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Alberto Contador stripped of 2010 Tour de France title, given two-year ban for positive test

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Alberto Contador was stripped of the 2010 Tour de France title and handed a two-year competition ban for his positive test for the banned performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in a 98-page brief released Monday.

Contador, who also won the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009, becomes only the second champion to lose his title because of a doping violation. The other was American Floyd Landis, who tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone during the 2006 Tour.

A three-judge panel partially overturned an earlier exoneration of Contador by the Spanish cycling federation that was challenged by the World Anti-Doping Agency and international cycling union (UCI). The panel concluded that Contador most likely ingested a dietary supplement contaminated with clenbuterol and was therefore fully responsible for the positive test.

The panel largely rejected Contador’s contention that he ingested meat contaminated with clenbuterol. But it also rejected WADA’s and UCI’s claim that Contador most likely received contaminated blood during a blood doping transfusion.

Those two assertions, the panel ruled, were “equally unlikely.” Even so, the decision represented a major victory for WADA and UCI just three days after U.S. federal authorities shut down an investigation into doping charges surrounding seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, who finished second to Contador in the 2010 Tour and likely will be named the champion, said there was “no reason to be happy.”

“First of all I feel sad for Alberto,” Schleck said in a statement from his cycling team, RadioShack Nissan Trek. “I always believed in his innocence. . . . 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.”

To receive a ban less than two years, Contador had to find the source of the clenbuterol and prove he did not knowingly consume it.

WADA lauded the decision, which set aside the February 2011 ruling by the Spanish cycling federation.

“This is an appropriate decision from CAS, which represents the effective nature of the World Anti-Doping Code,” WADA President John Fahey said in a statement. “It is regrettable there was some political interference at the first instance process from Spain which inevitably led to the appeal.”

Contador scheduled a news conference for Tuesday.

The ruling came after an examination of 4,000 pages of evidence and a four-day hearing last November attended by eight attorneys representing Contador and seven representing WADA and UCI. The brief released Monday detailed detective-like efforts from both sides, including tracing the allegedly contaminated meat to a particular slaughterhouse and single farmer in the Castilla y Leon region of Spain.

The panel gave consideration to a polygraph Contador took last May, saying it added “some force” to his assertions of innocence. Both Contador’s polygraph examiner and an independent one found that he had been truthful when he claimed he had neither knowingly consumed clenbuterol nor had a blood transfusion.

UCI and WADA attempted to show that Contador’s blood showed irregularities, including a high level of a substance called phthalates, which would be consistent with one who received a transfusion of blood stored in a customary blood storage bag. But the panel ruled the evidence as “too speculative” and noted that “neither UCI nor WADA were apparently confidence enough to bring a doping charge against the athlete based on their allegation of a blood transfusion.”

The panel ruled that Contador’s two-year ban would take effect as of Jan. 25 2011; he will be ineligible to race in this year’s Tour de France and the London Olympic Games. UCI said in a statement that it would reclassify all of the events since then in which Contador has competed since the start date of his ban. The cycling body also said it would seek to determine whether Contador’s Saxo Bank-Sungard team should retain its place in the UCI World Tour, because Contador had earned about 68 percent of the team’s total points.

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