Spain’s controversial three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador edged closer to taking part in the Tour de France after his doping hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was set for August 1-3, after cycling’s showpiece event. The doping case concerning Contador was due to be heard before CAS over three days in Lausanne from June 6-8 in order to have the decision before the start of the Tour de France on July 2. But CAS announced last week that it had “accepted to postpone the hearing in this matter in order to give to all parties concerned reasonable time to prepare for such a hearing and to guarantee the participation in person of witnesses and experts”. The Tour de France organizers were not amused by the confirmation of the delay.
“We have repeatedly said that we wanted the matter resolved before the 2011 race,” race director Christian Prudhomme told AFP. “It was the sensible thing to do but obviously it was too much to ask for.”
Prudhomme admitted that there was nothing they could do to stop the Spaniard from competing as he bids to become the first rider since the late Marco Pantani in 1998 to complete the double of the Giro and Tour de France. Contador won the Tour of Italy last Sunday.
“The procedures are under way, the appeal is not subject to him being suspended,” said Prudhomme. “Contador has competed since the beginning of the season in Portugal, Spain, Belgium and Italy. “He has yet to make his decision regarding the Tour but no official body, the UCI (the International Cycling Union) or WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) have opposed him competing in races. He could well be at the starting line of the Tour.”
WADA and the UCI are appealing the Spanish cycling federation’s (RFEC) decision to acquit 28-year-old Contador over a failed doping case. Contador tested positive for a tiny amount of the banned muscle building substance clenbuterol during last July’s Tour, which he went on to win. But he was cleared to compete when the RFEC rescinded an initial decision to hand down a one-year competition ban, accepting the rider’s claim that he had unknowingly consumed drug-contaminated meat and was therefore not negligent.