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Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Panel set for Alberto Contador case

Associated Press

GENEVA -- The Court of Arbitration for Sport selected a three-man panel on Wednesday to hear Alberto Contador's doping case, saying it expects a verdict before the Tour de France starts in July.

Israeli lawyer Efraim Barak will chair the panel, which also will have Quentin Byrne-Sutton of Switzerland and Ulrich Haas of Germany.

CAS has not picked a date to hear the case, but plans to issue a ruling before the Tour de France begins July 2. Contador is the reigning champion.

"The written proceedings in this matter are likely to be concluded at the end of May. The CAS envisages to hold a hearing in June, which would allow the settlement of the dispute before the end of June," the court said in a statement.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency have appealed Contador's acquittal on doping charges by the Spanish cycling federation. A Spanish tribunal accepted Contador's defense that he inadvertently consumed the banned substance clenbuterol by eating contaminated beef.

Under CAS rules, each party in a dispute can choose an arbitrator to work with the court-appointed chairman.

Contador's legal team selected Haas, while the UCI and WADA chose Byrne-Sutton.

Contador can keep competing until the verdict and is scheduled to race in the Giro d'Italia next week.

Haas is among the most requested arbitrators on the CAS approved list and has a track record in cases involving Spanish cycling and clenbuterol.

He served on the panel that ruled last year that Alejandro Valverde could be banned from riding in Italy using evidence collected by Spanish police during the Operation Puerto investigation.

Valverde's legal team tried to get Haas kicked off the case, arguing that his advisory work with WADA compromised his objectivity, but its appeal was rejected by Switzerland's supreme court.

Haas, a teaching professor at the University of Zurich, has helped rule on two recent cases involving clenbuterol, which burns fat and builds muscle.

American swimmer Jessica Hardy was ordered to serve a one-year ban even though the CAS panel accepted last year that she was not at fault for a positive test because she thoroughly researched the contents of a dietary supplement that later proved to be contaminated.

In 2009, Haas and his panel dismissed Polish canoeist Adam Seroczynski's claims that his clenbuterol positive at the Beijing Olympics was the result of "food tampering" by organizers who fed him contaminated meat. The IOC's expert witness in the case dismissed the possibility of accidental contamination.

Haas also was involved in an Olympic case that found fault with the WADA-accredited laboratory in Beijing.

The CAS panel reinstated silver and bronze medals to Vadim Devyatovskiy and Ivan Tsikhan, hammer throwers from Belarus who tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone, because their samples were mishandled. However, the panel did not clear the athletes of suspicion, insisting the verdict "should not be interpreted as an exoneration."

Barak chaired the first CAS panel to hear a case of Champions League matchfixing. His panel upheld UEFA's decisions to exclude Macedonian club Pobeda from European competitions for eight years and imposed a life ban on the club president.

If CAS rules against Contador, he is likely to be stripped of his third Tour victory and lose all of his results and prize money earned since the UCI lifted his provisional suspension in February.

Contador has won the Volta of Catalunya and Vuelta of Murcia this year and is a strong contender for the Giro.

Giro director Angelo Zomegnan is not concerned about the uncertainty over Contador.

"It's the same problem as it's always been, for whoever is in that situation," Zomegnan told The AP last week. "As of now, Alberto Contador has been cleared."