With less than a week to the start of Alberto Contador’s hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Spanish daily El País has revealed that 13 people will be appearing on the Spaniard’s behalf as his legal team attempts to convince a panel of three adjudicators that his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France was the result of inadvertent ingestion of the product, probably in tainted meat.
Among those set to testify are Contador’s current Saxo Bank team-mates Benjamín Noval and Jesús Hernández, as well as Paolo Tiralongo, his former team-mate at Astana who is still with the Kazakh team. The three men, then all team-mates at Astana, ate the same meat as the Spaniard on the Tour’s second rest day in Pau. The meat had been bought in Spain and brought to the Tour by Contador’s friend, Vuelta a Castilla y León organizer José Luis López Cerrón.
Contador will be represented by a four-strong legal team, including British lawyer Mike Morgan, who will present the Spaniard’s case to CAS tribunal. Also appearing for the defence will be Professor Vivian James, a member of the Anti-Doping Group for the 2012 Olympics and chairman of UK Sport’s experts committee, and Paul Scott, a Californian who has run out-of-competition testing for some of the sport’s top-ranked teams.
However, Italian haematologist Giuseppe Banfi, who played a key role in the presentation made by Contador’s defence team to the Spanish federation before it cleared him of the clenbuterol doping charge, will not be appearing in Lausanne. Instead, Contador’s defence have drafted in a German expert in plasticisers, who will appear if the World Anti-Doping Agency attempt to show that a high level of plasticisers in Contador’s blood provides indirect evidence that the Spaniard underwent a transfusion. Also on hand will be a biostatistician, who will raise doubts about the value and efficacy of the biological passport.
El País describes Louis Rover as “perhaps the most intriguing” member of Contador’s defence team. The American is an expert in the use of polygraph testing, suggesting that Contador has undergone or will undergo some form of lie-detecting test.
Facing Contador will be WADA’s legal team, which comprises 10 experts, including Australian anti-doping expert Michael Ashenden, WADA’s scientific director Olivier Rabin, two experts from the Cologne lab that carried out the testing on Contador’s samples, and Pierre Sottas, one of those behind the establishment of the biological passport. WADA’s team also features a biostatistician and two experts nutritional experts, who will attempt to show that even if the meat had been tainted with clenbuterol, it would require someone to eat a huge quantity of it in order to produce even the small traces of clenbuterol that were detected in Contador’s urine sample. Backing up this line of attack, WADA will also be calling on the butcher who sold the meat and the head of the Spanish association of cattle-breeders.
Gorka Villar, the lawyer overseeing Contador’s defence, tells El País that the objective of the legal teams on both sides is to present the three tribunal members with the most likely reason for Contador’s positive test. “The decision will be taken on the balance of probability,” says Villar. “If the judges believe that there is a of 51% probability that your thesis has happened, then you’ve won.”
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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