This week, Cyclingnews provided an update of the much-delayed CAS hearing on Alberto Contador’s doping ‘positive’ (Contador Doping Verdict Expected In January | Cyclingnews.com). More delay in finishing with this bizarre case:
Alberto Contador’s fate should be announced in January, according to AP, who reported Monday that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) would reach a verdict in the first month of 2012.
I’ve blogged here before on this extraordinary case. Way back during the 2010 Tour de France, one of Contador’s samples revealed traces of clenbuterol. Strangely, the levels detected were below the levels at which a testing laboratory is required to be able to detect. This seemed to me to be something anomalous, as a rider with such low levels in his system could be found positive or negative, depending on which testing laboratory his sample was sent to. Wikipedia reports the issues around the positive test thus:
The UCI issued a statement reporting that the concentration was 50 picograms per millilitre, and that this was 400 times below the minimum standards of detection capability required by WADA, and that further scientific investigation would be required. Contador was provisionally suspended from competition, although this had no short-term effect as he had already finished his racing programme for the 2010 season. Contador had been informed of the results over a month earlier, on 24 August. Later the amount discovered was clarified as 40 times below the minimum standards, rather than the 400 times originally reported by the UCI. Contador’s scientific adviser claimed that he would have needed 180 times the amount detected to gain any benefit in his performance.
The muddying of the issues around the level of clenbuterol certainly confused the issue. But the main thrust of the investigation seems to revolve around the allegation that a blood transfusion may have been administered. My concerns here relate to whether justice can be served when the legal procedures are so drawn out. I’m not taking a stance on his guilt or innocence, but rather whether it is appropriate to call a positive for such low levels of clenbuterol, and whether a doping case to be resolved.
Contador was involved in the Operacion Puerto scandal, though was exonerated by the investigation. But the whole fiasco around the Fuentes doping ring seems to have resulted in very few convictions against cyclists and athletes from other sports (particularly athletes from other sports). Strangely, many (if not all) of the allegations linking riders to blood bags could have been resolved by DNA testing. DNA testing was used to clobber Jan Ullrich and (I think) Alejandro Valverde, but it seems contrary to justice to single out only a few of the accused for this treatment.
All this seems to signal a desperate need for improved and coordinated international efforts to combat sports doping.