronchodilator for a rider who had complained during the race that “I had trouble breathing” is certainly going to cause trouble.

Contador gets a full ban
The rules state that Contador needs to provide some firm evidence as to why clenbuterol ended up by accident in his blood samples. If he can’t then the same rules stipulate a two year ban that will likely date from the day of the blood test, meaning he’s out for 2011 and 2012 and loses his 2010 win.

The only way Contador can defend his 2010 title in the Tour de France this summer is to be cleared in full and for expert opinion to rule that he got no advantage whatsoever from the clenbuterol found in his blood. A big ask.