Reports in the Spanish media today are suggesting that Alberto Contador may be handed a one year ban when his case is finally decided next month by the Spanish cycling federation. While this would lead to him being stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title it would also raise eyebrows because it is less than the UCI's two year statutory ban for failing a drugs test.
Contador tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol after a test on the second rest day at last year's Tour de France which can be used to aid rapid weight loss - a number of cyclists have failed tests for the substance in the past year and all, like Contador, claim to have ingested it accidentally. Contador claims to have eaten a steak contaminated with the drug (used illegally by some farmers to increase the lean mass of their beef cattle) that was brought over the border from Spain when he didn't like the food on offer at his team's hotel restaurant.
According to the Spanish press the Spanish Federation will opt for a one year ban on the grounds that no-one has been able to show how the substance entered his body and that it was present in a minute amount. However, neither the World Anti Doping Authority (WADA) nor cycling's governing body, the UCI recognise a lower limit for the presence of Clenbuterol in an athlete's body - any amount equals a failed test which should automatically lead to a statutory two year ban - this was the case with the RadioShack rider Li Fuyu who also failed a test for the substance in 2010.
Should Contador only receive a one year ban, he will not only be stripped of his 2010 title but will miss the 2011 Tour de France also, however such a ban is likely to bring the Spanish federation in to conflict with both the UCI and WADA and the sentence might well be challenged by one or both of those bodies. Time will tell if the speculation in the Spanish press is accurate, although the fact that these reports have appeared in more than one paper (Marca and AS) may suggest that someone knows something, although it is also possible that this is an exercise in testing the waters to see what the reaction to such a short ban might be or indeed wishful thinking on the part of some Spanish sports journalists.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.