Andre Birotte Jr, the US attorney who closed the Federal investigation into Lance Armstrong has now overruled the guilty verdict of Alberto Contador.
Speaking to reporters in Los Angeles this morning, Birotte told reporters he is clearing the Spaniard of all doping charges despite yesterday’s ruling by the Court for Arbitration in Sports.
“What I say, goes, you understand? Contador is a free man,” said Birotte. “I don’t care what CAS says or does. I makes the calls. No suspension, no ban, no nothing. Send the man to Mallorca.”
Only this morning National Public Radio has reported that sources in the FBI, FDA and US Postal Service were ‘shocked, surprised and angered’ that the case was closed and were given just 30 minutes notice before Birotte announced his decision on Armstrong.
Birotte disputed those claims this morning. “Hey, Novitzky can say what he wants. I told that dude a week ago I was shutting this damn thing down. I talked to Lance and you know, things over and done. Everybody go home.”
While the Court for Arbitration in Sports is seen as the final authority, the ruling by Birotte has caused confusion in the world of professional cycling. Although most legal experts are confident that Birotte’s ruling will have no effect, Derek Charade, a specialist in international law at Georgetown University, isn’t so sure.
“Once you muddy the waters, things do get complicated. I don’t think he’s in a position to overrule CAS but at the very least this sets up another legal battle over jurisdiction,” said Charade. “In the meantime, Contador may be free to ride.”
Contador’s brother Fran welcomed the ruling by Birotte. “We will make a statement this afternoon but we are gratified that Birotte has over-ruled CAS. We have already spoken to Birotte and believe this may finally bring our case to a positive conclusion.”
The UCI and president Pat McQuaid were caught off-guard by the Birotte ruling. “I don’t see what this has to do with anything,” said McQuaid. “I can’t say what a US attorney is doing trying to change a verdict by the court in Lausanne. We’re looking into it.”
This latest bizarre twist is not that unexpected in a controversial case that has gone on for 565 days. For his part, Birotte is confident his decision to absolve Contador will stand any legal challenges. “I deal with murderers, crack dealers and gang warfare, you know what I’m saying?” said Birotti. “Three judges in Switzerland don’t scare me. It’s my call and it always was — Lance, Contador, the whole thing.”