The Butcher cometh. Will he cut down Contador?

Tools of the trade.

Perhaps the man from the meat shop will do what Andy Schleck never could: cut Alberto Contador down to size. As the crazy oil man in the movie once said, there will be blood.

The now famous Butcher from Irun, the Basque meat shop knife wielder, is testifying all the way out in Lausanne, Switzerland. He will state under oath that his steaks are clenbuterol free and that he’s prepared to swear that’s the case all over Spain. (As is the case in modern life, you can an expert to disagree with that.)

Still, the butcher is going to be a tough man to contradict. He has seen more steaks up close and sliced apart more beef carcasses than the Spaniard’s legal team. They can throw out contradictory reports but the man with the knife is on point and his testimony will hurt.

Of course, the legal team for Contador has amassed an astonishing 3,500 pages of submissions and documents. They’re going with the “choke them with information” strategy. They’re hoping to win not by explanation but exhaustion, trying to wear down the judges with an avalanche of data. Sort of like force feeding an animal — it gets fat and sick and nobody would be surprised if one of the judges had to take a leave of absence in the trial just from the eye strain. Don’t rule that out.

But back to the butcher for a moment. He’s now a media star in Spain and a hot quote from any cycling journalist. He’s been cutting meat for thirty years and it’s safe to say he’s never traveled out of the country to give a deposition on a steak. What exactly is tainted – the meat or the rider?

The industry data does not look appetizing if you’re in Contador’s corner. In 2006, just to pick a year, there was only one case of clenbuterol among 2,600 samples tested by the Spanish government. From 2004 to 2009, inspectors found no clenbuterol positives among thousands of controls.

Tough to argue against that if you work under the UCI code that sets a zero tolerance for clenbuterol. Contador failed a test on the rest day in Pau of the 2010 Tour de France. He might be resting for two years if they rule against him — and he’ll lose that tour win and perhaps his 2011 Giro d’Italia title. A lot riding on what a butcher has to say about steak quality.

Who knows that the ruling will be — other than it will take until at least January to announce. Andy Schleck can claim he lost that Tour two years ago when his chain slipped. Alberto Contador may soon be the victim of his own slip.

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