Contador’s supporters stand firm
Paris - Alberto Contador's Tour de France dreams were shattered on Monday when the Spaniard was stripped of one of his three titles and banned for two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for failing a dope test during the 2010 race.
Contador, Tour winner in 2007, 2009 and 2010 and widely regarded as the greatest cyclist of his generation, tested positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol.
The 29-year-old also faces losing his 2011 Giro d'Italia title as well as all his other victories last season and he will not be able to take part in either the 2012 Tour or the London Olympic Games.
“Mr Contador is disqualified from the Tour de France 2010 with all the resulting consequences including forfeiture of any medals, points and prize,” CAS said.
Contador, who has 30 days to appeal to the Swiss federal court, is to hold a news conference on Tuesday (18h30 GMT).
The Spaniard's Tour title will be handed to Luxembourg's Andy Schleck, with Russian Denis Menchov finishing second and Spaniard Samuel Sanchez third.
“There is no reason to be happy now,” Schleck said in a statement. “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.
“I battled with Contador in that race and I lost. My goal is to win the Tour de France in a sporting way, being the best of all competitors, not in court. If I succeed this year, I will consider it as my first Tour victory.”
Italy's Michele Scarponi is set to take the Giro 2011 title.
“Alberto Contador is sanctioned with a two-year period of ineligibility starting retroactively on 25 January 2011, minus the period of provisional suspension served in 2010-2011 (five months and 19 days),” CAS said in a statement.
“The suspension should therefore come to an end on 5 August 2012.”
Contador had threatened to end his career if found guilty.
His Saxo Bank team could lose their International Cycling Union (UCI) points with the ruling body expected to put their World Tour (elite) licence under review. Last season, Contador scored more than two thirds of his team's points, helping them stay in the World Tour.
“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,” the UCI, who had appealed to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) against the Spanish federation's decision to clear Contador, said in a statement.
“This is an appropriate decision from CAS which represents the effective nature of the World Anti-Doping Code,” WADA president John Fahey said in a statement.
Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) president Juan Carlos Castano said of the CAS decision: “We are obliged to comply with it but we don't agree with it.
“It's very bad news for Spanish sport,” he said on national radio. “For us this journey has ended.”
The RFEC cleared Contador of any wrongdoing in February last year after accepting his explanation that he had eaten contaminated meat. The body had originally handed him a provisional one-year ban.
CAS said it did not believe Contador's argument that he had eaten contaminated meat during a Tour de France rest day.
“Unlike certain other countries, notably outside Europe, Spain is not known to have a contamination problem with clenbuterol in meat,” it said, adding that the burden of proof was on Contador and that the ingestion of a contaminated food supplement was more likely than the contaminated meat argument.
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.”
Contador, who had awaited his fate at his home in Pinto with his family and lawyers, is now expected back to competition on August 6 and should be able to take part in the Vuelta starting on August 18.
Spain's Oscar Pereiro was the last rider to be awarded a Tour victory after the race winner lost his title for failing a dope test, in 2006 when American Floyd Landis was stripped of his title following a positive test for testosterone.
Contador is one of only five men with titles in all three grands Tours. His climbing abilities have made him almost invincible in the three-week stage races, although he finished only fifth in last year's Tour following troubled preparations and because of a sore knee. - Reuters