Just before noon EST today, I had a chance to speak to Andy Ramos Gil de la Haza, the head of Alberto Contador’s legal team. News as of late makes it seem almost certain that the UCI will appeal Contador’s acquittal by the filing deadline of March 24th, so Ramos was reaching out to those that have been reporting on the case.
In an exclusive interview with Bike World News, Ramos reiterated that, regardless of how the UCI and WADA plan to proceed, he and the rest of the legal team have built a very solid defense of the charges. He said that the 600 page dossier for the case establishes their defense on both a legal and scientific basis.
- They were able to prove that even in the presence of EU controls on clenbuterol in livestock, it was statistically possible for tainted beef to get to market without being detected.
- Furthermore, they were able to prove that, despite bans on clenbuterol, it was readily available to buy via the internet. The team was able to buy 3 bottles very easily [Though I don’t think it’s in their best interest to talk about how readily available it is – Ed.].
- Scientists testified in affidavits that the amount of clenbuterol found in Contador’s blood would not provide any performance enhancement.
I asked Ramos about other Astana team members that might have consumed meat from the same source. He said that Benjamín Noval, Jesús Hernández, Paolo Tiralongo, David de la Fuente and Daniel Navarro dined with Contador and consumed the tainted beef, but only Contador received a drug control following the rest day. He even noted that other team members, including Alexander Vinokourov, ate earlier and complained about the quality of the meat that they were given.
Ramos went on to say that Contador’s case was anything but unique and that he and the team have been bouyed by the recent acquittals of Dutch mountain biker Rudi Van Hout and German table tennis player Dimitrij Ovtcharov on the basis of accidental ingestion. Unfortunately, WADA has not been consistent on the matter: American swimmer Jessica Hardy successfully showed in 2009 that her Clenbuterol positive was as a result of a contaminated supplement, yet she still received a one-year ban. As well, Chinese cyclist Li Fuyu (formerly of Team Radioshack) is no closer to learning what his fate will be after he, too, tested positive for clenbuterol nearly a year ago.
Of course, Contador’s acquittal from the Spanish Cycling Federation came on the basis of the UCI sections 296 and 297:
296. If the Rider establishes in an individual case that he bears No Fault or Negligence, the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility shall be eliminated. When a Prohibited Substance or its Markers or Metabolites is detected in a Rider’s Sample as referred to in article 21.1 (presence of a Prohibited Substance), the Rider must also establish how the Prohibited Substance entered his system in order to have the period of Ineligibility eliminated. In the event this article is applied and the period of Ineligibility otherwise applicable is eliminated, the anti-doping rule violation shall not be considered a violation for the limited purpose of determining the period of Ineligibility for multiple violations under articles 306 to 312.
297. If a License-Holder establishes in an individual case that he bears No Significant Fault or Negligence, then the period of Ineligibility may be reduced, but the reduced period of Ineligibility may not be less than one-half of the period of Ineligibility otherwise applicable. If the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility is a lifetime, the reduced period under this section may be no less than 8 (eight) years. When a Prohibited Substance or its Markers or Metabolites is detected in a Rider’s Sample as referred to in article 21.1 (presence of Prohibited Substance), the Rider must also establish how the Prohibited Substance entered his system in order to have the period of Ineligibility reduced.
Ramos said that the general rule (section 21.1 of UCI Antidoping rules) says that athletes are responsible for any prohibited substance found in their system, but there are exceptions to that general rule, and two of them are section 296 and 297.
Contador’s defense team was given access to the entire Astana team and staff from the Tour de France as well as the purchaser of the beef and the cook in building up their defense.
We closed our conversation with a brief discussion on plasticizers. Contador claims innocence on that matter and has already had his blood samples from the Tour de France frozen so that they can be tested when WADA approves a test.