Alberto Contador has been slapped with a two-year ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, stripping the Spaniard of his 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d’Italia titles.
Contador has proclaimed his innocence since testing positive for traces of clenbuterol (50 pictograms) on the second rest day of the 2010 Tour, which the 29-year-old went on to win by 39 seconds ahead of Andy Schleck.
But the CAS panel has rejected Contador’s defence that his urine sample was contaminated as the result of tainted meat, instead stating the most likely source of the clenbuterol was from a contaminated food supplement, with the rider strictly liable for any substance found in their system.
Contador has been handed a backdated ban from January 25 2011 which, minus the time the SaxoBank rider spent provisionally suspended, means he will be free to race from August 5 2012 – after this year’s Tour de France.
Contador has been stripped of his 2010 Tour title, with Schleck has now been installed as champion. All of Contador’s results from January 25 2011 have also been annulled, elevating Michele Scarponi to winner of the 2011 Giro d’Italia.
The winner of the 2010 Tour de France has been in doubt since Contador’s failed test was announced, providing a nail-biting finish to a race nearly two years old, although the CAS panel’s verdict should finally draw the issue to a close.
UCI president Pat McQuaid said: “This is a sad day for our sport. Some may think of it as a victory, but that is not at all the case. There are no winners when it comes to the issue of doping: every case, irrespective of its characteristics, is always a case too many.”
That prompted the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency to launch their own appeal to CAS. A verdict was due before the start of the 2011 Tour de France, in which Contador finished fifth, but a series of appeals from all parties for extra time to prepare their cases saw the hearing delayed three times, from June 6, to August 1, and, finally, to November 21. The four-day hearing ended with an emotional plea from Contador.
A verdict was due to be announced earlier this month but the result was delayed after RadioShack-Nissan-Trek owner Flavio Becca questioned the independence of the CAS panel.
Clenbuterol can be used as a fat burning and muscle building drug, although its use is difficult to conclusively prove. In October 2011 WADA withdrew two appeals with CAS against the clearing of Danish cyclist Philip Nielsen and five Mexican footballers after learning the drug could have been ingested as a result of tainted meat in Mexico. Clenbuterol is widely banned in farming but is illegally used to improve the quality of meat.
Contador began his 2012 season by finishing second overall behind Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina but will now not be eligible to race until the Eneco Tour on August 6 at the earliest.