|Saxo Bank-Sungard rider Alberto Contador leaves the team bus before the start of the first stage of the Challenge Mallorca cycling tour in Palma de Mallorca on the Spanish Balearic island Feb. 5, 2012. (REUTERS/Enrique Calvo)
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - Cyclist Alberto Contador of Spain has been suspended for two years after the Court of Arbitration for Sport found the three-time Tour de France champ guilty of a doping offense.
The last of those three titles in cycling's most prestigious event, the 2010 championship, will be stripped after the verdict. He will be ineligible to participate in this year's Tour de France and the London Olympics.
Contador, however, will be eligible to compete again on August 6, 2012.
According to the CAS, the two-year suspension period is back-dated to January 25, 2011, the date on which the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) proposed its one-year penalty, and includes the provisional ban of five months and 19 days Contador first incurred from 2010-11.
In September 2010, the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced that Contador had tested positive for a small amount of the banned substance clenbuterol during the second rest day of that year's Tour de France in July. He went on to win the race by 39 seconds over Andy Schleck, who will now be awarded that year's title.
Contador blamed contaminated meat on the positive test, but he was still initially suspended. The RFEC cleared him of the charges in February 2011 and he was eligible to compete last year. After claiming the 2011 Giro d'Italia title, which he is also now set to lose, Contador finished fifth in last year's Tour de France.
The CAS panel noted in its ruling Monday that Contador did not dispute the fact that clenbuterol was found in his system. It did, however, disagree with the cyclist's allegation of food contamination.
"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 balance of probabilities," the CAS statement read. "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 meat are known.
"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."
After the RFEC's decision to clear Contador, the UCI and World Anti-Doping Administration made separate appeals to the CAS in March 2011. After hearings were postponed in both June and August, a hearing in Lausanne took place in November.
"This is a sad day for our sport," said UCI president Pat McQuaid 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."
Contador also won Tour de France titles in 2007 and 2009. He becomes the second rider to have a Tour title stripped because of doping, following Floyd Landis in 2006.