What next for Contador?
Alberto Contador on podium, Tour de France 2010 stage 19
Nearly three months after he tested positive for clenbuterol, Alberto Contador's case is now moving forward again.
The moment the UCI sent six emails containing all the documents of the Contador case to the Spanish Cycling Federation - around 6.30 last night, although there was so much material in them the Federation's email account actually collapsed - the disciplinary proceedings that will decide whether the Spaniard did or did not dope can finally get underway.
"It's the normal procedure", Spanish Cycling Federation president Juan Carlos Castaño said, "although what's not normal is that they've taken three months to send us all the documentation."
Contador's penalty - if there is one - will be decided by Spain's four-person Competition Committee, which has its first meeting to discuss the case on Wednesday. The first part of the case is a month long enquiry, in which Contador will be called to make statements, provide evidence to defend himself and in which more witnesses may also be summoned.
"I only ask two things," Castaño said, "that they treat this case just as they would any other and that it all happen as quickly as possible, because we've had some pretty big delays and it's in nobody's interest that the case go on any longer."
Castaño insisted that despite the massive media interest, the committee would try to remain neutral. "Contador, in any case, will not be receiving any favourable treatment."
"It's what we expected," Contador's press officer Jacinto Vidarte told Cycling Weekly. "This is the next step in any such case and at least the whole process is now underway."
After the month long enquiry, a verdict is expected immediately. If after three months, no verdict is still forthcoming, the UCI - after slapping a fine on the Federation in question for each week without a verdict that goes by - can take the case to CAS.
The verdict itself could range from up to two years suspension to completely being cleared. Contador will lose the 2010 Tour even if he is suspended, although if he is only fined, then he will remain 2010 Tour winner.
Appeals against that verdict in turn can be taken to the CAS by either the UCI, WADA or Contador. And appeals against CAS's verdict can be taken to the Swiss courts, although they have only gone against CAS on one occasion, in a dispute between two football teams, Benfica and Atletico Madrid, back in 2010.
Is it likely Contador will be sanctioned? Most athletes who have tested positive for this substance, no matter how small - and in Contador's case it is a minute amount - have been suspended. One of the few cases, however, where this has not happened, is the most recent - table tennis player Dmitrij Ovtcharov, who also claimed, like Contador, he had tested positive because of contaminated meat.
Contrary to some media reports, Contador has not decided by any means that he would stop racing if he is sanctioned. The Spaniard is currently doing his usual winter training, around two hours a day, but although Vidarte says he is not going to make any declarations to the press, apparently Contador is - logically - following the events very closely.