Cycling’s governing body on Thursday revived a doping case against three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador by announcing it would appeal the Spanish federation’s decision to acquit him.
“The International Cycling Union (UCI) today decided … to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne against the Spanish Cycling Federation’s finding in the case of Alberto Contador,” the Switzerland-based UCI said in a statement. “He was acquitted after testing positive for clenbuterol during an in-competition test carried out on 21st July 2010.”
The Spaniard tested positive for a tiny amount of the banned muscle-building substance clenbuterol during last July’s Tour, which he went on to win. But he was cleared to compete when the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) last month rescinded an initial decision to hand down a one-year competition ban. It accepted the rider’s claim that he had unknowingly eaten drug-contaminated meat and was therefore not negligent. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) can also appeal the Spanish decision before the CAS within another 21 days. But Contador is free to continue racing until and unless the CAS rules against him. He is set to compete later on Thursday in the fourth stage of the Tour of Catalonia, in which he already holds the leader’s jersey.
The owner of his Saxo Bank team, Bjarne Riis, said the team “respects” the UCI’s decision but stressed the rider remains innocent of any wrongdoing. “The rules say that the parties of a case have the opportunity to appeal any decision to the CAS,” Riis was quoted as saying in a Saxo Bank statement. “UCI has decided to do so in the case concerning Alberto Contador, and naturally we respect this. Now my hope is that we can have a final ruling as quickly as possible,” the Dane said.
“As a team we can’t do much but to wait for the CAS to reach a decision. But I would also like to remind everybody that Alberto Contador was acquitted in the first place and therefore is innocent of any deliberate wrongdoing until a ruling says something else. And as long as this is a case of accidental intake of a forbidden substance, we will continue to support Alberto Contador.”
Contador’s spokesman, Jacinto Vidarte, on Thursday declined to make any immediate comment on the UCI’s decision when contacted by AFP. Contador, 28, who also won the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009, grabbed the overall lead in the Tour of Catalonia in northeastern Spain on Wednesday after claiming the gruelling third stage. He acknowledged afterwards that it was difficult to race with the doping case still on his mind.
“It’s not the best conditions, but I’m focusing on myself, on my bike and on the road, because the rest does not depend on me,” he said. “I try to focus on the race and for the rest I have confidence in the people around me. It’s certainly not as if nothing has happened, I know that, but I’m handling things pretty well.”
The rider was provisionally suspended by the UCI last August after the positive doping test, but returned to competition in the Tour of Algarve in Portugal last month following the RFEC’s final decision. He then won the Tour of Murcia in Spain earlier this month. After the Tour of Catalona, Contador is scheduled to race in the Tour of Castilla y Leon in Spain and the Fleche Wallone in Belgium in April ahead of the Giro d’Italia in May.
Clenbuterol is a banned weight loss/muscle-building drug that is also used to increase lean meat in cattle. The substance was banned by the European Union in 1996 but it is still administered illicitly by some cattle farmers.