Alberto Contador has been given a two-year ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after it upheld the appeal by the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) into his acquittal almost 12 months ago by the Spanish national federation, the RFEC, on charges following his positive test for clenbuterol in the 2010 Tour de France. The two-year ban has been backdated to 25 January 2011, the date the RFEC had initially proposed a one year ban. After the provisional suspension he served prior to that has been discounted, he will be free to race on 5 August this year, in time for the Vuelta.
It is understood that the Spaniard, who raced the 2010 Tour de France with Astana, has been stripped of that title, which should go to Andy Schleck, now with RadioShack-Nissan, but who rode that race with Contador's current team, Saxo Bank. Contador, who always maintained his positive test was due to his having eaten a contaminated steak, should also have had the 2011 Giro d'Italia title taken away from him, which now stands to be awarded to Lampre-ISD's Michele Scarponi.
Formally anouncing the decision more than an hour after the news had broken via the Spanish media, CAS said it had "partially upheld the appeals filed by WADA and the UCI and has found Alberto Contador guilty of a doping offence. As a consequence, Alberto Contador is sanctioned with a two-year period of ineligibility starting retroactively on 25 January 2011, minus the period of the provisional suspension served in 2010-2011 (5 months and 19 days). The suspension should therefore come to an end on 5 August 2012."
Initially, the RFEC had said that it was planning to ban Contador for a year, before subsequently acquitting him in February last year. Statements of support on his behalf by the then Spanish prime minister and leader of the opposition as well as other high-profile figures led to accusations that the RFEC had been pressurised into exonerating Contador.
The irony of course is that if Contador had been banned for 12 months a year ago, he would now be returning to the sport around about now.
In a statement, the UCI said: "In rejecting the defence argument, in particular that the presence of clenbuterol in Alberto Contador's urine sample came from the consumption of contaminated meat, today's ruling confirms the UCI's position.
"However," it added, "the UCI has not derived a sense of satisfaction from the CAS ruling, but rather welcomes the news as the end of a long-running affair that has been extremely painful for cycling.
UCI President Pat McQuaid commented: "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."
Reacting to the news, Bike Pure, which campaigns for a drugs-free sport, said: "This is hollow victory for anti-doping campaigners, with Contador having raced mainly unaffected since he produced the positive test in July 2010. With several months away from racing it shall merely be a short break from racing for the Spaniard."
Andy Schleck, who had lost the maillot jaune to Contador as a result of his chain slipping two days before the drugs test that returned the fateful clenbuterol, and who now stands to be promoted to overall winner of the race in which he has finished second for the last three years, said: “There is no reason to be happy now. First of all I feel sad for Alberto. I always believed in his innocence. This is just a very sad day for cycling. The only positive news is that there is a verdict after 566 days of uncertainty. We can finally move on.”
He continued: “I trust that the CAS judges took all things into consideration after reading a 4,000 page file. If now I am declared overall winner of the 2010 Tour de France it will not make me happy. I battled with Contador in that race and I lost. My goal is to win the Tour de France in a sportive way, being the best of all competitors, not in court. If I succeed this year, I will consider it as my first Tour victory.
More to follow
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.