SAN PEDRO DEL PINATAR, Spain (VN) – Alberto Contador started Friday’s first stage at the Vuelta a Murcia with modest hopes of winning on the bike while his legal team is expanding for the looming battle off the bike.
Belgian lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont, considered one of Europe’s top sport lawyers, joined the legal team to help prepare the Spanish cyclist’s defense if there is an appeal by the UCI or WADA to the Spanish cycling federation’s recent decision to clear Contador on doping charges.
Officials within the Contador camp say the arrival of Dupont does not indicate they expect a legal challenge to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“We want to have the best legal team possible if there is an appeal. (Dupont) is a specialist in sports law,” Jacinto Vidarte told VeloNews. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, whether there’s going to be an appeal or not. All we can do it wait.”
Dupont brings additional firepower to Contador’s already formidable legal team, which includes two of the top Spanish legal firms already working on the case. Those firms include Roca Juyent, with offices across Spain and China where Dupont was signed on in late February, and Banradí and Honrado, with offices in Spain and Portugal.
Dupont won acclaim in the 1990s while working on the “Bosman case” which allowed European soccer stars to transfer with fees at the conclusion of their contracts, a precedent-setting case that forced major changes in how clubs manage their top players. Dupont also worked on Tom Boonen’s cocaine case two years ago.
Contador’s legal wants to be prepared for “all scenarios,” Vidarte said, and refused to speculate if Contador would continue racing if there is an appeal filed with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Contador was cleared Feb. 15 by the Spanish cycling federation in the long-running clebuterol case, a ruling that lifted a provisional racing ban and opened the door for Contador’s return to competition.
Contador, meanwhile, said he’s focused on training and improving his condition after his sudden return to racing at last month’s Volta ao Algarve in Portugal.
“I’m not anywhere close to top form yet, but I am getting better and better,” Contador said before Friday’s start. “The training is going well and I hope to do better than I did at Algarve (he was fourth overall). I’ve been training hard at Mallorca with the team and we’ll make a big test on the time trial bike on Sunday.”
Contador has penciled in a racing schedule that includes the Volta a Catalunya (March 21-27), the Vuelta a Castilla y León (April 13-17) and perhaps the Ardennes classics before the Giro d’Italia (May 7-29), which Contador won in 2008.