Contador gets two-year ban

Alberto Contador was yesterday stripped of his 2010 Tour de France victory and handed a two-year ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) following his positive test for clenbuterol.

It was initially announced the Spaniard had failed a doping test in September 2010, shortly after he had won his third Tour.

The 29-year-old always protested his innocence, claiming he failed the test after eating contaminated meat and rejected an offer from the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) to serve a 12-month suspension.

In February 2011, the RFEC decided to withdraw any sanction against Contador, a decision which was subsequently appealed at CAS by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

CAS yesterday partially upheld that appeal, ruling Contador must serve a two-year period of ineligibility starting retroactively on January 25, 2011, minus the period of the provisional suspension served in 2010-2011 (five months and 19 days).

All results obtained since January 2011 will be wiped from the record books, meaning that in addition to Contador losing the 2010 Tour crown, his achievement in winning the 2011 Giro d’Italia will no longer be recognised.

The 2010 Tour title will now go to Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, with Russian Denis Menchov finishing second and Spaniard Samuel Sanchez up to third.

Schleck admitted he was surprised at the news.

“There is no reason to be happy now,” he said. “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.

“If now I am declared overall winner of the 2010 Tour de France it will not make me happy. I battled with Contador in that race and I lost. My goal is to win the Tour de France in a sportive way, being the best of all competitors, not in court. If I succeed this year, I will consider it as my first Tour victory.”

Michele Scarponi is the new winner of the 2011 Giro.

In explaining the reasons behind their judgement, a CAS statement read: “Alberto Contador alleged that the presence of clenbuterol in his system originated from eating contaminated meat.

“The UCI and WADA submitted that it was more likely that the adverse analytical finding of the athlete was caused by a blood transfusion or by the ingestion of a contaminated food supplement than by the consumption of contaminated meat.

“The panel found that there were no established facts that would elevate the possibility of meat contamination to an event that could have occurred on a balance of probabilities.

“Unlike certain other countries, notably outside Europe, Spain is not known to have a contamination problem with clenbuterol in meat.

“Furthermore, no other cases of athletes having tested positive to clenbuterol allegedly in connection with the consumption of Spanish meat are known.

“The panel concluded that both the meat contamination scenario and the blood transfusion scenario were, in theory, possible explanations for the adverse analytical findings but were however, equally unlikely.

“In the panel’s opinion, on the basis of the evidence adduced, the presence of clenbuterol was more likely caused by the ingestion of a contaminated food supplement.”

Contador will now miss the 2012 Tour and the London Olympics.

UCI president Pat McQuaid added: “This is a sad day for our sport. Some may think of it as a victory, but that is not at all the case.”

The dangers of clenbuterol

Alberto Contador is not the only athlete to run into trouble with clenbuterol in food.

FIFA UNDER-17 WORLD CUP

During last year’s Under-17 World Cup in Mexico, 109 players were cleared by FIFA, football’s governing body, after testing positive for clenbuterol. A FIFA study discovered that there was a “serious health problem with regards to meat contaminated with clenbuterol” in the country, and no action was taken.

MEXICO FOOTBALL TEAM

In June 2011, five members of the Mexico team were found to have traces of clenbuterol in their blood stream during the CONCACAF Gold Cup. All insisted that meat eaten during a pre-tournament camp was the cause, and all were cleared after the FIFA study came to light.

WANG WEI AND XIONG GUOMING

In 1999, Chinese swimmers Wang Wei and Xiong Guoming blamed a dish of stir-fried pig liver for an out-of-competition positive test. Sixty subsequent tests on liver samples bought from the same vendor detected clenbuterol in 11 of them and, even though it was accepted the pair may not have deliberately taken clenbuterol, they were banned for three years.

DIMITRIJ OVTCHAROV

In 2010, German table tennis player Dimitrij Ovtcharov tested positive for clenbuterol, but blamed it on meat he had eaten every day during a competition in China. He was later cleared by a hair sample.

Contador: What they said

“I cannot believe it. The UCI, WADA and CAS are just looking to make names for themselves. Sight is being lost of reality in the fight against doping. The sport has a problem, no longer with the athletes, but with bodies seeking a profile above the sport.”

1988 Tour de France champion Pedro Delgado.

“Two years of sanctions to Alberto Contador and the judgement says that the doping is not proven. Then? Sons of a .... Do you know what I think? He is innocent, I know him. Hopefully he will go through with this to the end and then we will see who we pay for and who does their job like shit.”

2006 Tour winner Oscar Pereiro reacts to his fellow countryman’s two-year sanction.

“There is no reason to be happy now. First of all I feel sad for Alberto. I always believed in his innocence. This is just a very sad day for cycling. We can finally move on.”

Three-time Tour de France runner-up Andy Schleck takes little comfort in Contador’s ban — even if it makes him the official 2010 Tour winner.

“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.”

President of the UCI Pat McQuaid said in a statement following yesterday’s ruling by the CAS.

“For what concerns the human aspect, I’m very sorry for Alberto; for what concerns the professional aspect, this decision doesn’t change the value of the results I obtained.”

Michele Scarponi, runner-up in the 2011 Giro d’Italia reacts to the ruling to ban Contador and the implications for his own results.

“Regardless of the outcome for Contador, I just wish, for the sake of our sport & everyone in it, that a decision had been made sooner.”

Team Sky’s fast-man Mark Cavendish.

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