The Tour de France organiser Christian Prudhomme expressed surprise at today's announcement that the Court of Arbitration for Sport has delayed its hearing of Alberto Contador's doping case.
The CAS said it would hear arguments in June on the appeal by the UCI (International Cycling Union) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) of the Spanish federation's decision to acquit Contador of doping, but said today that a request from Contador's legal team has stalled the hearing process until mid-July, and possibly as late as September.
The postponement could mean the 2011 Tour de France will have to kick off without a firm decision on who was the winner of the previous year's event: Contador or second-placed Andy Schleck.
"We want to believe that a decision will be made before start [of the Tour de France]," Prudhomme told AFP. "We are surprised because the CAS had repeatedly declared that the decision would be made before the start," Prudhomme said. "The schedule was set with a hearing between June 6 and 8. We can only repeat what we said since the fall: we expect a response before the Tour."
Until the court has made a final decision on the case, Contador remains free to continue to compete. He is currently leading the Giro d'Italia by almost five minutes over his nearest competitor.
Contador tested positive for Clenbuterol in a sample taken on the second rest day of the 2010 Tour de France, but was able to convince the Spanish federation that the substance was accidentally ingested. A successful CAS appeal by the anti-doping agency and governing body could see Contador suspended and stripped of his 2010 Tour title.