Contador loses title in latest blow for cycling

Contador loses title in latest blow for cycling

MADRID - The Associated Press
Contador loses title in latest blow for cycling

Spanish rider Alberto Contador has been the most dominant athlete in cycling since Lance Armstrong’s heyday. AP photo

Alberto Contador was stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title yesterday and banned for two years after sport’s highest court found the Spanish cyclist guilty of doping.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport suspended the three-time Tour champion after rejecting his claim that his positive test for clenbuterol was caused by eating contaminated meat.

The three-man CAS panel upheld appeals by the International Cycling Union and World Anti-Doping Agency, which challenged a Spanish cycling tribunal’s decision last year to exonerate Contador.
“The presence of clenbuterol was more likely caused by the ingestion of a contaminated food supplement,” CAS said in its ruling in Lausanne, Switzerland.

CAS backdated Contador’s ban and he is eligible to return to competition on Aug. 6. That ban means Contador will miss the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the London Olympics, but he would be eligible to ride in the Spanish Vuelta, which begins Aug. 18.

Contador becomes only the second Tour de France champion to be disqualified and stripped of victory for doping. The first was Floyd Landis, the American who lost his 2006 title after testing positive for testosterone.

Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, who finished second at the 2010 Tour, is set to be elevated to victory.
Contador blamed steak bought from a Basque producer for his high reading of clenbuterol, which is sometimes used by farmers to fatten up their livestock.

CAS said both the meat contamination theory and a blood transfusion scenario for the positive test were “possible” but “equally unlikely.” “The Panel found that there were no established facts that would elevate the possibility of meat contamination to an event that could have occurred on a balance of probabilities,” CAS said. “Unlike certain other countries, notably outside Europe, Spain is not known to have a contamination problem with clenbuterol in meat. Furthermore, no other cases of athletes having tested positive to clenbuterol allegedly in connection with the consumption of Spanish meat are known.” CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb said the doping offense was “not contested,” only the explanation for how the clenbuterol got into Contador’s system.

Contador continued racing since his positive test on a 2010 Tour rest day, and will be stripped of all results from races in which he participated since Jan. 25, 2011, which includes his Giro d’Italia victory last season.

“This is a sad day for our sport,” UCI president Pat McQuaid said. “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.”

Five-time Tour champion Eddy Merckx tells The Associated Press “it’s like someone wants to kill cycling,” while Oscar Perreiro, who was elevated to 2006 champion after Landis was stripped, calls the verdict “disgraceful” and claims Contador “is innocent.”

Contador tested positive on the July 21 rest day. The positive results were not confirmed publicly until September 2010, when the UCI announced it had provisionally suspended him pending an investigation by Spain’s cycling body.

Contador is one of only five cyclists to win the three Grand Tours - the Tour de France, the Giro and the Spanish Vuelta.

CAS said it would rule later on a request by the UCI to fine Contador 2.4 million euros.