Today marks the UCI’s final chance to appeal the decision last month to absolve Alberto Contador of any wrongdoing. But if they don’t, WADA will, reckons Anthony Tan.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

We've heard somewhere between
little to nothing on the UCI's intentions to accept or appeal the 15
February decision by the disciplinary commission of the Spanish cycling
federation (RFEC) to exonerate Alberto Contador, who continues to be the
overall winner of last year's Tour de France and pin on a race number,
as is his wont.

But if it is the latter – that is, to appeal the
decision to Switzerland's Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) – today
is their final chance to do so. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has
another three weeks to make their judgement call.

Upon learning
of the RFEC decision, the four paragraph, 111-word press release from
the UCI appeared to indicate they would mount a challenge, saying they
noted the final verdict differed from the initial recommendation to ban
Contador for one year, and that the boys in Aigle "reserves the right to
conduct an in-depth study of the reasons behind the decision before
expressing its opinion". The UCI also said they were awaiting the full
dossier from the RFEC.

But if one goes by the comments made by
certain top anti-doping officials of late, if I was a betting man, I'd
say Contador's dossier and the evidence within will be pored over for
some time yet – and if the UCI don't appeal, WADA almost certainly will.

Although
unable to comment directly on "caso Contador", professor Arne
Ljungqvist, vice president of WADA and chairman of the International
Olympic Committee's medical commission, nevertheless told the Associated
Press
on 25 February that claims of food contamination in sports
doping cases are old hat and have never been accepted by a sports panel
like CAS.

It doesn't take Einstein to deduce both the RFEC and
UCI have vested interests in the outcome of such a high profile case,
given it is part of both organisations' credo to promote cycling; if
you've walked down their hallways or read enough of their press
releases, it is part of their mantra. Remember, it was the UCI who let
it be known that the concentration of clenbuterol, the weight loss and
muscle-building drug Contador got himself into trouble with on the
second rest day of the 2010 Tour, was four-hundred times below the
minimum standards of detection required by WADA, and that further
scientific investigation would be required. (Perhaps, they're too simply
too busy concerning themselves with enforcing the rollout of their race
radio ban, and learning of the legitimacy of this supposed renegade
ProTour that appears to be championed by Johan Bruyneel and Jonathan
Vaughters.)

From what Ljungqvist says, it's basically why an
unbiased court of appeal is so important. "It's not the first time that a
national federation excuses their own athlete," he told the AP.
"That's why we have this safeguard of an appeal system."

Ljungqvist,
who served as chairman of the International Athletics Federation's
medical commission from 1980-2004, even dismissed a study done by the
WADA-accredited lab in Cologne, Germany, that found 22 out of 28
travellers returning from China to Germany tested positive for trace
amounts of clenbuterol. He says it was not a proper peer-reviewed
scientific study, with the deputy director-general of China's
Anti-Doping Agency also rejecting the Cologne lab's findings.

As
for the tiddly-biddly amount of clenbuterol found in Contador's urine on
21 July, Ljungqvist says the strict liability rule was enforced after a
Norwegian shot putter blamed his positive test results on food
contamination in the early 1980s. Still, in cycling at least, there is
an out-clause – Article 296 of the UCI's anti-doping regulations, which
state:

"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."


So,
although the public has not been privy to the Contador dossier, we must
assume the Spaniard's defence team proved not only did he ingest the
clenbuterol inadvertently, but that he also proved the source of the
contamination.

It was interesting – though perhaps unsurprising –
to see Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency,
implicitly say he'll be relying on WADA – not the UCI – to ensure
impartiality with respect to the Contador case. "WADA plays the great
equaliser to ensure justice is even and in line with the facts and the
rules around the world," Tygart told the AP, adding: "If our
heroes need to be brought down because they cheated then that's what all
athletes expect us to need to do and we need to have a strong resolve
to do that sometimes."

Should the UCI or WADA appeal the RFEC's
findings and the CAS upholds their ruling, setting Contador free for
good, it would make for a landmark ruling on par with their decision
earlier this month to ban Franco Pellizotti and Pietro Caucchioli based
on evidence gathered from the riders' biological passports.

2011
has already shown itself to be a year for apocalyptic meteorological
events. Will it also be a year for watershed decisions from sport's
highest court of justice?