Madrid: The disciplinary hearing against Alberto Contador over his failed drugs test could last much longer than the one-month period permitted by the UCI, the head of Spain`s Cycling Federation (RFEC) said on Wednesday.
"We could be looking at three months or even more," RFEC president Juan Carlos Castano told reporters after the federation finished its first meeting looking into the case.
Castano said over 600 pages of material, far more than usual in doping cases, was sent by the world governing body, the UCI, dealing with the triple Tour de France winner`s positive test for the stimulant clenbuterol and his provisional suspension.
"There`s so much ground to cover, far more than in a normal case," Castano said, "and we`ll take it as slowly and thoroughly as we need to. We want this to go quickly but the important thing is Alberto gets a fair trial."
Contador says contaminated beef, consumed on the 2010 Tour`s second rest day, was responsible for the tiny traces of clenbuterol found in one of his urine samples. He was suspended on Aug. 24 although the case only became public on Sept. 30.
Nearly six weeks later, after intense consultations between the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), a legal hearing has finally begun and Contador`s federation will now decide if he should receive any penalty.
"We were following the case in the press and knew about Alberto`s adverse finding (positive dope test) but we didn`t have an official communique until Nov. 8," said Castano.
"I actually wondered if the case was ever going to be passed on to us at all."
"A lot of time has gone past and now we`ll almost certainly go over the established time limit to reach a verdict."
"But whatever international legislation may say, Spanish sports laws say we can take up to three months."
"Usually if you go over the month limit (for doping cases), the UCI sends you an email asking why it`s taking so long, you send one back explaining what`s happened, and that`s as far as it goes."
Contador`s management have strengthened his legal team by hiring Swiss lawyer Rocco Taminelli, who successfully defended Italian cyclist Franco Pellizotti in an anti-doping case earlier this year.
Taminelli represented Pellizotti when the 2009 Tour of Italy podium finisher was cleared of charges for alleged irregularities in his biological passport that could have led to a two-year ban from the sport.
Contador`s press officer, Jacinto Vidarte, also confirmed they have the receipt and credit card payment docket for the contaminated beef.
A friend of Contador`s, race organiser Jose Luis Lopez Cerron, bought the allegedly contaminated meat in Irun, a town on Spain`s north-west frontier, before taking it to Astana`s team hotel in Pau, France, where it was eaten by Contador.
Cerron had been asked to make the purchase by the Astana team cook.
"The purchase of the beef is now completely verified," Vidarte said. "It was found amongst the receipts that formed part of the Astana team`s expense claims for the 2010 Tour, and has been sent on to Alberto."
Disciplinary hearings for Contador`s positive test began on Monday in Madrid after the UCI sent the RFEC the case report to which the Spaniard and his management team have also had access.
Contador released a statement on Wednesday saying he was confident of a favourable outcome.
"I am pleased that the case has come to the federation because it means we can move forward," the rider said.
"Alberto Contador and his team of lawyers... are working with the hope of a verdict in the shortest possible time with the objective that Alberto Contador can begin the next cycling season without any obstacle," the statement added.