UCI president Pat McQuaid has explained that the political pressure exerted on the Spanish Cycling Federation during its deliberations on the Alberto Contador Clenbuterol case compelled the UCI to appeal the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in order to ensure a fair and credible outcome.
Contador returned a positive test for Clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France, but in February his national federation (RFEC) opted not to sanction him. The UCI confirmed on Thursday that it was appealing the RFEC’s verdict to CAS.
"I'm aware he [Contador] is going to make a strong case,” McQuaid told AFP. “But the way the proceedings went in Spain meant that we really had no option but to do what we did.”
While the RFEC’s competition committee was examining on Contador’s defence dossier, a number of Spanish political figures voiced their public support for the Saxo Bank-SunGard rider, including Prime Minister José Zapatero.
"They also received a huge amount of pressure from political sources, including the Prime Minister, saying he shouldn't be sanctioned,” McQuaid said. “Obviously he's an athlete of very high standing in Spain. But when you get the Spanish Prime Minister and the president of the Spanish Olympic Committee intervening and making statements when they don't know the facts of the case, it's just not right."
McQuaid explained that it was thus necessary to appeal to CAS in order to remove the suspicion that the RFEC’s decision to clear Contador was a consequence of Spanish political interference.
“Even though the Spanish federation told us that had no effect on their decision, we will never really know that,” McQuaid said. “And the public and the cycling fans and cycling family will never really know.
“The only way to ensure that we get a credible and just and fair result is to take it to a higher authority – which for us is CAS – that has credibility, that has the capacity to deal with this case and which the sports family will accept.”
McQuaid echoed the thoughts of Tour de France general director Christian Prudhomme, who has called for a swift and definitive verdict to be reached on the case.
"I agree that we need a final decision,” McQuaid said. “It's in the interest of the sports movement, the Tour de France and the athlete himself - and our interest - that we get a result before the Tour de France.
“I spoke with Prudhomme last week. I know exactly how he feels. It would be a shame for cycling and for the Tour for this to drag into the first or second week of the Tour de France.”
Nonetheless, the UCI president is optimistic that CAS will be able to resolve the matter before July.
“My understanding is: if both parties want to get this resolved before the Tour de France the timeline is there to do it,” McQuaid said.