Lausanne (Reuters) - WADA president John Fahey labelled Alberto Contador a "doping cheat" on Tuesday and said the Spanish rider might have escaped with half of his two-year doping ban had it not been for remarks by a Spanish politician during the case.
The head of the World Anti-Doping Agency added that politicians should steer clear of doping cases and said he was worried as to whether national sports federations, who have the responsibility to discipline offenders, might be sympathetic to their own athletes.
"I think that governments and politicians ought to stand back and stay above the administration of these issues when it comes to doping in sport," Fahey told Reuters in an interview.
"Contador is a doping cheat, full stop.."
In January last year, the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) initially proposed a one-year ban for Contador after he tested positive for the banned steroid clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France, which he won.
The then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said there was no legal reason to sanction Contador and shortly afterwards, the RFEC overturned the ban, clearing the way for Contador to return to competition.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) and WADA then appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), who announced a two-year ban for Contador on Monday.
"I can say with regard to the Contador decision, it was regrettable that, when the Spanish federation proposed a 12-month penalty, a senior politician made a statement to say that Contador was innocent," said Fahey, who did not mention Zapatero by name.
"They then withdrew their proposed 12-month penalty and exonerated him, that effectively meant that WADA had no choice but to appeal.
"Whatever we would have done if the 12 months had stood, I can't say, but after those set of circumstances came, which suggested there was clearly a bias, certainly by the senior politician who made that statement publicly, then we had to appeal."
Fahey said he could not think of any alternative to the current system where doping punishments are handed out by the relevant national sports federation.
"I have great respect for CAS, I worry about decisions of individual national federations where it comes to dealing with their own sportsmen and women who have tested positive, because clearly the temptation must be there to protect one of your own," he said.
"I don't know the alternative. I can't imagine that Spain would say to Italy, you deal with all Spanish positives and we'll deal with all Italians, I think hell will freeze over first.
"I can certainly understand where there must be a certain level of national element, particularly if it's a national hero.
"You can only hope that the bodies that deal with it at whatever level do so with integrity. The good thing about the (anti-doping) code is that it allows WADA to examine every decision that is taken and to appeal if it believes the decision wasn't taken for proper reasons."
(Editing by John Mehaffey)