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Tour de France champ Alberto Contador vows to challenge doping verdict (+video)

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“You can’t go 18 months without a decision. They should redo their rules so that they can come to decisions faster,” says Don Catlin, a pioneer of antidoping efforts and one of the most prominent doctors in the field. “In the Armstrong matter it’s a heavy dose of politics. Law-and-order people and WADA thought they were going to catch him. But the government felt they didn’t have enough [evidence]....”

Burden of proof on the athlete

Ultimately, the debate is not so much over antidoping rules, but over the ample room for legal interpretation when it comes to their enforcement, as the Contador and Armstrong cases illustrate. Fans, athletes, and antidoping advocates are criticizing the global antidoping system as lacking credibility, and demanding that it be reformed.

“Everyone agrees with the rules, but these don’t say how they should be applied, unlike a regular court system,” says Fermín Morales, a law professor in the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona and a leading expert on antidoping legislation.

Contador's case ultimately landed in the CAS. The highest court for doping violations, it operates not on the usual presumption "innocent until proven guilty" but rather puts the burden of proof on the athlete to prove his or her innocence.

Contador said from the beginning that the traces of clenbuterol came from inadvertently eating contaminated meat. (Some farmers use the drug to boost beef production, although it is outlawed in the European Union.) But not surprisingly, he was unable to provide a sample of the allegedly contaminated meat more than a year after the fact. 

The World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Cycling Union argued instead that the drug entered Contador's system not through meat but through an illegal blood transfusion, citing traces of a plastic found in his system the day before he tested positive for clenbuterol.

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