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Contador Loses 2010 Tour de France Title in Ruling on Doping

Alberto Contador
Alberto Contador was stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title and received a two-year ban for doping, sports newspaper Marca reported on its website. Photographer: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Alberto Contador got a two-year ban for failing a drug test and will lose his 2010 Tour de France crown, becoming the second rider to be stripped of a victory in cycling’s most prestigious race.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, overturned the Spaniard’s acquittal by his national cycling federation, according to a statement on the tribunal’s website. He tested positive for muscle-building stimulant clenbuterol in winning the 2010 race. The court rejected his defense of eating contaminated meat.

As well as being stripped of his third Tour title, Contador loses his win at last year’s Giro d’Italia, the court said. The tribunal will make a separate ruling on a request by cycling ruling body Union Cycliste Internationale to fine the rider at least 2.5 million euros ($3.3 million). UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed the Spanish federation’s decision.

It’s the latest setback to cycling’s credibility. Floyd Landis lost his Tour title for doping when the American was stripped of his 2006 win after testing positive for synthetic testosterone. The 1996 champion Bjarne Riis, who manages the Saxo Bank team Contador races for, in 2007 said doping was part of his everyday life as a cyclist.

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

August Return

Contador’s ban was backdated and he will be eligible to compete again on Aug. 5 this year, the court said. That rules him out of competing at July’s Tour de France. Contador, 29, won’t make any comment about the ruling until tomorrow, his spokesman Jacinto Vidarte said by telephone.

The court found that it was “highly unlikely” a steak Contador ate was contaminated and said submissions by WADA and UCI that Contador might have re-infused his own blood to boost performance, leaving traces of clenbuterol, were “equally unlikely.”

Instead, the court said it was more likely the clenbuterol came from a contaminated food supplement.

WADA rules say an athlete is responsible for what he ingests, although the same court has cleared some athletes recently for what it saw as extenuating circumstances. Last July, it backed a ruling not to punish Olympic champion swimmer Cesar Cielo and two Brazilian compatriots who blamed contaminated food supplements for testing positive for the diuretic furosemide.

New Winner

Andy Schleck, the 2010 runner-up, said he won’t feel happy if he is promoted to race winner.

“I feel sad for Alberto,” Schleck said in an e-mailed statement. “I always believed in his innocence. 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.”

The case has cost both sides “millions” of euros, McQuaid said in an interview last month. Contador was represented by eight lawyers at the hearing last November and he also hired a detective company and lie-detector expert to help his defense. WADA had four lawyers at the hearing.

The case began when a laboratory in Cologne found 50 picograms per milliliter of clenbuterol in a urine sample Contador gave to anti-doping officials on the last rest day of the 2010 race, an amount the UCI called “very small” and scientists said would not have improved his performance. A picogram is one trillionth of a gram.

Contaminated Meat

Veterinarians in Spain rejected Contador’s defense that the presence of the drug in his system came from beef.

While farmers have been known to use the stimulant illegally to increase muscle mass in cows, Ministry of Agriculture data shows there was one finding of the category of drug in almost 38,000 tests on cattle in Spain from 2004 through 2009. Contador had said the beef was brought from a shop in Spain near the border with France.

Closing a separate doping inquiry last week, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said federal investigators dropped an investigation into allegations of criminal conduct on seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong’s former team.

Landis alleged that doping was commonplace among team riders. Armstrong and other team members denied wrongdoing.

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