Cycling: Contador banned and stripped of Tour crown
ALBERTO CONTADOR has finally received the maximum ban possible from the Court of Arbitration for Sport for a first doping offence – two years – and has been stripped of his 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d'Italia titles.
Contador’s ban is retroactive – starting on August 5, 2010 – and as a result the 29-year-old Spaniard, who tested positive for a minute quantity of the banned substance clenbuterol, can return to racing later this season.
However, he will miss this year's Tour de France, as well as the Olympics. Contador had argued that the clenbuterol – present in his body at a level far lower than the minimum required to be reported by an antidoping laboratory – had shown up because he had eaten contaminated beef during the 2010 Tour.
He was cleared by his federation in February 2011, but an interminably lengthy appeal by both the World Anti- Doping Agency (WADA) and the UCI, cycling's governing body, to the Court for Arbitration (CAS) has finally seen him banned.
The retroactive nature of the verdict means that, following Floyd Landis' positive test in the 2006 Tour de France, the winner of cycling's flagship event has been stripped of his title because of a doping affair for the second time in five years.
For cycling, the two-year ban of their star rider was taken in some quarters as a knockout blow, while others believed it proved just how hard a line cycling takes on doping.
Five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx said: “It is catastrophic for cycling and for Contador. If he had been a football player, he would never have tested positive. Only cycling goes so far (in searching for banned drugs).
When you go down to such a low percentage, you always find something.” Former world road race champion Thor Hushovd added: “It took too long a time to sort out, but it shows that we are really tough on banned drugs.”
As a result of the ban, Andy Schleck will inherit the 2010 Tour title, while Michele Scarponi will now be declared the winner of the Giro. Schleck has already said he always considered Contador to be innocent and that if he won this summer, he would consider it his first Tour de France victory.
What is beyond all doubt is the damage caused to a sport's image while doping appeal cases grind through the courts, not to mention the often absurd reshuffling of results if the athletes are declared guilty. It highlights what many feel is an excessive time lapse between a positive drugs test being announced, and the case’s final resolution.
However, the exceptionally complicated nature of the Contador case, makes it difficult to see how proceedings could have been shortened.
Contador will have to decide in the next 30 days if he will appeal against the decision in the Swiss civil courts, and he will find out in a further CAS verdict whether he has to pay the UCI a fine of $3.25m (£2m). He could return as early as the Vuelta a Espana, which starts on August 18. (© Independent News Service)