LAUSANNE, Switzerland — In a rare public hearing at world sport’s highest court, cyclist Andre Cardoso challenged his four-year ban for a positive doping test on Monday.
Cardoso’s lawyers took the option at the Court of Arbitration for Sport to air the legal arguments in an appeal in open court for registered media and observers to attend.
Chinese swimmer Sun Yang was the first party to a CAS case that requested an open-door process since the court modified its rules to allow more scrutiny suggested by a European Court of Human Rights ruling in 2018. Sun’s hearing was held in November and a verdict is expected this month.
Cardoso is appealing against a ban imposed by the International Cycling Union after his positive test for the hormone EPO two weeks before the 2017 Tour de France. The Portuguese racer was due to ride in support of Trek-Segafredo team leader Alberto Contador.
Cardoso had top-20 finishes in the Giro d’Italia and Spanish Vuelta and was due to make his Tour debut.
"I never took anything in my career," the 35-year-old rider said noting his clean anti-doping record. He was connected to the hearing by a video link from his home in Portugal and made a personal statement near the end of the day.
The case has been complicated by the backup sample provided by Cardoso not matching the original sample that tested positive for the endurance-boosting hormone.
His lawyer, Yasin Patel, argued the burden of proof had shifted unfairly on his client.
"He is effectively having to disprove something that they (the UCI) can’t prove," Patel told the panel of three judges. "Uncertainty has to benefit the athlete and not the governing body."
The world cycling body’s lead lawyer, Antonio Rigozzi, argued the initial sample was reliably tested for EPO, and the required "satisfactory explanation" for the difference was likely degradation in the backup sample.
"It is not a matter of fault, it is a reality," Rigozzi told the arbitrators.
The initial positive test for EPO was "crystal clear," said an expert witness for the UCI, Guenter Gmeiner, director of the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria.
Excessive alcohol consumption by Cardoso was suggested by his lawyer as a cause of the positive test.
Cardoso said he began drinking wine aged around seven as a daily tradition with his family, though in 2017 it was less common among cyclists as the culture of the sport changed.
A verdict is expected within several weeks.