What's next for Contador?

The Spanish National Cycling Federation (RFEC) is set to open a disciplinary hearing against Tour de France winner Alberto Contador over the alleged use of Clenbuterol. But no final outcome to the case should be expected any time soon.

Contador’s spokesman Jacinto Vidarte welcomed the decision, saying “Now it will be time to either sanction or resolve Alberto of the matter.” However few doping cases are completed quickly and the UCI has already waited three months for WADA to complete an inquiry before asking the RFEC to open a formal investigation.

The RFEC will help Contador by hearing the case as soon as possible and Contador has already prepared is defence. However any appeal to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) about the verdict, by Contador or the UCI and WADA, would drag out the legal process for months and delay Contador’s hopes of riding with the Saxo Bank team in 2011.

Both RFEC president Juan Carlos Castaño and Spanish Olympic Committee boss Alejandro Blanco have defended Contador recently but are under pressure after UCI president Pat McQuaid accused Spain of being the nation where cycling encounters its biggest challenges in terms of doping. At the same time WADA is carefully watching how the UCI handle the case. There is very little chance this case will be quietly archived and forgotten about.

Contador faces an uphill battle to clear his name, especially after the alleged discovery of plastic residue in one of his blood tests at the Tour de France sparked accusations of blood doping.

He insists he tested positive for Clenbuterol because he ate contaminated meat brought to the Tour de France from Spain. But under the WADA anti-doping code, athletes are ultimately responsible for prohibited substances found in their bodies.

Germany table tennis player Dimitrij Ovtcharov was recently cleared of taking Clenbuterol by the German and International Table Tennis Federation after arguing he ate contaminated meat while competing in China.

Contador will have to prove his meat was contaminated but official data shows that Clenbuterol has only shown up once in 83,203 animal samples tested by EU countries in 2008 and 2009 and never in Spain.

Contador will hope his case ends like that of French tennis player Richard Gasquet.

The Wimbledon semi-finalist was initially banned for two years for cocaine but results of forensic science tests showed that traces of the drug in his urine came from a kiss with a girl who was a regular cocaine user. His ban was eventually reduced to two-and-half months.

For both Clenbuterol and cocaine, the WADA code doesn't include a limit on the quantity of the substance under which the athlete is cleared. However both the Ovtcharov and Gasquet cases show that the rules are often bent if the athlete is a big star and occasionally rewritten when there is a legal precedent.

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