Alberto Contador and his legal team will appear before the Spanish cycling federation Friday to formally present evidence against doping allegations leveled against the beleaguered Tour de France champion.
Contador will join his lawyers as they make the formal presentation of their case to a four-member panel that will decide the Spanish cyclist’s fate. Extensive documentation, expert opinions and other evidence will be delivered to back their claims that minute traces of clenbuterol found in Contador’s system on a rest-day control came from eating steaks brought in from Spain.
“We are optimistic that the documentation will be solid and irrefutable, and will confirm that the only possibility is that of food contamination,” Contador’s spokesman Jacinto Vidarte told VeloNews on Thursday night. “We’re confident that they will rule in favor of Alberto and we can bring an end to all this.”
It’s not known how long Spain’s cycling federation will take to review the evidence, but it could be weeks, if not months before a decision is taken.
The four-member “competition committee” will make the recommendation on whether or not Contador will be banned. If he is suspended, rules give Contador the option of filing an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. If he is cleared, both WADA and the UCI also have the right to appeal the decision.
The stakes are high for the three-time Tour winner, who is facing a possible two-year racing ban and disqualification of his 2010 Tour crown.
Contador said he’s hopeful the proceedings could conclude before the end of the year.
“We don’t know how long this will take, but we hope it’s resolved before the end of the year,” Contador said Thursday on an interview with Spanish television. “Providing the evidence is not my job. The legal team around me will make a strong argument to those who have to make the decision. I think we will be able to show beyond a shadow of doubt that the only possibility is that of food contamination.”
Contador appeared on Spanish TV for the first time since giving an emotional press conference September 30. He’s since avoided the limelight as the legal process unfolds, but said he wanted to speak out to counter some of the stories that have been circulating on the media and on Websites.
“There have been a lot of inaccurate stories in the media, and of course this has an influence on what people think,” Contador said. “There will be some people that don’t believe in me. But I can only tell the truth. This is not a doping case. I have never doped in my career, never.”
Contador’s appearance comes a day after Saxo Bank-Sungard officials confirmed that Contador will travel to Fuerteventura on Sunday to join his new teammates ahead of the 2011 season. Contador is banned from competition, but the UCI gave the go-ahead for Contador to join the team’s first training camp ahead of next season.
“It’s good for everyone that I am able to be at the camp,” Contador said. “It’s the first significant meetings for the team and it’s very important that I am there. My objectives have not changed, my goal is to win the next Tour de France.”
Whether or not he’ll be at the start line next July remains to be seen.