Cycling’s governing body asked Spanish authorities to open disciplinary proceedings against Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, who tested positive for a banned substance in winning this year’s race.
The International Cycling Union, or UCI, suspended Contador provisionally in September after his July 21 urine sample contained “very small” traces of clenbuterol. Contador, a three-time winner of cycling’s biggest event, denies doping and says the substance came from contaminated meat.
While the Aigle, Switzerland-based UCI tested riders at the Tour de France, national federations are responsible for prosecuting doping cases. If found guilty, Contador could be stripped of his victory and banned for two years.
“The UCI has sent its request to the Spanish federation that has competence in this regard,” the union said in a statement late yesterday. “It is now the responsibility of this federation to determine whether Alberto Contador has breached the UCI anti-doping rules.”
Contador, a three-time Tour de France champion, could become the second winner in four years to lose his title. Floyd Landis of the U.S. was stripped of the 2006 crown when found to have elevated levels of synthetic testosterone.
The Spanish rider’s urine sample on the last rest day of this year’s race showed a trace of clenbuterol that was 1/400th of what World Anti-Doping Agency laboratories are required to detect, the UCI said. Contador said Sept. 30 that the positive test came after he ate beef brought by a friend from Spain.
Clenbuterol treats respiratory disorders such as asthma and can increase aerobic capacity by increasing the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream.
Swimmer Jessica Hardy left the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 after testing positive for clenbuterol and eventually got a one-year suspension.
Athletes in tennis, weightlifting and rugby also have tested positive for the substance. In 1997, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov of Uzbekistan was expelled from the Tour de France after testing positive for clenbuterol.
Contador won this year’s race riding for Kazakhstan-backed Astana, then agreed to join Bjarne Riis’s Team Saxo Bank on a two-year contract from 2011. Saxo Bank A/S, the Danish online trader and asset manager, said last month it would continue to back the team whether Contador was on the squad or not.
The Spanish cycling federation said in a statement on its website that it would immediately carry out “all the necessary actions to investigate and resolve all the issues arising from the doping control that was carried out on the cyclist.”
“Until the end of the proceedings and despite his provisional suspension, Alberto Contador still benefits from a presumption of innocence,” the UCI said.